card
217

archaeology

OLogy Series
anthropology
card
217

archaeology

OLogy Series
anthropology

Archaeology is the study of past cultures through material remains. These material remains might be a majestic pyramid, a trashpit, or a broken tool. Everything is a clue, and archaeologists are like detectives, piecing together the clues to figure out what life was like long ago. Over time, most things from the past decay or get buried underground. Archaeologists often have to dig or excavate to find the clues.

The most common find at archaeological sites is:

pottery

clothing

the old foundations of buildings

Are you right?

Correct!

Pottery breaks easily, but the pieces (or “sherds”) survive a long time. Since pottery is made of baked clay, it doesn't decay like clothing or wood.

Artifacts are things that people made and used. Which of the following finds would NOT be considered an artifact?

a stone tool

a coin

a fossil

Are you right?

Correct!

Natural objects like fossils or plant remains are not human-made artifacts, but they still provide important clues about an ancient culture. They might reveal what food people ate or what the environment was like at the time.

We have two basic kinds of data in archaeology: things and the location of things. We need both to try and understand ancient peoples.

Archaeologists excavate as much of a site as possible.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

Archaeologists only dig a small part of the site, leaving some evidence for future archaeologists.

Ancient sites are found only in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

Ancient sites can be found anywhere where people once lived. They are found on every continent, and even under water!

Word Origin: from the Greek word arkhaios, meaning ancient
What: the study of past cultures from the things left behind
Where: everywhere, including under water
How: excavation and analysis of material remains
Common finds: pottery, ruins of buildings, tools

Image credits: courtesy of Charles Spencer; Chuck Spencer: courtesy of AMNH.