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Significant overhaul underway[edit]

I have made some big changes to the structure of the article, and will continue to work on text. This is a good start, but many things need to be elaborated and clarified. This entry needs serious help! I am an archaeologist with training in North America, so the emphasis may have shifted somewhat. I'm hoping others will fill in information on the discipline in other world areas. I'm also unsure how to go about making significant changes without erasing previous text. I hope no one is offended - I'm just interested in getting this entry right. --Mybvega 23:29, 20 October 2007 (UTC)

Thanks for starting this overhaul, this page really needed it. The changes are an improvement, but more work is needed.--NathanCraig 00:43, 21 October 2007 (UTC)

Importance and Applicability[edit]

This section should be cut. Some arguments are blatantly incorrect while others are poorly articulated. 1) Writing begins about 3000 BC, not 3000 years ago. 2) All cultures produce histories (Salomon 1999; Wolfe 1982) even if some do not generate materialized forms of those histories. 3) The fallibility of the written record is not well presented. 4) Finally, the last section attempts a dual argument about nationalism and cultural reconstruction. These are both important issues, but they are not well linked in the text. I propose abandoning this section, creating new sections on history and prehistory which deals specifically with this complex and politically charged topic. I also propose creating a section that addresses archaeology and nationalism which is also a subject that merits discussion in a general treatment of archaeology. The issues of cultural reconstruction and the aims of research can be addressed under the existing section on theory. If I do not hear objection I will make these changes.--NathanCraig 06:00, 21 October 2007 (UTC)

  • Salomon, F. (1999), "Testimonies: The Making and Reading of Native South American Historical Sources", in SALOMON, F. & SCHWARTZ, S. B., The Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of the Americas, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 
  • Wolf, E. (1982), Europe and the People Without History, Berkeley: University of California Press, ISBN 0520048989 


I notice in the opening paragraph it states that archaeology is a 'science'. Now, some archaeologists believe that it is (e.g. the processualist school) and some don't (the post-processualists), I think this should be reflected in the opening. I am going to be bold and change it to 'academic discipline' to be more neutral. If anyone has any problems with this I'm open to discussion. :)

This is a debate that has been very important in modern archaeology and should probably be given its own section after clean-up.Man from the Ministry 02:40, 15 November 2007 (UTC)

I also added 'interpretation' to the brief list of methods in the intro, for the same reason stated above.Man from the Ministry 02:48, 15 November 2007 (UTC)

Vsmith reverted my edit, because the term 'academic discipline' was disliked. If a better term can be decided, I'll go for it, but I still think 'Science' is the wrong term to have (at least in the opening paragraph).

In my opinion, 'academic discipline' is the most accurate description, for whilst excavation, lab-based research etc are all part of Archaeology, the subject itself is grounded in the traditions of publication and peer review.

I won't make the edit again without further discussion here.Man from the Ministry 11:35, 15 November 2007 (UTC)

How about field of study which may be science-based or ____?___ based. What goes in the blank? Vsmith 14:13, 15 November 2007 (UTC)

'Field of study' is good. I personally think that the positivist vs anti-positivist debate should have its own section, but if it is also to be included into the intro then I suggest:

'...Is a field of study which uses both scientific and interpretive methods to...'. For further clarification it would probably be good to follow that sentence with one noting that Archaeology falls into both the categories of Humanities and Sciences (For example, I am doing an Archaeology degree which is classed as a Humanities subject, but Science based degrees are just as common). Man from the Ministry 14:27, 15 November 2007 (UTC)

OK, personally not into the positivist/antipositivist debate. Hmm... interpretive methods based on what, if not scientific evidence and data. Vsmith 16:45, 15 November 2007 (UTC)
I don't dispute that most archaeological interpretation is taken from the results of scientific investigation, site diagrams etc, but the major point I'm trying to make is that certain archaeologists (e.g. Chris Tilley) hold that the interpretation itself doesn't have to follow the scientific method.
As an example off the top of my head, some of the interpretation work done on the Maeshowe neolithic tombs compares the layout of the tombs and that of the nearby neolithic Barnhouse Settlement. The argument goes that as they are remarkably the same, the tomb may in some way represent a 'house of the dead'. This is obviously totally unscientific, with no possibility of verification, but the post-processualist school argues that it is still valid as archaeology. Man from the Ministry 12:27, 16 November 2007 (UTC)
Sounds to me like a theory that could be verified at some future date. Deb 12:41, 16 November 2007 (UTC)
Well it is a theory, but the problem is that it is pretty much impossible to verify, because it is attempting to read the intentions and spiritual beliefs of humans that have been dead for thousands of years. This is where the debate comes in:
Processualists would argue that as it cannot be meaningfully verified it should be ignored, or at most be an interpretational footnote in a more scientific work.
The Post-Processualists would argue that even though it cannot be verified, such theories are important in the study of human history, through such methods as phenomenology.
For the record, I don't really hold to one view or the other, but hover somewhere in the middle.Man from the Ministry 13:27, 16 November 2007 (UTC)

Obviously, this needs to be decided by looking for notable views in reliable sources. But may I suggest that there are two issues that complicate this, one has to do with natonal traditions of archeology, the other with national traditions of science. National traditions of archeology: in the UK I think archeology was traditionally associated with humanities like History and Classics; in the United States, with anthropology. National traditions of science: the American anthropological notion of science had its origins in the German notion ot science (brought over by Franz Boas and others) as "Wissenschaft" which encompassed both the nomothetic and idiographic "sciences." This diverges from the Anglo-French understanding of science, rooted in positivism and quantifiable models. Lewis Binford was certainly appealing to the Anglo-French notion of science in reaction to the earlier work of people like William Duncan Strong - but my sense is Strong considered himself a scientist, he just had a different view of science than Binford (one that did not depend on there being hypotheses). Similarly, post-processualism was certainly reacting against Binford, and a specific notion of what scientific archeology would be. But were all post-processualists invested in the claim tht archeology therefore is not a science? Isn't it possible that they too have a broader or looser understanding of "science?" Certainly, post-processualists are empiricists and rely on material evidence to support their arguments. Slrubenstein | Talk 23:33, 27 September 2008 (UTC)

Heritage Management[edit]

I added a link to the CRM/Heritage Management section to show that the latter is an academically accepted name in Britain (displayed as the title of a module of study). The link comes from SoGAER (School of Geography, Archaeology and Earth Resources) at the University of Exeter.

Note there is also a basic reading list at the bottom that may be further use in the article, if they can be got hold of.

As I am doing a module on this subject I may be able to help in cleaning up the section, but only from the British perspective. I have no knowledge of the American system.Man from the Ministry (talk) 16:35, 17 November 2007 (UTC)

Edit: Added a link to a source for the PPG16 document and some internal links.Man from the Ministry (talk) 16:36, 17 November 2007 (UTC)

Added some more references and internal links to the section. The United Kingdom and American sections could probably do with being divided into seperate subheadings, to prevent the section as a whole becoming too unwieldly.Man from the Ministry (talk) 17:04, 17 November 2007 (UTC)


The original hatnote was {{For|the magazine about archaeology|Archaeology (magazine)}}. The current one (with incorrect markup) leads to WP:CITE. I propose to restore he original. Please point out if I've missed the reason in the page history. --Old Moonraker (talk) 10:15, 6 February 2008 (UTC)

Done. --Old Moonraker (talk) 07:57, 7 February 2008 (UTC)

Refimprove|date=July 2007 deleted[edit]

Needs to clearly state on discussion page where references are lacking. Otherwise this is usless information for the reader.--Rcollman (talk) 03:52, 8 February 2008 (UTC)

Why are there so many references for the fact that archaeology draws upon geology? You'd think that this would be fairly obvious for a discipline that is popularly viewed as all about "digging things up". References in mid-sentence are also an eyesore. Unless there is a good reason to keep them where they are, I'd suggest moving them. Fuzzform (talk) 01:53, 16 April 2008 (UTC)

Current/Recent digs[edit]

I am hoping there is a possibility for us to display recent important digs. This could be aided by embedding archaelogical news feeds from the main Wikipedia page. This is something that would certainly interest me but I would like some feedback as I am pretty new... Any thoughts? Tallbert222 11:35, 29 July 2008 (UTC)

The stuff on Wikipedia is supposed to be assessed in the light of the "long-term historical perspective", just like on a "real" (I hope I don't get into trouble for that) encyclopedia: details here. Reports of current events are not automatically disqualified, but it might prove "difficult to judge whether notability actually exists". I hope this doesn't read as too negative. Good luck! --Old Moonraker (talk) 15:00, 29 July 2008 (UTC)

In America, especially in urban locations, when a current dig (excavation) is in progress and a large test pit is opened up such as 4 x 8 meters, work may take a few days. In the late afternoon students and volunteers will cover the pit with a plastic tarp in an effort to keep water out in case it rains that night. This method may go on day after day until the dirt from both the plow zone (top layer), and the subsoil (bottom layer) has been excavated and screened through 1/4 inch mesh hardware cloth in an attempt to trap artifacts, if any, which are then put into specimen bags. How deep the pit gets excavated is determined by the archaeologist on the site.

As long as a test pit is opened up, it is not prudent to invite the media, local residents, gawkers, etc. to see the work being done. Some digs have been potholed during the night by looters hoping to dig up anything of value they could later sell. This is one reason why confidentiality is imperative, particularly on the location of prehistoric burial/mortuary sites.

Another issue is liability. If looters were injured or fell into a stream and drowned, the landowner is liable. However, before starting the dig, the students, volunteers, and archaeologists will sign a waiver which leaves the landowner free and clear.

Musicwriter (talk) 04:28, 10 September 2009 (UTC)

dating Methods[edit]

A list of dating methods would be helpful. Understanding how archeologist do their work helps tell the good from the bad. I have provided a rough amature list but would prefer one that has been scrutinized and is more comprehensive.

Archeology dating methods
1. Carbon dating
2. Historical records and carbon dating on the records.
3. The lower you dig the older it is so if you find something close by to an item dated to one time frame then it will probably be dated to the same time frame.
4. Water erosion in combination with study of ancient climate.
5. tree rings which don't apply often but it may come in handy in some cases.
6. cross checking. Whenever possible it is good to cross check to make sure that different dating methods don't contridict each other.
Input from archeologist or related experts welcome thanks Zacherystaylor (talk) 09:13, 12 September 2008 (UTC)

  • There are scores of dating methods. There are numerous books on the subject. For starters, though, here's a web link: Wik already has an article on geochronology but apparently lacks one for archaeology. This is so extensive that a separate article is necessary. Just a few of the most salient ones should be on the main archaeology page.Kdammers (talk) 04:07, 14 September 2008 (UTC)
We already have Dating methodology (archaeology) which I think needs work. We also have Absolute dating where someone has added Amino Acid Racemization -- but I can find sources that say it can't be used for absolute dating, others that say it can. And we have Relative dating, all articles which need a lot of work. (We have Amino acid dating also, with no references). Doug Weller (talk) 18:45, 15 September 2008 (UTC)

aerial arch. photo[edit]

The picture of Solte is not a very good example for aerial arch. As far as I could see, there is no reference to the photograph in the text, and the photograph itself has no obvious specifically archaeological aspects to it (such as something reflecting buried features). The picture should be replaced or explained.Kdammers (talk) 04:10, 14 September 2008 (UTC)

question for people who watch this site[edit]

What is currently the best introduction to archeology textbook - the most current? Slrubenstein | Talk 22:03, 6 October 2008 (UTC) Probably the most used and frequently updated book is Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Practice by Colin Renfrew and Paul Bahn (Paperback - 19 May 2008) Doug Weller (talk) 06:12, 7 October 2008 (UTC)

Thanks, I know this is one of the best selling! Do most people agree it is the best? Slrubenstein | Talk 13:18, 7 October 2008 (UTC)
I am specifically interested in the emergence of the first states. When I read Fagan's textbook almost thirty years ago he provided dates for the first states along the Nile, Tigris and Euphrates, Indus and Yellow Rivers. Are these still considered the first states? Has the dating changed? Renfrew and Bahn is a great textbook but it focuses more on methods and theory than on the actual findings. Where would I find the current state of knowledge in this regard? Slrubenstein | Talk 22:14, 8 October 2008 (UTC)

You might want to look at Mehrgarh and Harappa in India or Nevali_Cori, Çatalhöyük and Göbekli Tepe in Turkey. Archeologist keep digging up more information whether these are the first states or not I don't know but they may be before Egypt and Mesopotamia as I was taught in school.

Zacherystaylor (talk) 06:00, 11 October 2008 (UTC)

'Current state' is mainly reflected in the journals, or a few books costing 3 figures each! Doug Weller (talk) 07:35, 11 October 2008 (UTC)
Thanks! Can anyone recommend and provide the citation for the most current review article? As for three-figure books, I go to a library! Slrubenstein | Talk 22:12, 11 October 2008 (UTC)

Archaeological inventory[edit]

Is there anything about how they record and organize archaeological inventory? since this would surly be very large there would have a way to sumerize it. I have seen many hints of this in archaeology books but rarely a sumation of the inventory usualy just a few select items. An example of how this would be used would be the clovis point first found in New Mexico but later inventory showed it originated in the Chesapeake bay area. Petrie was also suposed to be the first to make a list of potery to show how culture evolved. I know this seems tedious but it must be an important part of how achaeologist do their work.

Thanks Zacherystaylor (talk) 06:18, 11 October 2008 (UTC)

Databases. This might interest you [1]. Lots of use of statistics. [2]. Doug Weller (talk) 07:34, 11 October 2008 (UTC)

Sources and Links[edit]

I note that Archaeology magazine and other excellent sources are listed here. When Biblical Archaeology Review, the other prominent archaeology magazine in the US, was linked that link was removed.

I'm hoping to understand why.

Thanks. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:41, 6 February 2009 (UTC)

I believe Biblical Archaeology Review is linked from the more specialized article on Biblical archaeology. External links related to specialized topics in archaeology are better spun off to more specific articles. This avoids clutter and is more in keeping with Wikipedia policies, which discourage excessive external linking. Tapatio (talk) 15:22, 12 February 2009 (UTC)

I see that Biblical archaeology has been moved to Biblical archaeology (excavations and artifacts), which is where the link to Biblical Archaeology Review is found. Tapatio (talk) 14:58, 16 February 2009 (UTC)


The information in this section is dated as regards aerial photography. Remote sensing - which includes a wide array of data collection and imaging techniques, including satellite-based systems - would be a better scope. If such changes are made, they should also be reflected in the article on archaeological survey. Tapatio (talk) 15:37, 12 February 2009 (UTC)

I have added 'Ultraviolet' as a technique and added a ref link to aerial photography by 'kite'. It deals with archaeological KAP from the near-UV to the thermal infra-red. Dr John Wells (talk) 08:48, 2 December 2012 (UTC)

Added kite aerial photo - may not be suitable with no Wiki link but a better representation of how a site can be photographed ( I can provide something else if appropraite. Dr John Wells (talk) 09:41, 2 December 2012 (UTC)


The accompanying text for an image of Indus glyphs recovered at Dholavira suggests they are "perhaps 5000 years old". This needs some consideration; the sequence of Harappan influence at Dholavira is divided into stages falling between I and IIIB. The earliest of these - I - dates to the early Harappan (in Mark Kenoyer's chronology), indicating a date of no earlier than ca. 3200. While this establishes a possible date of '5000', the evidence is more in favour of a later dating.


(Section under "subfields"): I've heard the term "Archaeological Science" more; among real archaeologists, is Archaeometry more common? In any case, I don't think the sentence that "it is about measurement" does it justice, besides being true to the word root. However, I don't want to change it myself, because I'm not an archaeologist and maybe there is some historical application of the word. Anyone have a better idea on what this is and how to define it than I do? Awickert (talk) 01:54, 20 March 2009 (UTC)

Relationship with anthropology[edit]

Anthropology being the science of humanity — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:14, 10 June 2013 (UTC) Proposed text: "In the United States, where archaeology is part of anthropology, there have been conflicts between those favoring more positivist and biological approaches, including many archaeologists, and those favoring more postmodern and sociological approaches, including many cultural anthropologists.[1][2]"

  1. ^ Stanford Report, Anthro Dept likely to divide into two: 5/20/98 Anthropology Department likely to split, KATHLEEN O'TOOLE, May 20, 1998
  2. ^ Speaking the Same Language: Bridging the Ever-Growing Disciplinary Divide Between Cultural Anthropology and Archaeology, Ivy Hepp and Joshua Englehardt, Kroeber Anthropological Society Papers Vol. 99/100 KROEBER ANTHROPOLOGICAL SOCIETY, 100(1): 26-37, 2011

This has been a significant conflict so it should be mentioned. Please state any objections. Miradre (talk) 21:14, 22 August 2011 (UTC)

I agree with Dougweller's recent edit. This has not be a significant conflict, unless we are writing an article about one department at one university. Slrubenstein | Talk 21:35, 22 August 2011 (UTC)
I think it has - the uproar about the removal of the word science in the AAA's recent definition statement reeived a lot of publicity in the general public and in AAA News and other places.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 02:09, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
The sources shows that it is not just one department but is an important conflict in US anthropology in general. Miradre (talk) 21:37, 22 August 2011 (UTC)
Here is another article regarding this in the New York Times: [3]. Miradre (talk) 21:42, 22 August 2011 (UTC)
Here is an online source for my second cited source: [4] Miradre (talk) 21:44, 22 August 2011 (UTC)
What is the "Kroeber Anthropological Society" and how important is its publication? Slrubenstein | Talk 22:01, 22 August 2011 (UTC)
If you disagree with that source I gave two others. Miradre (talk) 22:14, 22 August 2011 (UTC)
Here is an article in Nature: [5] Miradre (talk) 22:19, 22 August 2011 (UTC)
I did not disagree. I asked you two questions. Why not answer them?
The other article says that there is no crisis. So let's say there is no crisis. Slrubenstein | Talk 22:27, 22 August 2011 (UTC)
Not sure how important the Kroeber publication is but it is only one source. I have now given three other sources also. The Nature article certainly states that there are serious problems although is argues that the problems are not of the magnitude sometimes claimed in the media. Certainly shows that this is a notable topic.Miradre (talk) 22:32, 22 August 2011 (UTC)
Mathsci states "undue synthesis by Miradre, which has not been justified properly on talk page".[6] Please explain. As noted this conflict has been documented in many reliable sources. I hope it is not just a case of WP:JUSTDONTLIKEIT. Miradre (talk) 17:42, 24 August 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── I agree with Dougweller and Slrubenstein that the content synthesized by Miradre was and still is undue and not suitable for this high-level article on wikipedia. Miradre has strung together a disparate set of sources, some dating from 13 years ago, some newpapers reports about anthropology and science, and attached them to an unreadable sentence. I would defer to those more familiar with archaeology, like Dougweller, who I understand is quite busy at the moment. Wait until he replies. Thanks, Mathsci (talk) 18:00, 24 August 2011 (UTC)

Dougweller said we should discuss it on talk and maybe add more sources. More sources added. The sources now include very recent articles from The New York Times and an article in Nature. You have still not explained exactly what is supposed by wrong with statement. Please do. Thanks. Miradre (talk) 18:08, 24 August 2011 (UTC)
Please wait until Dougweller, Slrubenstein or other editors show up to discuss the sentence and sources you produced. They might actually favour including some kind of statement in a footnote. There is no rush and I don't have anything more to say on the matter at present. Thanks, Mathsci (talk) 18:23, 24 August 2011 (UTC)
Obviously a significant conflict and controversy, among other things causing actual splits of anthropology departments into two separate ones, should not be hidden away in "a footnote". I am still hoping you will explain exactly what you think is wrong and violating WP:SYNTH.Miradre (talk) 18:39, 24 August 2011 (UTC)
  • I think there is a clear trend in the US to split archaeology out of anthrpology departments, just like linguistics departments were split during the Chomskyan revolution. Several universities have adopted a more European model for archaeology departments. My own school is split with archaeological presence both in the anthro department and in a new separate department. I thionk it is fair to characterize the situation as unstable and conflictive (but this is OR of course). The question is whether the anthro/archaeology relation in the US deserves a section of its own in the general article about the discipline. I think it probab doesnt. ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 02:18, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
Yet there are several other sections in the "Current issues and controversy" that only describe US or other regional issues. Miradre (talk) 07:20, 25 August 2011 (UTC)

When Boas put together the four field approach, he commented that he thought it was on the way out. I think the article needs to distinguish between two things. First, anthropology has neve3r been a "discipline" in the sense of being disciplined; anthropologists routinely publish in non anthropology journals - there are strong centrifugal forces. If Mirardre wishes to write on this, the best source is the series of volumes Stocking and now Handler edit for U. Minnessota Press; I am all for building the historical dimension of the article drawing on the contributions to those volumes. The second issue has to do with forces outside of the profession - CP Snow wrote about the "two cultures" problem that emerged with the proliferation of specialization combined with divided funding that pushes scholars to identify more with the sciences or the humanities - this necessarily stretches anthropology in two directions. It also provides no space for the "social" sciences, and it is being reconfigured now with the invention of the behavioral sciences to encompass psychologists political scientists and economists disaffected with the social sciences and realize they will get more funding from the state if they identify as being more scientific and this new category of behavioral science provides a way to do this. But I think the reasons shy there are so few biological anthropologists at AAA meetings is obvious: most departments will only fund one conference, and biological anthropologists get more out of attending the specialized meeting. The question is, why is this not the case for cultural anthropologists? I say this because the annual SCA and AES meetings are woefully under-attended and if one were using these as data, one would conclude (mistakenly) that cultural anthropology is in decline. Slrubenstein | Talk 22:27, 25 August 2011 (UTC)

Nations without "Archeology of ..." articles[edit]

Articles about Archeology of Algeria and -China, we have.

Would it be an idea that someone (not me) create a sandbox article, that lists nations that do not have an "Archeology of" article?


Archeology of Norway does not have an article.

This [7] link might belong there (and it is not yet in any other articles here).

These subject are notable mentioned on wikipedia:

Popular Views section - NPOV[edit]

The following excerpt from this section doesn't seem to fit the NPOV requirement.

The modern depiction is sensationalized so much that it has incorrectly formed the public’s perception of what archaeology is. The public is often under the impression that all archaeology takes place in a distant and foreign land, only to collect monetarily or spiritually priceless artifacts. Many times these artifacts are pursued for power and/or wealth. Alfred Hitchcock referred to such items in his films as the “MacGuffin: and object of pursuit, protected, and rescue by both hero and villain. We are led to believe that Indiana Jones is a hero for yelling, “It belongs in a Museum!” all while he yields [sic] a gun and destroys historical sites without the blink of an eye.

I am adding a neutrality tag to this section. I will also change "yields" to "wields." — Preceding unsigned comment added by Beetfarm Louie (talkcontribs) 20:35, 2 February 2013 (UTC)

I don't see what violates NPOV about that? Film portrayals of archaeology are often sensationalized and often do not reflect actual field archaeology. And changing a direct quote is a no no, didn't you notice the quote marks or the [sic] in the statement letting you know the typo was in the original quote and was not a Wikipedia typo? Heiro 05:23, 3 February 2013 (UTC)

No, the "wields" is out of the quote I think. I hope I'm wrong cause The line on Indiana Jones is disgraceful bias! 75* 18:03, 17 February 2014 (UTC)

What's the quote's source? The Indiana Jones statement is out of quote marks right now. I will remove it until it can be found in the quotes source. 75* 18:05, 17 February 2014 (UTC)

I'm going to add an actual NPOV tag to. 75* 18:35, 17 February 2014 (UTC)

I'm finished, I think. take a look! 75* 16:36, 5 May 2014 (UTC)

Current Section "Popular views of archaeology".[edit]

Irrelevant. Unverified speculation, even if it was relevant. I propose deletion of the section, AnnaComnemna (talk) 09:38, 6 February 2015 (UTC)