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Exercise

In past cultures, people drew upon a corpus of symbols to express themselves though art, architecture, and religion, among other things. Although meaningful to the cultures that produced them it can be very difficult for archaeologists to interpret these symbols. Yet despite these challenges, the study of such symbols is one of the most fascinating aspects of archaeology, perhaps because they speak most directly to our own humanity.

Some images and symbols used by past cultures have become highly symbolic in our own, modern society. In many cases we have imbued these symbols with meanings of our own, which might have made no sense at all to the ancient people who originally produced them.

In this activity you are asked to locate three symbolic archaeological images used in our modern culture. These can be taken from newspapers, magazines, television adverts, architectural elements in buildings, or anywhere else. Be creative!

Once you have found the images, use the following questions to analyze each.

1.

What culture originally produced this symbol? What is it being used for now?

2.

Why do you think the modern artist/architect/company chose this particular symbol? What qualities do you think they want the symbol to convey to the public?

3.
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Do you think this symbol meant the same thing in ancient times as it does in our modern culture? If not, why do you think its meaning has changed?

4.

Do you think an archaeologist would view the symbol differently than the general public?

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