Quoted from an email originally sent to: aliyaist
The author writes:
Let's talk about archaeology.
I've always been curious as to how archaeologists draw their conclusions. This figurine is a god, that paint symbolizes the oceans, this dead body was a shaman. If you have written sources, matching them to what you've dug up is a good way to make sure you actually know what you're talking about.
But how can you draw any conclusions about prehistory?
Maybe the two dozen gold figurines around this skeleton you just unearthed mean he was The Most Important Member Of The Tribe - or maybe he was the poorest member of the community and they believed that in the afterlife everyone is supposed to get the opposite of what they had in life. Or maybe he was a horrific murderer and the figurines are supposed to guard him from ever returning from the grave. If nobody ever wrote anything down, how do you know?
That doesn't mean, of course, that once things are written down they necessarily become clearer. I once saw in a museum a two-thousand-year-old letter from one ancient guy to his superior. The line-by-line translation said that somebody whom the author of the letter was charged to take care of is "in the house of God".
The description the museum put up next to the item said that the superior had ordered his underling to make sure that this other guy found refuge in the sacred temple. But to be honest? To me it sounds more like a Mafia hit.