Portal:Archaeology

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Introduction

Archaeology, or archeology, is the study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of material culture. The archaeological record consists of artifacts, architecture, biofacts or ecofacts and cultural landscapes. Archaeology can be considered both a social science and a branch of the humanities. In North America archaeology is a sub-field of anthropology, while in Europe it is often viewed as either a discipline in its own right or a sub-field of other disciplines.

Archaeologists study human prehistory and history, from the development of the first stone tools at Lomekwi in East Africa 3.3 million years ago up until recent decades. Archaeology is distinct from palaeontology, the study of fossil remains. It is particularly important for learning about prehistoric societies, for whom there may be no written records to study. Prehistory includes over 99% of the human past, from the Paleolithic until the advent of literacy in societies across the world. Archaeology has various goals, which range from understanding culture history to reconstructing past lifeways to documenting and explaining changes in human societies through time.

Selected general articles

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Max Uhle.

Friedrich Max Uhle (25 March 1856 – 11 May 1944) was a German archaeologist, whose work in Peru, Chile, Ecuador and Bolivia at the turn of the Twentieth Century had a significant impact on the practice of archaeology of South America. Read more...
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Dorothy Annie Elizabeth Garrod, CBE, FBA (5 May 1892 – 18 December 1968) was an English archaeologist who specialised in the Palaeolithic period. She held the position of Disney Professor of Archaeology at the University of Cambridge from 1938 to 1952, and was the first woman to hold an Oxbridge chair. Read more...
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The term bioarchaeology was first coined by British archaeologist Grahame Clark in 1972 as a reference to zooarchaeology, or the study of animal bones from archaeological sites. Redefined in 1977 by Jane Buikstra, bioarchaeology in the US now refers to the scientific study of human remains from archaeological sites, a discipline known in other countries as osteoarchaeology or palaeo-osteology. In England and other European countries, the term 'bioarchaeology' is borrowed to cover all biological remains from sites.

Bioarchaeology was largely born from the practices of New Archaeology, which developed in the US in the 1970s as a reaction to a mainly cultural-historical approach to understanding the past. Proponents of New Archaeology advocated using processual methods to test hypotheses about the interaction between culture and biology, or a biocultural approach. Some archaeologists advocate a more holistic approach to bioarchaeology that incorporates critical theory and is more relevant to modern descent populations. Read more...
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Alfred V. Kidder at Pecos, 1916

Alfred Vincent Kidder (October 29, 1885 – June 11, 1963) was an American archaeologist considered the foremost of the southwestern United States and Mesoamerica during the first half of the 20th century. He saw a disciplined system of archaeological techniques as a means to extend the principles of anthropology into the prehistoric past and so was the originator of the first comprehensive, systematic approach to North American archaeology. Read more...
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Environmental archaeology is a sub-field of archaeology and is the science of reconstructing the relationships between past societies and the environments they lived in. The field represents an archaeological-palaeoecological approach to studying the palaeoenvironment through the methods of human palaeoecology. Reconstructing past environments and past peoples' relationships and interactions with the landscapes they inhabited provides archaeologists with insights into the origin and evolution of anthropogenic environments, and prehistoric adaptations and economic practices.

Environmental archaeology is commonly divided into three sub-fields: Read more...
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Ground penetrating radar is a tool used in archaeological field surveys.

In archaeology, survey or field survey is a type of field research by which archaeologists (often landscape archaeologists) search for archaeological sites and collect information about the location, distribution and organization of past human cultures across a large area (e.g. typically in excess of one hectare, and often in excess of many km2). Archaeologists conduct surveys to search for particular archaeological sites or kinds of sites, to detect patterns in the distribution of material culture over regions, to make generalizations or test hypotheses about past cultures, and to assess the risks that development projects will have adverse impacts on archaeological heritage. The surveys may be: (a) intrusive or non-intrusive, depending on the needs of the survey team (and the risk of destroying archaeological evidence if intrusive methods are used) and; (b) extensive or intensive, depending on the types of research questions being asked of the landscape in question. Surveys can be a practical way to decide whether or not to carry out an excavation (as a way of recording the basic details of a possible site), but may also be ends in themselves, as they produce important information about past human activities in a regional context.

A common role of a field survey is in assessment of the potential archaeological significance of places where development is proposed. This is usually connected to construction work and road building. The assessment determines whether the area of development impact is likely to contain significant archaeological resources and makes recommendations as to whether the archaeological remains can be avoided or an excavation is necessary before development work can commence. Read more...
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Experimental tree felling with reconstructed adzes of the Linear Pottery culture for the analysis of stress marks on the adze blades and ghost lines on the tree stump and the timber in comparison with marks on archaeological finds

Experimental archaeology (also called experiment archaeology and experiential archaeology) is a field of study which attempts to generate and test archaeological hypotheses, usually by replicating or approximating the feasibility of ancient cultures performing various tasks or feats. It employs a number of methods, techniques, analyses, and approaches, based upon archaeological source material such as ancient structures or artifacts.

It is distinct from uses of primitive technology without any concern for archaeological or historical study. Living history and historical reenactment, which are generally undertaken as a hobby, are the non archaeological person's version of this academic discipline. Read more...
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College students work with indigenous peoples in archaeological dig


Indigenous archaeology is a sub-discipline of western archaeological theory that seeks to engage and empower indigenous people in the preservation of their heritage and to correct perceived inequalities in modern archaeology. It also attempts to incorporate non-material elements of cultures, like oral traditions, into the wider historical narrative. This methodology came out of the global anti-colonial movements of the 1970s and 1980s led by aboriginal and indigenous people in settler-colonial nations, like the United States, Canada, and Australia. Major issues the sub-discipline attempts to address include the repatriation of indigenous remains to their respective peoples, the perceived biases that western archaeology's imperialistic roots have imparted into its modern practices, and the stewardship and preservation of indigenous people’s cultures and heritage sites. This has encouraged the development of more collaborative relationships between archaeologists and indigenous people and has increased the involvement of indigenous people in archaeology and its related policies.

As a relatively recently formed variety of archaeology, the "tenets and practices of Indigenous archaeology are currently being defined", and, as a sub-discipline, it is "unavoidably pluralistic, contingent, and emergent". Changes in practices under what is called indigenous archeology may range from Indigenous peoples being consulted about archaeological research and the terms of non-Native researchers, to instances of Native-designed and directed exploration of their "own" heritage. Read more...
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Olduvai Gorge, where some of the earliest hominins are believed to have evolved.

Africa has the longest record of human habitation in the world. The first hominins emerged 6-7 million years ago, and among the earliest anatomically modern human skulls found so far were discovered at Omo Kibish.

European archaeology, as well as that of North Africa, is generally divided into the Stone Age (comprising the Lower Paleolithic, the Middle Paleolithic, the Upper Paleolithic, the Mesolithic, and the Neolithic), the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age. For Africa south of the Sahara, African archaeology is classified in a slightly different way, with the Paleolithic generally divided into the Early Stone Age, the Middle Stone Age, and the Later Stone Age. After these three stages come the Pastoral Neolithic, the Iron Age and then later historical periods. Read more...
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A geoarchaeologist analyzes a stratigraphy on the route of the LGV Est high-speed railway line.

Geoarchaeology is a multi-disciplinary approach which uses the techniques and subject matter of geography, geology and other Earth sciences to examine topics which inform archaeological knowledge and thought. Geoarchaeologists study the natural physical processes that affect archaeological sites such as geomorphology, the formation of sites through geological processes and the effects on buried sites and artifacts post-deposition. Geoarchaeologists' work frequently involves studying soil and sediments as well as other geographical concepts to contribute an archaeological study. Geoarchaeologists may also use computer cartography, geographic information systems (GIS) and digital elevation models (DEM) in combination with disciplines from human and social sciences and earth sciences. Geoarchaeology is important to society because it informs archaeologists about the geomorphology of the soil, sediments and the rocks on the buried sites and artifacts they're researching on. By doing this we are able locate ancient cities and artifacts and estimate by the quality of soil how "prehistoric" they really are. Read more...
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Sir Richard Colt Hoare, 2nd Baronet

Sir Richard Colt Hoare, 2nd Baronet FRS (9 December 1758 – 19 May 1838) was an English antiquarian, archaeologist, artist, and traveller of the 18th and 19th centuries, the first major figure in the detailed study of the history of his home county of Wiltshire. Read more...
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Classical archaeology is the archaeological investigation of the Mediterranean civilizations of Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. Nineteenth-century archaeologists such as Heinrich Schliemann were drawn to study the societies they had read about in Latin and Greek texts. Many universities and foreign nations maintain excavation programs and schools in the area-such is the enduring appeal of the region's archaeology. Read more...
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Calceology (from Latin calcei "shoes" and -λογία, -logiā, "-logy") is the study of footwear, especially historical footwear whether as archaeology, shoe fashion history, or otherwise. It is not yet formally recognized as a field of research. Calceology comprises the examination, registration, research and conservation of leather shoe fragments. A wider definition includes the general study of the ancient footwear, its social and cultural history, technical aspects of pre-industrial shoemaking and associated leather trades, as well as reconstruction of archaeological footwear. Read more...
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Landscape archaeology is the study of the ways in which people in the past constructed and used the environment around them. Landscape archaeology is inherently multidisciplinary in its approach to the study of culture, and is used by pre-historical, classic, and historic archaeologists. The key feature that distinguishes landscape archaeology from other archaeological approaches to sites is that there is an explicit emphasis on the sites' relationships between material culture, human alteration of land/cultural modifications to landscape, and the natural environment. The study of landscape archaeology (also sometimes referred to as the archaeology of the cultural landscape) has evolved to include how landscapes were used to create and reinforce social inequality and to announce one's social status to the community at large. Read more...
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Holmes in 1918

William Henry Holmes (December 1, 1846 – April 20, 1933) — known as W.H. Holmes — was an American explorer, anthropologist, archaeologist, artist, scientific illustrator, cartographer, mountain climber, geologist and museum curator and director. Read more...
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Excavations at the site of Gran Dolina, in the Atapuerca Mountains, Spain, 2008

In archaeology, excavation is the exposure, processing and recording of archaeological remains. An excavation site or "dig" is a site being studied. Such a site excavation concerns itself with a specific archaeological site or a connected series of sites, and may be conducted over as little as several weeks to over a number of years.

Numerous specialized techniques each with its particular features are used. Resources and other practical issues do not allow archaeologists to carry out excavations whenever and wherever they choose. These constraints mean many known sites have been deliberately left unexcavated. This is with the intention of preserving them for future generations as well as recognising the role they serve in the communities that live near them. Read more...
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In archaeology, phenomenology applies to the use of sensory experiences to view and interpret an archaeological site or cultural landscape. It first came to widespread attention among archaeologists with the publication of Christopher Tilley's A Phenomenology of Landscape (1994), in which he suggested it to be a useful technique that can be used to discover more about historical peoples and how they interact with the landscapes in which they live. He argued that, simply by looking at two-dimensional depictions of a landscape, such as on a map, archaeologists fail to understand how peoples living in hunter-gatherer and agricultural societies actually relate to those areas. He believed, therefore, that investigators should enter the very landscape that they are studying, and use their senses of sight, smell, and hearing to learn more about how historical peoples would have interpreted it.

Phenomenology "has provoked considerable discussion within the discipline", receiving considerable criticism from the archaeological community who deem it to be "unscientific" and "subjective". In contrast to this, it has also been supported by a great number of archaeologists and nowadays is often used in fieldwork alongside other, more traditional methods. It has been used particularly in understanding prehistoric sites, such as the Neolithic Tavoliere Plain in Italy, and the Bronze Age landscape on Bodmin Moor, England. Read more...
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George Fletcher Bass (/bæs/; born December 9, 1932) is recognized as one of the early practitioners of underwater archaeology, along with Peter Throckmorton, Honor Frost, and others. Read more...
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Diagram describing major steps in post-excavation analysis.

Post-excavation analysis constitutes processes that are used to study archaeological materials after an excavation is completed. Since the advent of "New Archaeology" in the 1960s, the use of scientific techniques in archaeology has grown in importance. This trend is directly reflected in the increasing application of the scientific method to post-excavation analysis. The first step in post-excavation analysis should be to determine what one is trying to find out and what techniques can be used to provide answers. Techniques chosen will ultimately depend on what type of artifact(s) one wishes to study. This article outlines processes for analyzing different artifact classes and describes popular techniques used to analyze each class of artifact. Keep in mind that archaeologists frequently alter or add techniques in the process of analysis as observations can alter original research questions.

In most cases, basic steps crucial to analysis (such as cleaning and labeling artifacts) are performed in a general laboratory setting while more sophisticated techniques are performed by specialists in their own labs. The sections of this article describe specialized techniques and section descriptions assume that artifacts have already been cleaned and cataloged. Read more...
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Flotation machine in use at Hallan Çemi, southeast Turkey, c. 1990. Note the two sieves catching charred seeds and charcoal, and the bags of archaeological matrix waiting for flotation

Pal(a)eoethnobotany or Archaeobotany is the archaeological sub-field that studies plant remains from archaeological sites. Basing on the recovery and identification of plant remains and the ecological and cultural information available for modern plants, the major research themes are the use of wild plants, the origins of agriculture and domestication, and the co-evolution of human-plant interactions. Read more...
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Drawing to scale, underwater

Underwater archaeology is archaeology practiced underwater. As with all other branches of archaeology, it evolved from its roots in pre-history and in the classical era to include sites from the historical and industrial eras. Its acceptance has been a relatively late development due to the difficulties of accessing and working underwater sites, and because the application of archaeology to underwater sites initially emerged from the skills and tools developed by shipwreck salvagers. As a result, underwater archaeology initially struggled to establish itself as bona fide archaeological research. The situation changed when universities began teaching the subject and when a theoretical and practical base for the sub-discipline was firmly established. Underwater archaeology now has a number of branches including, after it became broadly accepted in the late 1980s, maritime archaeology: the scientifically based study of past human life, behaviours and cultures and their activities in, on, around and (lately) under the sea, estuaries and rivers. This is most often effected using the physical remains found in, around or under salt or fresh water or buried beneath water-logged sediment. In recent years, the study of submerged WWII sites and of submerged aircraft in the form of underwater aviation archaeology have also emerged as bona fide activity.

Though often mistaken as such, underwater archaeology is not restricted to the study of shipwrecks. Changes in sea level because of local seismic events such as the earthquakes that devastated Port Royal and Alexandria or more widespread climatic changes on a continental scale mean that some sites of human occupation that were once on dry land are now submerged. At the end of the last ice age, the North Sea was a great plain, and anthropological material, as well as the remains of animals such as mammoths, are sometimes recovered by trawlers. Also, because human societies have always made use of water, sometimes the remains of structures that these societies built underwater still exist (such as the foundations of crannogs, bridges and harbours) when traces on dry land have been lost. As a result, underwater archaeological sites cover a vast range including: submerged indigenous sites and places where people once lived or visited that have been subsequently covered by water due to rising sea levels; wells, cenotes, wrecks (shipwrecks; aircraft); the remains of structures created in water (such as crannogs, bridges or harbours); other port-related structures; refuse or debris sites where people disposed of their waste, garbage and other items, such as ships, aircraft, munitions and machinery, by dumping into the water. Read more...
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Sir Arthur John Evans FRS FBA FREng (8 July 1851 – 11 July 1941) was an English archaeologist and pioneer in the study of Aegean civilization in the Bronze Age. He is most famous for unearthing the palace of Knossos on the Greek island of Crete. Evans continued Heinrich Schliemann's concept of a Mycenaean civilization, but found that he needed to distinguish another civilization, the Minoan, from the structures and artifacts found there and throughout the eastern Mediterranean. Evans was also the first to define Cretan scripts Linear A and Linear B, as well as an earlier pictographic writing.

Although not a professional statesman or soldier, and probably never a paid agent of the government, he nevertheless negotiated or played a role in negotiating unofficially with foreign powers in the Balkans and Middle East. He was, on request of the revolutionary organizations of the peoples of the Balkans, a significant player in the formation of the nation of Yugoslavia. Read more...
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Sir Robert Eric Mortimer Wheeler (10 September 1890 – 22 July 1976) was a British archaeologist and officer in the British Army. Over the course of his career, he served as Director of both the National Museum of Wales and London Museum, Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of India, and the founder and Honorary Director of the Institute of Archaeology in London, in addition to writing twenty-four books on archaeological subjects.

Born in Glasgow to a middle-class family, Wheeler was raised largely in Yorkshire before relocating to London in his teenage years. After studying Classics at University College London (UCL), he began working professionally in archaeology, specializing in the Romano-British period. During World War I he volunteered for service in the Royal Artillery, being stationed on the Western Front, where he rose to the rank of major and was awarded the Military Cross. Returning to Britain, he obtained his doctorate from UCL before taking on a position at the National Museum of Wales, first as Keeper of Archaeology and then as Director, during which time he oversaw excavation at the Roman forts of Segontium, Y Gaer, and Isca Augusta with the aid of his first wife, Tessa Wheeler. Influenced by the archaeologist Augustus Pitt Rivers, Wheeler argued that excavation and the recording of stratigraphic context required an increasingly scientific and methodical approach, developing the "Wheeler Method". In 1926, he was appointed Keeper of the London Museum; there, he oversaw a reorganisation of the collection, successfully lobbied for increased funding, and began lecturing at UCL. Read more...
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Egyptian mummy of a dog front and profile views


Zooarchaeology (or archaeozoology) is the branch of archaeology that studies faunal remains related to ancient people. Faunal remains are the items left behind when an animal dies. It includes: bones, shells, hair, chitin, scales, hides, proteins and DNA. Of these items, bones and shells are the ones that occur most frequently at archaeological sites where faunal remains can be found. Most of the time, most of the faunal remains do not survive. They often decompose or break because of various circumstances. This can cause difficulties in identifying the remains and interpreting their significance. Read more...
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Gender archaeology is a method of studying past societies through their material culture by closely examining the social construction of gender identities and relations. Gender archaeology itself is based on the ideas that even though nearly all individuals are naturally born to a biological sex (usually either male or female, although also [[intersex].

Gender archaeologists examine the relative positions in society of men, women, and children through identifying and studying the differences in power and authority they held, as they are manifested in material (and skeletal) remains. These differences can survive in the physical record although they are not always immediately apparent and are often open to interpretation. The relationship between the genders can also inform relationships between other social groups such as families, different classes, ages and religions. Read more...
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Biblical archaeology involves the recovery and scientific investigation of the material remains of past cultures that can illuminate the periods and descriptions in the Bible, be they from the Old Testament (Tanakh) or from the New Testament, as well as the history and cosmogony of the Judeo-Christian religions. The principal location of interest is what is known in the relevant religions as the Holy Land, which from a Western perspective is also called the Middle East. In contrast, the archaeology of the ancient Middle East simply deals with the Ancient Near East, or Middle East, without giving any especial consideration to whether its discoveries have any relationship with the Bible.

The scientific techniques used are the same as those used in general archaeology, such as excavation and radiocarbon dating. Read more...
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Augustus Henry Lane-Fox Pitt Rivers (14 April 1827 – 4 May 1900) was an English officer in the British Army, ethnologist, and archaeologist. He was noted for innovations in archaeological methodology, and in the museum display of archaeological and ethnological collections. His international collection of about 22,000 objects was the founding collection of the Pitt Rivers Museum at the University of Oxford while his collection of English archaeology from the area around Stonehenge forms the basis of the collection at The Salisbury Museum in Wiltshire.

Throughout most of his life he used the surname Lane Fox, under which his early archaeological reports are published. In 1880 he adopted the Pitt Rivers name on inheriting from Lord Rivers (a cousin) an estate of more than 32,000 acres in Cranborne Chase. Read more...
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Flinders Petrie, 1903

Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie, FRS, FBA (3 June 1853 – 28 July 1942), commonly known as Flinders Petrie, was an English Egyptologist and a pioneer of systematic methodology in archaeology and preservation of artifacts. He held the first chair of Egyptology in the United Kingdom, and excavated many of the most important archaeological sites in Egypt in conjunction with his wife, Hilda Petrie. Some consider his most famous discovery to be that of the Merneptah Stele, an opinion with which Petrie himself concurred.

Petrie developed the system of dating layers based on pottery and ceramic findings. Read more...
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John Lloyd Stephens portrait published in 1854

John Lloyd Stephens (November 28, 1805 – October 13, 1852) was an American explorer, writer, and diplomat. Stephens was a pivotal figure in the rediscovery of Maya civilization throughout Middle America and in the planning of the Panama railroad. Read more...
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Ole Worm's cabinet of curiosities, from Museum Wormianum, 1655

An antiquarian or antiquary (from the Latin: antiquarius, meaning pertaining to ancient times) is an aficionado or student of antiquities or things of the past. More specifically, the term is used for those who study history with particular attention to ancient artifacts, archaeological and historic sites, or historic archives and manuscripts. The essence of antiquarianism is a focus on the empirical evidence of the past, and is perhaps best encapsulated in the motto adopted by the 18th-century antiquary Sir Richard Colt Hoare, "We speak from facts, not theory."

Today the term is often used in a pejorative sense, to refer to an excessively narrow focus on factual historical trivia, to the exclusion of a sense of historical context or process. Read more...
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Feminist archaeology employs a feminist perspective in interpreting past societies. It often focuses on gender, but also considers gender in tandem with other factors, such as sexuality, race, or class. Feminist archaeology has critiqued the uncritical application of modern, Western norms and values to past societies. It is additionally concerned with switching a perceived androcentric bias in the structuring disciplinary norms of archaeology with a gynocentric bias within the profession. Read more...
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Nazi archaeology was the movement led by various Nazi leaders, such as Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler, archaeologists and other scholars to research the German past in order to strengthen nationalism. Read more...
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Near Eastern Archaeology (sometimes known as Middle Eastern archaeology) is a regional branch of the wider, global discipline of archaeology. It refers generally to the excavation and study of artifacts and material culture of the Near East from antiquity to the recent past. Read more...
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Australian archaeology is a large sub-field in the discipline of archaeology. Archaeology in Australia takes three main forms, Aboriginal archaeology (the archaeology of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia before and after European settlement), historical archaeology (the archaeology of Australia after European settlement) and maritime archaeology. Bridging these sub-disciplines is the important concept of cultural heritage management which encompasses Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sites, historical sites and maritime sites. Read more...
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Jean Baptiste Bourguignon d'Anville's 1765 map of Ancient Egypt was a significant advance in the cartography of the subject, allowing readers to understand ancient and modern sites more clearly than previously. It was the primary map used in the 1809–29 Description de l'Égypte.

Egyptology (from Egypt and Greek -λογία, -logia. Arabic: علم المصريات‎) is the study of ancient Egyptian history, language, literature, religion, architecture and art from the 5th millennium BC until the end of its native religious practices in the 4th century AD. A practitioner of the discipline is an "Egyptologist". In Europe, particularly on the Continent, Egyptology is primarily regarded as being a philological discipline, while in North America it is often regarded as a branch of archaeology. Read more...
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Archaeological science, also known as archaeometry, consists of the application of scientific techniques to the analysis of archaeological materials, to assist in dating the materials. It is related to methodologies of archaeology. Martinón-Torres and Killick distinguish ‘scientific archaeology’ (as an epistemology) from ‘archaeological science’ (the application of specific techniques to archaeological materials). Martinón-Torres and Killick claim that ‘archaeological science’ has promoted the development of high-level theory in archaeology. However, Smith rejects both concepts of archaeological science because neither emphasize falsification or a search for causality.

In the United Kingdom, the Natural and Environmental Research Council provides funding for archaeometry separate from the funding provided for archaeology. However, in almost all cases of archeometric research, scientists from the natural sciences assist in the scientific analysis of archeological artifacts. Universities that offer courses in archeometry offer these courses frequently as free choice for archeology students and these courses contain mainly a nonscientific overview over the possibilities that different scientific analyses offer to them. Read more...
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Aerial view of an amphitheatre in Budapest, Hungary


Aerial archaeology is the study of archaeological remains by examining them from altitude. Read more...
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Tuberculosis spine mummy

Paleopathology, also spelled palaeopathology, is the study of ancient diseases. Studying pathologies, these abnormalities in biologic individuals and systems, may be intrinsic to the system itself (examples: autoimmune disorders or traumatic arthritis) or caused by an extrinsic factor (examples: viruses or lead poisoning from pipes). Any living organism can have pathology. Studies have historically focused on humans, but there is no evidence that humans are more prone to pathologies than any other animal.

Paleopathology is an interdisciplinary science. The majority of the work has historically been done by anthropologists studying diseases in ancient cultures. Medically trained professionals have also made substantial contributions, especially in modern comparative studies. Paleontologists have sporadically contributed to the field, focusing on non-avian dinosaurs and Cenozoic mammals. Read more...
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Archaeogenetics is the study of ancient DNA using various molecular genetic methods and DNA resources. This form of genetic analysis can be applied to human, animal, and plant specimens. Ancient DNA can be extracted from various fossilized specimens including bones, eggshells, and artificially preserved tissues in human and animal specimens. In plants, Ancient DNA can be extracted from seeds, tissue, and in some cases, feces. Archaeogenetics provides us with genetic evidence of ancient population group migrations, domestication events, and plant and animal evolution. The ancient DNA cross referenced with the DNA of relative modern genetic populations allows researchers to run comparison studies that provide a more complete analysis when ancient DNA is compromised.

Archaeogenetics receives its name from the Greek word arkhaios, meaning "ancient", and the term genetics, meaning "the study of heredity". The term archaeogenetics was conceived by archaeologist Colin Renfrew. Read more...
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Pseudoarchaeology—also known as alternative archaeology, fringe archaeology, fantastic archaeology, or cult archaeology—refers to interpretations of the past from outside of the archaeological science community, which reject the accepted datagathering and analytical methods of the discipline. These pseudoscientific interpretations involve the use of artifacts, sites or materials to construct scientifically insubstantial theories to supplement the pseudoarchaeologists' claims. Methods include exaggeration of evidence, dramatic or romanticized conclusions, and fabrication of evidence.

There is not one singular pseudoarchaeological theory, but many different interpretations of the past that are at odds from those developed by persons who know and understand the data. Some of these revolve around the idea that prehistoric and ancient human societies were aided in their development by intelligent extraterrestrial life, an idea propagated by those such as Swiss author Erich von Däniken in books such as Chariots of the Gods? (1968) and Italian author Peter Kolosimo. Others instead hold that there were human societies in the ancient period that were significantly technologically advanced, such as Atlantis, and this idea has been propagated by figures like Graham Hancock in his Fingerprints of the Gods (1995). Read more...
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Forensic archaeologists employ their knowledge of proper excavation techniques to ensure that remains are recovered in a controlled and forensically acceptable manner. When remains are found partially or completely buried the proper excavation of the remains will ensure that any evidence present on the bones will remain intact. The difference between forensic archaeologists and forensic anthropologists is that where forensic anthropologists are trained specifically in human osteology and recovery of human remains, forensic archaeologists specialize more broadly in the processes of search and discovery. In addition to remains, archaeologists are trained to look for objects contained in and around the excavation area. These objects can include anything from wedding rings to potentially probative evidence such as cigarette butts or shoe prints. Their training extends further to observing context, association and significance of objects in a crime scene and drawing conclusions that may be useful for locating a victim or suspect. A forensic archaeologist must also be able to utilize a degree of creativity and adaptability during times when crime scenes can not be excavated using traditional archaeological techniques. For example, one particular case study was conducted on the search and recovery of the remains of a missing girl who was found in a septic tank underground. This instance required unique methods unlike those of a typical archeological excavation in order to exhume and preserve the contents of the tank.

Forensic archaeologists are involved within three main areas. Assisting with crime scene research, investigation, and recovery of evidence and/or skeletal remains is only one aspect. Read more...
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Osteology is the scientific study of bones, practiced by osteologists. A subdiscipline of anatomy, anthropology, and archaeology, osteology is a detailed study of the structure of bones, skeletal elements, teeth, microbone morphology, function, disease, pathology, the process of ossification (from cartilaginous molds), the resistance and hardness of bones (biophysics), etc. often used by scientists with identification of vertebrate remains with regard to age, death, sex, growth, and development and can be used in a biocultural context. Osteologists frequently work in the public and private sector as consultants for museums, scientists for research laboratories, scientists for medical investigations and/or for companies producing osteological reproductions in an academic context.

Osteology and osteologists should not be confused with the holistic practice of medicine known as osteopathy and its practitioners, osteopaths. Read more...
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Heinrich Schliemann (German: [ˈʃliːman]; 6 January 1822 – 26 December 1890) was a German businessman and a pioneer in the field of archaeology. He was an advocate of the historicity of places mentioned in the works of Homer and an archaeological excavator of Hisarlik, now presumed to be the site of Troy, along with the Mycenaean sites Mycenae and Tiryns. His work lent weight to the idea that Homer's Iliad reflects historical events. Schliemann's excavation of nine levels of archaeological remains with dynamite has been criticized as destructive of significant historical artifacts, including the level that is believed to be the historical Troy.

Along with Arthur Evans, Schliemann was a pioneer in the study of Aegean civilization in the Bronze Age. The two men knew of each other, Evans having visited Schliemann's sites. Schliemann had planned to excavate at Knossos but died before fulfilling that dream. Evans bought the site and stepped in to take charge of the project, which was then still in its infancy. Read more...
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The rising Sun illuminates the inner chamber of Newgrange, Ireland, only at the winter solstice.


Archaeoastronomy (also spelled archeoastronomy) is the study of how people in the past "have understood the phenomena in the sky, how they used these phenomena and what role the sky played in their cultures". Clive Ruggles argues it is misleading to consider archaeoastronomy to be the study of ancient astronomy, as modern astronomy is a scientific discipline, while archaeoastronomy considers symbolically rich cultural interpretations of phenomena in the sky by other cultures. It is often twinned with ethnoastronomy, the anthropological study of skywatching in contemporary societies. Archaeoastronomy is also closely associated with historical astronomy, the use of historical records of heavenly events to answer astronomical problems and the history of astronomy, which uses written records to evaluate past astronomical practice.Archaeoastronomy uses a variety of methods to uncover evidence of past practices including archaeology, anthropology, astronomy, statistics and probability, and history. Because these methods are diverse and use data from such different sources, integrating them into a coherent argument has been a long-term difficulty for archaeoastronomers. Archaeoastronomy fills complementary niches in landscape archaeology and cognitive archaeology. Material evidence and its connection to the sky can reveal how a wider landscape can be integrated into beliefs about the cycles of nature, such as Mayan astronomy and its relationship with agriculture. Other examples which have brought together ideas of cognition and landscape include studies of the cosmic order embedded in the roads of settlements. Read more...
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In archaeology, lithic analysis is the analysis of stone tools and other chipped stone artifacts using basic scientific techniques. At its most basic level, lithic analyses involve an analysis of the artifact’s morphology, the measurement of various physical attributes, and examining other visible features (such as noting the presence or absence of cortex, for example).

The term 'lithic analysis' can technically refer to the study of any anthropogenic (human-created) stone, but in its usual sense it is applied to archaeological material that was produced through lithic reduction (knapping) or ground stone. A thorough understanding of the lithic reduction and ground stone processes, in combination with the use of statistics, can allow the analyst to draw conclusions concerning the type of lithic manufacturing techniques used at a prehistoric archaeological site. For example, they can make certain equation between each the factors of flake to predict original shape. These data can then be used to draw an understanding of socioeconomic and cultural organization. Read more...
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Computational archaeology describes computer-based analytical methods for the study of long-term human behaviour and behavioural evolution. As with other sub-disciplines that have prefixed 'computational' to their name (e.g. computational biology, computational physics and computational sociology), the term is reserved for (generally mathematical) methods that could not realistically be performed without the aid of a computer.

Computational archaeology may include the use of geographical information systems (GIS), especially when applied to spatial analyses such as viewshed analysis and least-cost path analysis as these approaches are sufficiently computationally complex that they are extremely difficult if not impossible to implement without the processing power of a computer. Likewise, some forms of statistical and mathematical modelling, and the computer simulation of human behaviour and behavioural evolution using software tools such as Swarm or Repast would also be impossible to calculate without computational aid. The application of a variety of other forms of complex and bespoke software to solve archaeological problems, such as human perception and movement within built environments using software such as University College London's Space Syntax program, also falls under the term 'computational archaeology'. Read more...
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Portrait by Raphael Mengs, after 1755

Johann Joachim Winckelmann (/ˈvɪŋkəlˌmɑːn/; German: [ˈvɪŋkl̩man]; 9 December 1717 – 8 June 1768) was a German art historian and archaeologist. He was a pioneering Hellenist who first articulated the difference between Greek, Greco-Roman and Roman art. "The prophet and founding hero of modern archaeology", Winckelmann was one of the founders of scientific archaeology and first applied the categories of style on a large, systematic basis to the history of art. Many consider him the father of the discipline of art history. He was one of the first to separate Greek Art into periods, and time classifications. His would be the decisive influence on the rise of the neoclassical movement during the late 18th century. His writings influenced not only a new science of archaeology and art history but Western painting, sculpture, literature and even philosophy. Winckelmann's History of Ancient Art (1764) was one of the first books written in German to become a classic of European literature. His subsequent influence on Lessing, Herder, Goethe, Hölderlin, Heine, Nietzsche, George, and Spengler has been provocatively called "the Tyranny of Greece over Germany."

Today, Humboldt University of Berlin's Winckelmann Institute is dedicated to the study of classical archaeology. Read more...
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Battlefield archaeology is a sub-discipline of archaeology that began in North America with Dr. Douglas D. Scott's, National Park Service, metal detecting of Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in 1983. It is not considered distinct from Military archaeology or Recceology (i.e., the recovery of surface finds and non-invasive site surveying).

Battlefield archaeology also refers to the specific study of a particular archaeological horizon in which a military action occurred. This may include both 'bounded' battlefields where troop dispositions, numbers and the order of battle are known from textual records, and also from undocumented evidence of conflict. The discipline is distinct from military history in that it seeks to answer different questions, including the experiences of ordinary soldiers in wider political frameworks. Therefore, battlefield archaeology is not concerned, primarily, with the causes of conflict but of the sites where conflict actually took place, and of the archaeology of the event. Read more...
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