Before 1900, few sites were explored by removing distinct layers and recording objects found together within them. e exceptions were mainly investigations of caves with early prehistoric occupation, conducted by excavators with a background in geology who were familiar with the concept of superimposed layers (strata)
containing distinctive fossils (Fig. 3.2). Finding artefacts made by humans together with bones of extinct animals was vital for proving the depth of prehistoric time (Chapter 1, p. 29). Historians and art-historians were more interested in nding inscriptions, documents or works of art; these could be recovered without paying attention to the contexts in which they were found. Other excavators aimed to discover objects of commercial value to satisfy the demands of collectors and museums, although some (such as Giovanni Belzoni: Box 1.5) became increasingly interested in revealing structures as well as nds (Mayes 2003). Impressive ruins were uncovered
in Egypt, the Near East and Mesoamerica, but the best sculptures and objects were removed to museums. is process of ‘digging before excavation’ (Maisels 1993: 30) destroyed much evidence; objects displayed in distant museums and picturesque architectural drawings are no substitute for the information and ordinary artefacts lost through the removal of accumulated soil and debris (Figs 3.2-3, Box 3.2).