Gilbert M. Grosvenor
President and Chairman
By pure coincidence, scientific archaeology began at about the same time as the founding of the National Geographic Society, just over a century ago. Since that time, the two have been closely related. The Society's Committee for Research and Exploration has funded more than 1,000 archaeological field projects all over the world, and National Geographic, along with other magazines, books, filmstrips, and television programs, continues to keep our large membership informed about the latest findings from the field.
The reason for the Society's ongoing commitment to archaeology is twofold: First, the worldwide remains of the human past form a precious and irreplaceable resource within the context of a fragile environment too often threatened by destruction for short-term gain. Second, those sites and other remains that have somehow survived constitute our sole source of knowledge about the vast majority of past cultures whose sagas of change and interrelationship, of invention and adaptation, and of failure or success helped shape the world as we know it today. Thus, we see archaeology as a necessary and important endeavor that can reveal information essential to self-knowledge and also provide lessons for our future successes in managing ourselves and our uses of the planet we inhabit.
This booklet is designed to serve as a single reference about all aspects of the science of the past. Its topics range from basic definitions of archaeology, anthropology, and related disciplines to detailed glimpses at what archaeologists do and why they do it. The information provided should not only help satisfy casual curiosity about archaeology but also tell how you may participate in fieldwork or even make it a rewarding and productive career.
As President of the National Geographic Society, I am proud that we have had the opportunity to be part of this work.
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