What Do You Know About

Archaeologist in the field

Archaeology is the study of:




past cultures


ancient documents


ANSWER: past cultures

Archaeology is an important tool for solving the mysteries of ancient life. It builds a picture of how people lived in the past from the material clues they left behind.

Question 1 of 10

You can do archaeology:


only underwater


only in the ancient Inca city of Huanuco Pampa




ANSWER: anywhere

From the scorching deserts of Egypt to the deep icy water of the Arctic, archaeologists can work anywhere!

Question 2 of 10

Why do archaeologists create a map of the site before they dig?


to claim possession of the land


to find out where they want to dig


to locate buried treasure


ANSWER: to find out where they want to dig

Before archaeologists start digging, they need to know where to dig—and it can't just be anywhere. They use a survey map to locate the best places to excavate, where they have the best chance of finding evidence to address their questions.

Question 3 of 10
lush landscape with hill

What is the best strategy for excavating an archaeological site?


shut your eyes, throw a coin, and start digging wherever the coin lands


pick an area based on a site map and divide it up into a grid pattern


dig from one end to another until you find something good


ANSWER: pick an area based on a site map and divide it up into a grid pattern

Most archaeological sites are very large—some even as big as a city. So it would take too much time and be too expensive to excavate the entire site. Archaeologists don't dig in random locations; they excavate a site in an organized way by dividing it into a checkerboard-like pattern.

Question 4 of 10

Archaeologists look for different soil layers that they identify by color and texture. If the layers haven't been disturbed, what can they tell us?


artifacts found in the same layer are about the same age


artifacts found in a lower layer are younger


they tell us where artifacts were made


ANSWER: artifacts found in the same layer are about the same age

Over time, new layers of soil build up. Usually the further down you dig, the older the layer of soil. This is useful information—objects found in the same layer in different areas of the site might be roughly the same age.

Question 5 of 10

What kinds of tools do archaeologists use?


ground penetrating radar, aerial photography, and submarines


dental pick, shovel, and tape measure


all of the above


ANSWER: all of the above

Archaeologists use a combination of high- and low-tech tools. Often simple tools like a trowel and a paintbrush are the most appropriate for excavation. New technologies like remote sensing and x-rays give archaeologists a new way to find suitable places to dig.

Question 6 of 10

What are some of the most common objects found on an archaeological site?


old clothes


broken pieces of pottery


dried food


ANSWER: broken pieces of pottery

Pottery can survive for a really long time in most conditions because it does not decompose easily. Objects made of leather, wood, bone, and cloth are less likely to be found.

Question 7 of 10
broken pottery

Imagine you're an archaeologist studying this object. What would you have a hard time figuring out?


how old it is


what it was used for


why it broke


ANSWER: why it broke

Archaeologists can use tools such as carbon dating to analyze how old an object is. By observing its shape, size, and decoration, they can also try to understand what an artifact was used for. But they can't look into the past to see why it broke.

Question 8 of 10
cuff bracelet

What do archaeologists usually do with the objects they find?


sell them on the Internet


bury them again where they were found


study them in a lab in the country where they found them


ANSWER: study them in a lab in the country where they found them

Archaeologists store artifacts in a lab or museum in the country where they were found. This way, they can spend the next weeks, months, or even years analyzing them. If new technologies are invented in the future, archaeologists can come back and take another look.

Question 9 of 10

How do archaeologists spend most of their time?


they search for lost treasure


they study objects and analyze data in the lab


they look for new sites


ANSWER: they study objects and analyze data in the lab

Many archaeologists only spend a few months in the field each year. They spend even more time planning for an excavation and researching in the lab.

Question 10 of 10
Nice try! Not bad! Hot dig-ity! Hot dig-ity! A perfect score! You got out of 10 right on the first guess.
Image Credits:

Photos: site excavation: courtesy of Chuck Spencer; Oaxaca, Mexico: courtesy of Christina Elson; pottery shards: courtesy of AMNH; bracelet: courtesy of AMNH