Archaeology is unique among the sciences. It has a wide popular following
and addresses a body of knowledge - the material record of the past -
that attracts the interests of often fiercely antagonistic groups: collectors
and museums, on the one hand; archaeologists and anthropologists, on the
other, with art historians somewhere in the middle, and, of course, the
many other permutations that arise. However, all these groups share an
interest in the material record of human development that archaeology
provides and interprets.
Since the 1980s, Chinese archaeologists have made many discoveries that
call for a re-write of some chapters of Chinese prehistory, history and
art history. Obligated by law to excavate sites that are threatened
by construction projects or have been disturbed by tomb robbers, China's thousands of professional
and semi-professional archaeologists have a massive task meeting the demands
placed on the profession.
Archaeology has long been significant in China, the world's oldest continuous
nation, in which there has long been a traditional reverence for the past.
The 1990s saw a re-emergence of heritage concerns in China and the first
steps in the direction of an emerging public archaeological consciousness.