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by Archaeology Newsroom

The Birth of Modern Archaeology

Curiously enough, although archaeology is a “science” referring to the past, it has been formed in modern times. Neither antiquity nor the Middle Ages, apart from certain amazing exceptions, have recognized its real value, probably because of its origins. The monuments of the past sometimes have been considered as sacred others as diabolic, in any case they have been characterized with a quality or property. During the quatrocen-to, and especially according to the theory of Cyriacus of Ancona, they are regarded as seals of history. The collection of curiosa or the heterogeneous piling up of items in the cabinet de curiosités in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries paved the way for the enthronement of the later archaeology in three stages during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: The exploration of Herculaneum and Pompeii, the expedition to Egypt and the omnipotence of prehistory, which was taken, however not without a fight, from the clergy. Thus, being in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the era of the great excavations could finally commence.