I have decided to take the thought I had about the 'end of archaeology' from my last post and run with it. Will all of the relics and artifacts eventually be dug up so that we never again have a need for archaeology? Will there come a time when the planet's archaeological treasures are found and there is nothing left to discover in the earth about our past and no more mysteries to be solved?
In the book "Buttons, Bones, and the Organ-grinder's Monkey - Tales of Historical Archaeology" (by Meg Greene, Linnet Books, North Haven Conn., 2001) , the author describes archaeology as an expanding universe of resources. Her view is that since the historical record is always being added to with new historic events, and that these events will some day need to be interpreted through the material remains that we as a society leave behind. Her book is a compilation of articles by archaeologists who solved historical questions or mysteries by reviewing the archaeological record to find out exactly what happened, when and by whom. In the same way police might review a criminal case by exhuming bodies and checking for new clues to solve a crime, trained archaeologists can find answers to historical questions and correct inaccuracies based on clues left in graves, ruins, and artifacts found left in the dirt. According to Meg Greene there are so many historical events that occur in our day to day lives that the archaeological record can never be depleted.
It is not difficult to imagine a time when the archaeological record is depleted and the science as we know it is left with only rehashing the old stories of it's own past along with the world's past. Yet, as cultural anthropology has found from the march of modern society encroaching on almost every native culture of the world, that new subject matter for study among the world's myriad of sociological problems can be found in the myriad of sociological issues still prevalent in the world, so archaeology has found that it too can lean on other sciences such as genetics and chemistry in order to find answers to age old questions or to find new questions to ask from the data already at hand.
So, will there ever be moment when the last archaeologist digs up the last artifact or relic left on earth and then closes the door on the science due to a final end of significant resources of information to be found in the strata of the historical record? Probably not.