evolution of a wikipedia article

File this under…

Archaeology, or archæology (from Αρχαίος, nobody cares, and Λογος, the study of) is the study of really old stuff. Many people confuse archaeology with “archeology” due to the similar spelling and the fact that they mean the same thing.

While seemingly pointless, archaeologists assert that we can learn lots of new stuff by looking at old stuff; this my friends, is a paradox. Most archaeologists are full of crap with their “carbon dating” witchcraft. I mean, how do carbon atoms date, or even have sex? Do they get freaky with their electrons? What about the protons and neutrons and plasma? Why did I fail my Chemistry exam, and does this have something to do with the fact I don’t know what I’m talking about?

That was from the Uncyclopedia. Who knew such a thing existed? The Wikipedia instead reports:

Archaeology, archeology, or archæology (from Greek: αρχαιολογία – archaiologia, from αρχαίος – archaios, “primal, ancient, old” and λόγος – logos, “study”) is the science that studies human cultures through the recovery, documentation, analysis, and interpretation of material remains and environmental data, including architecture, artifacts, features, biofacts, and landscapes. Because archaeology’s aim is to understand mankind, it is a humanistic endeavor.[1]

The goals of archaeology vary, and there is debate as to what its aims and responsibilities are.

Finally, let’s go back to the beginning. The earliest Wikipedia version dates to 2001:

Archaeology is the study of past human activity, by reconstructing environmental settings and cultural systems, typically from their physical remains (masonry, pottery, coins, engravings, etc). Archaeology often interacts with history to provide a broad view of the human experience.

In recent years, the discipline of archaeology has been much extended; the view that it only examines cultural remains or digs up bones is a caricature. Archaeologists also ask the question: How do we know what we know? What constructs are implicit in this set of knowledge? Some schools of archaeology (e.g. processualism) tend to describe the underlying systems, trying to find common ground between cultures; other schools (post-processualism) either believe this impossible or fraught with difficulty, and so examine archaeology in a certain cultural context.

Interesting that next to nothing of that original article continues to exist, although the structure and logic of the article as it exists today seems to be the same as that original article. So take heart if you’re the first to write on a topic for the wikipedia: your words will be shredded, but once you’ve laid the pathways, they seem to endure.

It would be quite interesting to observe  how this article has evolved over time, a la ‘Evolution of the Heavy Metal Umlaut‘, to see what aspects of ‘archaeology’ attract the fixations of these writers. Of course, you can also go and peruse the ‘talk archives’ for the article here, but I like the Umlaut approach because you get all of the argument, the random edits, the deliberate deletions, the insertions (which don’t always make it into the discussion page). Seeing the article emerge from next to nothing to being a substanital document is also quite mesmerizing…

Maybe this is the archaeology of wikipedia.