As archaeological excavation is a destructive process, preservation by record is one of the cornerstones of the discipline. An archaeological archive consists of the records and finds made during an archaeological project, including plans, drawings, notes and photographs. Sites that were discovered in the 18th or 19th centuries by antiquarians, travellers and explorers, and depicted by artists and other visitors were recorded in diaries, field notebooks, sketches and photographs held today, along with more recent archaeological archives in the collections of museums, archives and libraries. These documents provide an important record of sites and of their condition at an earlier time. By studying these documents, which are often masterpieces in their own right, we can add knowledge to our research.
Giuseppe Angelelli, born in Portugal from Italian parents, traveled to Egypt in the Franco-Tuscan expedition directed by the archaeologists Rosellini and Champollion. He made many drawings later engraved in three books (I monumenti dell'Egitto e della Nubia, 1832, 1834, 1844). He also painted African landscapes and portraits, including his self-portrait.
Between 1884 and 1891 Baron Alfred de Loë and Count Georges de Looz-Corswarem meticulously documented the archaeological excavations of the Early Medieval Necropolis of Harmignies, Belgium. All 351 graves were systematically recorded and mapped, and detailed descriptions and drawings were compiled of each grave. The scientific accuracy of these documents is remarkable as earlier research mainly focused on the rich grave-goods found during excavations
Tadas Daugirdas was a Lithuanian nobleman and a well-known Lithuanian archaeologist from the late 19th and early 20th century. He was a famous painter, who designed the Lithuanian flag. His artistic talent can be seen in his beautiful drawings of archaeological findings.
Many historical libraries, such as the Archeology and Art History Library in Rome, preserve amongst their collections archaeological archives. Documentary materials include XIXth and early XX century notes, excavation diaries, correspondence, internal reports, drawings, photographs. Many are the only remaining documentation of past discoveries and studies, which is even more important when there is no visible trace of the archaeological site today.
Giuseppe Gerola was an Italian historian and explorer from early 1900. He travelled around Greece and cooperated with many famous archaeologists and academics, leaving a rich photographic archive.