Historical archaeology is a form of archaeology dealing with places, things, and issues from the past or present when written records and oral traditions can inform and contextualize cultural material. These records can both complement and conflict with the archaeological evidence found at a particular site. Studies focus on literate, historical- period societies as opposed to non-literate, prehistoric societies. While they may not have generated the records, the lives of people for whom there was little need for written records, such as the working class, slaves, indentured labourers, and children but who live in the historical period can also be the subject of study. The sites are found on land and underwater. Industrial archaeology, unless practiced at industrial sites from the prehistoric era, is a form of historical archaeology concentrating on the remains and products of industry and the Industrial era.
According to the overall definition given here based on methodological and theoretical aspects classical archaeology or Egyptology as well as medieval archaeology are disciplines of historical archaeology. In practice, however – mainly in the Americas – historical archaeology refers to the modern, post-1492 period, which in Europe is often referred to as post-medieval archaeology.
Notable historical archaeologists
- Judy Birmingham
- John L. Cotter
- James Deetz
- J. C. Harrington
- Ivor Noël Hume
- Mark P. Leone
- Stanley South
"Historical archaeology has several definitions. One of the more unfortunate ones--which is certainly not true but which should be mentioned--is that historical archaeology is the most expensive way in the world to learn something we already know. I am afraid that does happen more than it should, but it need not."
- Connah, Grahame. 1988 "Of the hut I builded" The archaeology of Australia's history. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Deetz, James (1991). "Archaeological Evidence of Sixteenth and Seventeenth-Century Encounters," in Historical Archaeology in Global Perspective, ed. Lisa Falk. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.
- Deetz, James (1996) . In Small Things Forgotten: An Archaeology of Early American Life. New York: Anchor.
- Hume, Ivor Noël (1968). Historical Archaeology: A Comprehensive Guide for Both Amateurs and Professionals to the Techniques and Methods of Excavating Historical Sites. New York: Knopf.
- Orser., Charles E. Jr. (2002). Encyclopedia of Historical Archaeology. London and New York: Routledge.
- Orser, Charles E. Jr. (2004). Historical Archaeology. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.
- M. Hall and S. Silliman (eds.) 2006. Historical Archaeology. Oxford: Blackwell.
- Hicks, Dan and Mary C. Beaudry (eds) (2006). The Cambridge Companion to Historical Archaeology. New York: Cambridge University Press.
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- South, Stanley (1977). Method and Theory in Historical Archaeology. Academic Press.
- Majewski, Teresita; Gaimster, David (2009). International handbook of historical archaeology. New York: Springer.