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Archaeology by Paul Millard

Archaeology, like many academic words, comes from Greek and means, more or less, ‘the study of old things'. So, it is really a part of the study of history. However, most historians use paper evidence, such as letters, documents, paintings and photographs

Archaeology, like many academic words, comes from Greek and means, more or less, ‘the study of old things'. So, it is really a part of the study of history. However, most historians use paper evidence, such as letters, documents, paintings and photographs, but archaeologists learn from the objects left behind by the humans of long ago. Normally, these are the hard materials that don't decompose or disappear very quickly - things like human bones and skeletons, objects made from stone and metal, and ceramics.

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Sometimes, archaeologists and historians work together. Take, for example, the study of the Romans, who dominated the Mediterranean area and much of Europe two thousand years ago. We know a lot about them from their writing, and some of their most famous writers are still quoted in English. We also know a lot about them from what they made, from their coins to their buildings. Archaeologists have worked on Roman remains as far apart as Hadrian's Wall in the north of England and Leptis Magna in Libya.

Of course, for much of human history, there are no written documents at all. Who were the first humans, and where did they come from? This is a job for the archaeologists, who have found and dated the bones and objects left behind. From this evidence, they believe that humans first appeared in Africa and began moving to other parts of the world about 80,000 years ago. The movement of our ancestors across the planet has been mapped from their remains - humans went to Australia about 70,000 years ago, but have been in South America for just 15,000 years. The evidence of archaeology has helped to show the shared origin and history of us all.

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It is very unusual to find anything more than the hard evidence of history - normally, the bacteria in the air eat away at soft organic material, like bodies, clothes and things made of wood. Occasionally, things are different.

A mind-boggling discovery
In 1984, two men made an amazing discovery while working in a bog called Lindow Moss, near Manchester in the north of England. A bog is a very wet area of earth, with a lot of plants growing in it. It can be like a very big and very thick vegetable soup - walk in the wrong place and you can sink and disappear forever. After hundreds of years, the dead plants can compress together and make ‘peat', which is like soil, but is so rich in energy that it can be burned on a fire, like coal.

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The men were cutting the peat when one of them saw something sticking out - a human foot! Naturally, the men called the police, who then found the rest of the body. Was it a case of murder? Possibly - but it was a death nearly two thousand years old. The two men had found a body from the time of the Roman invasion of Celtic Britain. Despite being so old, this body had skin, muscles, hair and internal organs - the scientists who examined him were able to look inside the man's stomach and find the food that he had eaten for his last meal!

Why was this man so well preserved? It was because he was in a very watery environment, safe from the bacteria that need oxygen to live. Also, the water in the bog was very acidic. The acid preserved the man's skin in the way that animal skin is preserved for leather coats and shoes.

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How did he die?
Understandably, archaeologists and other scientists wanted to know more about the person that they called, ‘Lindow Man'. His hands and fingernails suggested that he hadn't done heavy manual work in his life- he could have been a rich man or a priest. They found that he hadn't died by accident. The forensic examination revealed that he had been hit on the head three times and his throat was cut with a knife. Then a rope was tightened around his neck. As if that wasn't enough, he was then thrown into the bog.

So, Lindow Man was killed using three different methods, when just one would have been sufficient. The archaeologists believe that he was sacrificed to three different Celtic gods, called Taranis, Esus and Teutates. Each god required a different form of death. A sacrifice to Teutates required drowning, which is why he was found in the bog. Nobody can tell the complete story of Lindow Man. The Romans said that the Celts made sacrifices every May to make sure that there was enough food that year. Was he a typical ‘routine' sacrifice?

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An archaeologist called Anne Ross has suggested that Lindow Man was a special case. Why would an important man be sacrificed to three gods? Perhaps it was in response to the Roman invasion of Britain, which started in the year AD 43, close to the time that Lindow Man died. He might have been killed to gain the help of the gods against the Romans. It didn't work. The Romans stayed in Britain for four hundred years and Lindow Man stayed in his bog for two thousand.

Say hello to Lindow Man
If you visit London, you can go and see Lindow Man at the British Museum, where he is spending some time in the company of more famous mummies from Egypt. Whereas the bodies of the Egyptian kings and queens were intentionally preserved, Lindow Man is with us by accident. Whatever his origins, it is a fascinating experience to see him face to face. I recommend it.

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5 words/phrases from the text:

  1. decompose: to break down gradually by bacteria or fungi
  2. sink: to go down below the surface
  3. compress: to push something into less space
  4. preserved: kept from being changed or destroyed
  5. drowning: dying in water because you can't breathe

Exercise one.

Vocabulary gap fill. Now use the 5 words/phrases to fill the gaps in the sentences below:

The remains of a 2,000 year-old man were found near Manchester in the 1980s. The man may have died by ..... when his fellow Celts made his body ..... into a bog. The skin and internal organs of the man didn't ....., because dead vegetation combined with the mud to ..... and form peat which ..... the body.

Exercise two.

Comprehension. Answer the 5 questions using information from the article.

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  1. Which language does the word archaeology come from?
  2. How many years have humans been in Australia?
  3. What was Lindow man's ethnic group?
  4. How many years has Lindow man been buried?
  5. What is the name of the Museum that has the remains of Lindow man?


Countable/Uncountable nouns

Nouns can be countable or uncountable. When you learn a new noun you should make a note of whether it is countable or uncountable as we use different words with countables and uncountables.

Countable nouns

There is a cat in the garden.
There are some birds in the trees.

For positive sentences we can use a/an or some (with a plural verb form)

There isn't a dog in the garden.
There aren't any birds in the tree.

For negatives we can use a/an or any (with a plural verb form).

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Is there an orange on the tree?
Are there any chairs in the garden?
How many chairs are there?
In questions we use a/an, any or how many.

Uncountable nouns

There is some milk on the floor.
Uncountable nouns have no plural. The verb form is singular and we use some.

Is there any sugar?
How much wine is there?
In questions we can use any or how much.

Other expressions of quantity

There are a lot of apples on the trees.
There is a lot of snow on the road.

A lot of can be used with both countable and uncountable nouns.

Bill Gates has much money.
Notice that we don't usually use ‘much' or ‘many' in positive sentences. We use ‘a lot of'.
Bill Gates has a lot of money.

There's a lot of beer but there isn't much wine.
There are a lot of carrots but there aren't many potatoes.

We use not many with countable nouns and not much with uncountable nouns.

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Some nouns can be both countable and uncountable, depending on how they are used, and some nouns are commonly confused. These are covered in another section.


Complete the sentences with a/an, some, any, how much, how many, a lot of, not much or not many.

1 We've got [1] meat but there isn't [2] fish.

2 [3] people have sent you [4] Christmas card?

3 There is [5] petrol in the car. I'll go to the petrol station and buy some.

4 Do we need [6] soap? And check [7] shampoo we've got, too.

5 I bought [8] new shoes but I didn't get [9] trousers. They were too expensive.

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Quiz Question 4

This river flows through London.

Archaeology - key


  1. drowning
  2. sink
  3. decompose
  4. compress
  5. preserved


  1. Greek
  2. 70,000
  3. Celtic
  4. 2,000
  5. British


  1. a lot of/some
  2. any
  3. How many
  4. a
  5. not much
  6. any
  7. how much
  8. some
  9. any
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