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How do historians use unwritten sources to reconstruct the history of the earliest civilizations?

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How do historians use unwritten sources to reconstruct the history of the earliest civilizations?

Actually it's really important to use written sources to study any civilization because often if we're thinking about people who don't have access to writing, we would know, for example, nothing about slaves in the antebellum south that they had produced themselves if we didn't use archaeology.

So, even when we happen to know a lot about a period, it's really useful to look at images, to look at artifacts, to look at archaeological excavations because they give us insight into things that people didn't necessarily want us to know about themselves, but which they have accidentally left behind. So, a historical record which is produced by somebody who wants to give us a particular story about themselves can be very useful but a historical artifact that you leave behind because it's trash can tell us so much more about things that you do in your daily life that you might not yourself think about as being historical evidence. So, I mean, I bet even if you keep a journal, you don't record what you had for breakfast, or how far you had to walk in order to get to work and that's often the exact kind of minutiae that historians really want to know about your life, and you would actually only write about that if something went wrong and you had to somehow account for your day. So, even when we know a lot about you, we want to know this stuff.

Obviously, for the distant past it's even more important, so in the era before 3200 BCE when writing was invented, we have to fall back on archaeology. But also, these days, historians have teamed up with microbiologists and geneticists and we can do really extraordinary kinds of things with evidence that we thought was unusable. For example, a team a University College London, in 2006, was looking at the Y-chromosomes of men living in England today and they discovered that the vast majority of Englishmen have different genetic structures than people living in Wales or Scotland. And they were able to hypothesize from that that when the Anglo-Saxon peoples from Germany arrived in England in the 5th century, they may have practiced a form of sexual apartheid. That is, they must have denied Celtic Britons (Celtic men) access to women. They would themselves have mated with these women and eventually these Celtic men who didn't want to be living under the subjection of these Anglo-Saxon invaders would have moved to what we call the "Celtic Fringes" of the British Isles.

Anyway, this is the sort of thing for which we might have a little bit of chronicle evidence about the arrival of the Anglos and Saxons, we don't actually have that type of historical evidence, so it's really the "history of the future."