Cultural Understanding

In my anthropological education one of the main focuses has been to understand other cultures from a cultural relativistic view point. While I have not taken that many cultural anthropology classes I have taken a few geographically based archaeology classes, these classes have focused on a specific time period and region. In my Archaeology of Ancient Egypt class we focused on archaeology from predynastic Egypt to Roman Egypt. One of the requirements for this class was to produce a site report.


The site I chose was called Heit-El Ghurab. It is said to have housed the workers who built the great pyramids, it has all the intricacies of a city. Through the site report I discuss the findings of systematic excavations of the site and implications it had for how Egyptians of that time lived. The site report offers discussion of a typical Egyptian household, a main hall that was used for dining and meal preparation, and an administration hall that rooms that could have been used for meetings. Through excavations at the pottery mound the archaeologist were able to hypothesize that there were social class differences based on remains of animal bones they were finding.


A site report in archaeology offers an insight into many parts of a site including the geography, site description, excavation history and also offers a conclusion. Without an anthropological lens site reports would merely be lists of items and features discovered. Writing a site report with an anthropology background allows for one to look at these features and decide why they are there and what their purpose was. An important part of this step has to deal with cultural understanding. Excavating a site and jumping to conclusions about what they are finding based on their own ethnocentric perspectives. I demonstrate in this site report an ability to present knowledge without presenting the material in an ethnocentric manner.


Cultural understanding is particularly important when working in an archaeological context because looking on past cultures as primitive and less developed than are own is inherently wrong. When writing this site report I stayed away from problematic rhetoric that would make this Egyptian town seem like a foreign and primitive town, when in reality it was a town of much like towns in our current society.


In order to be able to write a comprehensive site report one needs have a previous knowledge of the culture and society of the time period they are excavating. In order to write this site report I had to gain a background knowledge of the Egyptian society at the time and how it was framed, including class structure which is different than our own class structure in the United States but doesn’t mean it is any less real or experienced by the people who were living in it.


Overall this site report allowed me to dive into another culture by learning how they lived, and then writing a site report that brought knowledge from the sites findings but also from my previous knowledge of the culture and society.



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