What is Archaeology?


What is Archaeology? our company

Archaeology is how we learn about the 98 percent of human history that took place before there were written records. It is also how we supplement our knowledge of more-recent history for which there are written records.

The goal of archaeology is not to find and collect objects, but to understand how human societies work. The objects—and the contexts in which they are found—are simply a means to that end.

By studying patterns in the archaeological record, researchers hope to learn more than the history of a specific site, locale, or region. Ultimately, their goal is to achieve broad understandings about all human society—to identify and explain commonalities that crosscut time, space, and cultures.

Archaeology isn’t the only way we learn about deep human history—the oral traditions of indigenous peoples provide additional windows into the past. In cultures around the world, stories told by one generation to the next keep alive the knowledge of important events and practices.

When archaeologists have access to oral traditions, they use them to complement and enrich the perspectives gained from archaeological research. But for most people, archaeology remains the primary way they learn about peoples and cultures of the distant past.

Why is it Important?


sm 2015 Larry KellerHaving spent over 40 years as a lawyer and judge helping to shape society in some small way, I have chosen in my retirement to become as involved as I can in the field of archaeology, learning as much about ancient peoples and cultures as I can. I see a strong connection between what I did most of my life, and the lifeways and problem-solving methods of past cultures. We differ from those who came before only in the technological tools we have developed to survive as a species, but our challenges are the same. I believe that if we look hard enough, we will learn that the ancients found answers we can and should rediscover and apply to our lives today. Larry Keller, retired judge and Crow Canyon lab volunteer


Kristin KucklemanThe natural interest that many students have in archaeology can be used to instill an awareness and tolerance of people different than themselves. More ideally, exposure to archaeology can inspire interest in, and respect for, ancient and modern cultures worldwide. Today, more than ever, engendering a broad cultural perspective prepares students to be leaders and invests in a future of global cooperation. Kristin Kuckelman, Crow Canyon archaeologist


jk 2011 Grant Coffey smIf you are not curious about how we came to be who we are, both individually and collectively, don't study archaeology. Archaeology is meaningful if you wonder about the beginning of things, and ponder where our current path will lead. Grant Coffey, Crow Canyon archaeologist


What Archaeology Is . . .

archae (ancient) + logy (science)

Archaeology is the scientific study of the material remains of past human societies. It is one of four subfields of anthropology, or the study of humans. The other three are physical anthropology (the study of human evolution and biological diversity), cultural anthropology (the study of living cultures), and linguistics (the study of human language).

What Archaeology Isn't . . .

  • the study of dinosaur or other fossils (the study of fossil life is called paleontology)
  • treasure-hunting or metal-detecting for the purpose of finding objects to collect or sell (read about laws regulating the removal of artifacts from archaeological sites)

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