Archaeology For Dummies®

Table of Contents


About This Book

Conventions Used in This Book

Archaeology versus archeology




What you’re not to read

My Assumptions

How This Book Is Organized

Part I: Archaeology: Seeing Past People Today

Part II: Archaeological Fieldwork: The Adventure Begins!

Part III: After the Dig: You’ve Only Just Begun

Part IV: Archaeology Reconstructs the Whole Human Past

Part V: Archaeology Is for Everyone

Part VI: The Part of Tens

Icons Used in the Book

Where to Go from Here

Part I: Archaeology: Seeing Past People Today

Chapter 1: What Archaeology Is

So What Is Archaeology Anyway?

The method: It’s detective work

The goal: Understand people

The Nature of Archaeological Evidence





How Archaeological Sites Form

Cultural processes

Natural processes

How Archaeology Became a Modern Science

Early diggers

Nineteenth-century archaeology

The early 20th century: Fabulous finds and academic advances

Late 20th-century archaeology

Modern 21st-century archaeology

Archaeology in the field

Archaeology in the lab

Archaeology’s human story

Archaeology in the public sphere

Chapter 2: What Archaeology Isn’t and Why That’s Important

Dinosaurs, Fossils, and Rocks: Not What Archaeology Is About

Some fossils but no dinos

Understanding how rock studies aid archaeology

Hollywood Stereotypes: Time for a Dose of Reality

The real archaeologists versus the movie heroes

Real past people versus movie savages with dinosaurs

Treasure Hunting and Looting: Not the Goals of Archaeology

Early archaeology and looting: The Elgin marbles

Give a hoot: Don’t loot (or trade in antiquities)

Archaeologists Aren’t Always Digging

Archaeology Isn’t Necessarily Exotic; It’s Real Work

Archaeology is about people

A case study: Archaeology of modern garbage

Chapter 3: So You Want to Do Archaeology? What Kind?

Archaeology as Anthropology

The Scientific and the Humanistic in Archaeology

Different Fields for a Plethora of Purposes and Places

Regional specialties: Digging in one place

Temporal specialties: Digging within one time period

Expertise in specific artifacts or site types

Archaeological Specialties by Setting, Goals, and Techniques

Prehistoric and historic archaeology

Underwater archaeology: Difficult and expensive

Classical archaeology: All those statues!

Forensic archaeology

Historic preservation, heritage, and community archaeology

Cultural resources management (CRM) and contract archaeology

Museum archaeology and collections management

Avocational and educational archaeology

Other kinds of archaeology

Special Studies Related to Archaeology

Zooarchaeology: Animal remains

Paleoethnobotany: Plant remains

Archaeometry: Archaeological sciences

What Kind of Archaeology Do You Want to Do?

Chapter 4: How Archaeologists Think and Work

How an Archaeological Investigation Begins

Determining your research goals

Coming up with a research design

Planning the archaeological project

How Archaeologists Use Science

Using the scientific method and testing hypotheses

Making assumptions about the past

Case Study: The Mystery Mounds in the Florida Jungle

Discovering a new mound

Eliminating impossible interpretations

Researching remaining possibilities

Finding historical answers

Using the discoveries for modern applications

Part II: Archaeological Fieldwork: The Adventure Begins!

Chapter 5: Supplies and Equipment You Need

What to Pack for Fieldwork

Digging and recording supplies

Safety and health items

Personal needs

Dress requirements

Equipment for the Survey or Dig

Supplies for recording everything you find

Supplies for digging

Larger equipment

Knowledge and Skills You Need

Helpful knowledge and educational background

Psychological requirements for archaeology

Bringing the best attitude for adventure

Chapter 6: Archaeological Survey: Finding Where to Dig

What Is a Survey?

Doing Background Work for Archaeological Survey

Documentary sources

Oral history and local informants

Remote sensing and geographic information systems (GIS)

Preparing for Archaeological Fieldwork

Assembling a crew and assessing field conditions

Gathering survey equipment

Using what’s already known to plan field survey

Doing the Field Survey

Doing a surface investigation

Doing subsurface survey

Sampling in archaeological survey

Recording where stuff comes from: Provenience

Recording, photographing, and interviewing

Cataloguing and caring for your finds

Planning for adverse field situations

Deciding when to get outside help

Writing Up Your Survey Findings

Writing what you’ve found

Making a contribution to archaeological knowledge

Chapter 7: The Archaeological Dig

Questions to Ask Before You Dig

Does your reason for digging justify destroying the site?

So why are you digging?

Have you organized your research?

Are you doing test excavation or larger-scale data recovery?

Have you considered remote sensing?

Are you reconstructing or restoring?

Planning the Archaeological Excavation

Deciding how many excavations and how deep

Knowing when to stop

Considering safety

Using Old Archaeological Technology and the Newest Equipment Too

Basic digging tools

Mapping equipment

Bigger equipment

Heavy earth-moving equipment

Finally! Doing the Archaeological Excavation

Setting up a dig and mapping it

Digging strata and levels

Shoveling and troweling

Recording archaeological features



Recovering remains with flotation

Taking soil samples

Doing special digs: Mounds, buildings, caves, and more

Ending the dig

Recording Excavation Information and Finds


Field forms and notes

Photography and computer data entry

Procedures for unusual finds

Chapter 8: Laws, Ethics, and Safety in Field Archaeology

Gathering Information from Landowners, Residents, and Officials

Know the laws about digging

Know the neighborhood where you’re digging

Field Ethics and Local Communities

Positive community interaction


Respecting Native Americans and Other Descendant Communities

Respect for human remains

When you may need to stop digging

Dealing with Dangerous Archaeological Field Conditions

Tools and careless crew members

Hazards of Mother Nature

Part III: After the Dig: You’ve Only Just Begun

Chapter 9: Processing Excavated Materials in the Laboratory

Setting Up an Archaeology Lab

Basic archaeology lab needs

Fancier equipment: Magnifiers, measurers, music

A lab crew with tons of patience

Processing Excavated Materials

Cleaning artifacts and ecofacts

Conserving or restoring the materials

Examining the soil samples

Cataloguing and numbering

Classifying artifacts by types

Classifying ecofacts and other materials

Weighing, measuring, and other recording

Sorting flotation remains

Processing Information and Paperwork


Other records

Preliminary documentation

Curation and Collections Management

Taking care of your collections: They’re forever

The ethics of collections management

Chapter 10: Studying and Analyzing What You’ve Excavated

Documenting How Finds Occur in Space and Time

Making charts of finds

Making discoveries during the laboratory analysis

Putting your finds onto your map

Analyzing Specific Materials: Stone, Ceramics, Bone, and Metal

Basic analyses

Use wear and residues on artifacts

What artifacts are made of

Special Studies of Archaeological Finds

Animal remains: Zooarchaeology

Plant remains: Paleoethnobotany

Human bones, chemistry, and DNA

Getting a Date in Archaeology

What’s datable and what’s not

Indirect and direct dating

Relative dating

Getting a calendar date

Other chronometric dating methods

When You Need Help

Chapter 11: Reconstructing the Past: Piecing Together the Puzzles

Reporting on Your Investigation

Producing your report

Sharing your work

Telling the Story of What You’ve Found

Describing what happened based on the evidence

Detailing how people lived, got stuff, and settled the land

Describing social order, family, gender, and politics in the past

Understanding past beliefs and values

Using Analogy with Known Human Behavior

Ethnographic analogy: Using anthropological and historical data

Ethnoarchaeology: Archaeologists doing ethnography

Experimental archaeology: Replicating ancient technologies

Relating the archaeological story to the present

Using Archaeological Theories to Interpret Your Discoveries

Culture history: What, when, where

Processual archaeology: How, maybe why

Postprocessual archaeology: Finding meaning and avoiding bias

Part IV: Archaeology Reconstructs the Whole Human Past

Chapter 12: Early Humans: Original Cave Guys & Gals

Our Family Tree

The Lower Paleolithic Era: The Earliest People and Culture

Oldest archaeological finds

The lives of early humans

Early society: Still a lot of mystery

The Later Lower Paleolithic Era: Moving Out of Africa

Lower Paleolithic artifacts

Lower Paleolithic sites

Lower Paleolithic ways of life

The Middle Paleolithic Era


Middle Paleolithic artifacts and sites

Neanderthal lifeways

The Upper Paleolithic Era: Modern Humans Populate the World

Upper Paleolithic artifacts

Upper Paleolithic art

Upper Paleolithic lifeways: People on the move

Chapter 13: The Last 10,000 Years: Climate Change and Early Food Production

The Foraging Life: The First Global Warming, 10,000 B.C.

Old World Mesolithic hunter–gatherers

New World Archaic cultures

Revolution in the New Stone Age: Growing Food

Old World plants and animals (pasta, milk, wine)

New World plants and animals (corn, chocolate, few animals)

The changes brought on by food production

Farming Takes Off in the Old World

The Middle East: Early gardeners and herders


South Asia

East Asia


Food Production in North and South America

Prehistoric North American farmers

Early South American farmers

Later Prehistory: Metal and Megaliths

The beginnings of metalworking

The rise of megaliths

Chapter 14: Ancient States

What Archaeologists Mean by Civilization

What Archaeology Brings to the Study of Ancient Civilization

The search for historic records

The problem of looting

Excavating the Earliest True States

Mesopotamia (Iraq): Sumerian civilization

Egypt: Pyramids and pharaohs

Indus Valley: Peaceful civilization?

China: Vast empire

Mesoamerica: Olmec, Maya, and Aztec civilizations

South American civilizations: Mountains, desert, and jungle

Reasons for Civilization

Later Ancient States and Early Historic Times



Biblical sites

Other prehistoric Asian and African states

Chapter 15: Historic Archaeology: Reinterpreting the More Recent Past

What Historic Archaeology Shows That History Can’t

Archaeology and the biases of history

The people without history

People and objects with lots of history

Historical Archaeology’s Methods and Finds

Investigation methods and questions

The approach to historic artifacts

Underwater historic sites

Classical Archaeology

Medieval Archaeology

Archaeology of Invasion and Colonization

An abandoned Spanish town in the Americas

Spanish missions in the U.S. Southeast

A French fort in Alabama

Investigating Famous Figures

The Archaeology of Slavery

Excavating Daily Life, Historic Industry, and the Military

Daily life in society

Industrial archaeology

Military and battlefield archaeology

Understanding Modern Society and Behavior from Artifacts

Forensic archaeology

Radios and cars as artifacts

Archaeology of cellphones and communication

Archaeology of everyday items and technologies

Part V: Archaeology Is for Everyone

Chapter 16: The Uses of Archaeological Findings

All Archaeology Is Public Archaeology

What public archaeology is

How public archaeology is funded and publicized

Recognizing Different Stakeholders in the Past

Digging up someone’s ancestors and traditions

Identifying people’s heritage

Finding the excluded past

Archaeology’s Political Nature

Finding out who’s interested

Taking authenticity and value into account

Changing meanings of the past

Collecting, Looting, and Selling Artifacts

Ethical collectors

Treasure hunting and looting

Antiquities markets and laws

Relating the Archaeological Story to the Present

Saving the past for the future

Telling the human drama of the past

Enjoying the connection with the past

Practical Applications of Archaeology

Human-environment interaction

The development and use of past technologies

Chapter 17: How You Can Explore Archaeology

Taking Archaeology Courses

Lectures and short classes

College archaeology courses

Joining Archaeological Associations

From international to local groups

Professional groups

Public Programs and Teacher Training

Volunteering or Joining Archaeological Digs and Laboratories

Joining a local dig

Joining digs across the country or abroad

Becoming a Professional Archaeologist

Education requirements

Job opportunities and realities

Other qualities needed to be a professional archaeologist

Chapter 18: Controversies and Sensational Findings

The Ice Man Cometh (and Other Archaeological Wonders)

The Ice Man

More famous frozen finds

Cannibalism in the U.S. Southwest

Who Are They, and Where Did They Come From: Disputed Ancient Peoples and Processes

Ancient Southeast Asian “hobbits”

Identity of the Celts

How the Americas were first discovered

The later “discovery” of America

How the far Pacific was discovered

Controversies among Archaeologists and Others

Machu Picchu remains claimed by Peru

Miami Circle site

Part VI: The Part of Tens

Chapter 19: Ten-Plus Archaeological Places to Visit in the U.S.

Alabama: Moundville Archaeological Park

Arkansas: Toltec Mounds Archaeological State Park

Colorado: Mesa Verde National Park

Georgia: Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site

Florida: Mission San Luis de Apalachee

Illinois: Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site

Louisiana: Poverty Point State Historic Site

Maryland: St. Mary’s City

New Mexico: Chaco Culture National Historic Park

Ohio: Hopewell Culture National Historical Park

Virginia: Historic Jamestown

Wisconsin: Aztalan State Park

A Few Museums You Should Visit

Connecticut: Mashantucket Pequot Museum

New York: American Museum of Natural History

Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution

Chapter 20: More Than Ten Archaeological Sites to Visit Outside the United States

Cambodia: Angkor Archaeological Park

Canada: Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

Polynesia (Chile): Easter Island

China: Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor

France: Lascaux Cave II and Paleolithic Art

Jordan: Petra

Malaysia (Borneo): Niah Cave

Malta: Megalithic Monuments

Mexico: Teotihuacan, Maya, and El Tajín


Maya Ruins: Palenque and Chichén Itzá

El Tajín

Peru: Machu Picchu

Zimbabwe: Great Zimbabwe

Chapter 21: Ten Fun Archaeological Experiences

Reading Archaeology in Fiction

Reading Archaeology in Nonfiction

Watching Movies about Archaeology

Watching Movies about Prehistoric People

Attending a Lecture and Exhibit

Planning Your Vacation to See Archaeology

Planning Your Vacation to Do Archaeology

Being a Museum Volunteer

Trying Out Archaeological Field School

Being an Archaeological Donor

Appendix: Timeline of Human History and Sites Map

Archaeology For Dummies®


About the Author

Being an archaeologist was something Nancy Marie White wanted to do from the time she learned how to spell the word as a kid. She was interested in Native American cultures, outdoor adventure, and the romance of finding ancient things and lost knowledge. After earning a BA in history, she went to live in Mexico, where she saw that studying archaeology and the rest of anthropology would lead to a fascinating life. She earned a PhD from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland (home of rock and roll), and is now professor of anthropology at the University of South Florida, Tampa, and a long-time member of the Register of Professional Archaeologists.

White’s research includes finding and sometimes excavating sites of all time periods. She’s currently studying how late prehistoric agricultural societies in the U.S. Southeast became complex and why they had no beer. She also investigates campsites, villages, and mounds of earlier Native American hunter-gatherers, fishers, and gardeners, and lost towns and forts inhabited by historic Indians, European-Americans, and African-Americans. Her one kid, Tony, spent an entire childhood camping in the woods and digging, and now studies engineering. White tries to travel often in order to go somewhere different to visit archaeology. She really believes in public archaeology and the potential of the distant past to show us a lot that might be useful in the modern world.

Author’s Acknowledgments

Thanks are due to many people who helped with this book in different ways. Archaeologists Lee Hutchinson and Jeff Du Vernay read the manuscript and offered great comments. Malaysian social scientist Cheng Sim Hew asked good questions about archaeology’s value to society. Help with figures, text, ideas, and details came from Robbie Baer, Bill Bingham, Susan Harp, Ned Jenkins, Roy Larick, Erin Kimmerle, Rochelle Marrinan, Erin Murtha-Celii, John O’Hear, Rob Tykot, and Rich Weinstein. Wiley editors Michael Lewis, Megan Knoll, and Tim Gallan are superb. Offspring Anthony Orlando White and parent Adela Dodero White read and commented upon everything and provided constant encouragement and laughs.

Thanks also to all archaeologists and other scientists whose work I’ve described here; I apologize for not being able to cite you by name. I realize I’ve taken on a huge responsibility in representing the entirety of the archaeological profession and the specific work of thousands of colleagues around the world in a single (and, I’m hoping, user-friendly) volume. Perhaps readers will let me know about any errors. After all, archaeology is a continual process of finding out new information about old things!

Publisher’s Acknowledgments

We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments through our Dummies online registration form located at

Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:

Acquisitions, Editorial, and Media Development

Senior Project Editor: Tim Gallan

Acquisitions Editor: Michael Lewis

Copy Editor: Megan Knoll

Assistant Editor: Erin Calligan Mooney

Art Coordinator: Alicia B. South

Technical Editor: Lee Hutchinson

Editorial Manager: Michelle Hacker

Editorial Assistants: Joe Niesen, Jennette ElNaggar and David Lutton

Cartoons: Rich Tennant (

Composition Services

Project Coordinator: Patrick Redmond

Layout and Graphics: Reuben W. Davis, Melissa K. Jester, Christin Swinford, Christine Williams

Proofreaders: Laura Albert, Caitie Kelly and Penny Stuart

Indexer: WordCo Indexing Services

Publishing and Editorial for Consumer Dummies

Diane Graves Steele, Vice President and Publisher, Consumer Dummies

Joyce Pepple, Acquisitions Director, Consumer Dummies

Kristin Ferguson-Wagstaffe, Product Development Director, Consumer Dummies

Ensley Eikenburg, Associate Publisher, Travel

Kelly Regan, Editorial Director, Travel

Publishing for Technology Dummies

Andy Cummings, Vice President and Publisher, Dummies Technology/General User

Composition Services

Gerry Fahey, Vice President of Production Services

Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services


Archaeology is exciting adventure and discovery. It’s also sometimes horribly misunderstood and wrongly stereotyped. Many well-educated people still think that archaeology is bones, dinosaurs, or fossils, but it’s none of these. Archaeological remains are things humans left — artifacts or garbage stains in the soil or ruins of huts or palaces. Others think archaeology must mean only Egyptian temples or Roman ruins, but archaeology is everywhere that humans have been, including your own back yard and even the moon.

Today archaeology is a big part of popular culture, in movies, computer games and the news. Authors write about everything from archaeology’s role in science fiction to its practical use in the modern world. More professional archaeologists, more History Channel specials on the ancient past, and more opportunities to see and participate in archaeology now exist than ever before.

This book aims to explore the science, describe the thrills, and show you what archaeology is all about, whether you want to get involved via the armchair or in digging.

About This Book

I’ve tried to pack a lot into this book to give you at least a little taste of many things in the smorgasbord of archaeological topics, including ways that archaeology affects your own life that you may not have thought of before.

Here’s what you’ll see in these pages:

What archaeology really is (and misunderstandings about what it isn’t).

The many different kinds of archaeology out there, each of which investigates different things.

How archaeologists think and how they use scientific method to reconstruct the past from the material record.

How to do archaeological fieldwork — survey and excavation.

The huge amount of work you need to do after fieldwork for processing and analysis of the stuff you dig up.

The story of the whole human career — from the first humans through modern times — known only or mostly from archaeology.

Guides to help you understand, visit, and do archaeology.

I aim in this book to demystify archaeology, to tell you what it is, how it’s done, where you can do it, and what you can learn from it about humanity. You should be able to open to any chapter and see the topic of choice, and you can also find everything on the topic by looking in the index.

Conventions Used in This Book

Here are a few little things to keep in mind as you read this book, to avoid confusion over some details.

Archaeology versus archeology

Both spellings of the word are fine. Usually you see the -aeo version because most people, including my editors and publisher, think it’s classier! But the U.S. federal government (which, in official documents, always calls itself “Federal”), and other entities, have spelling rules insisting on the -eo version. Once, when reporting a dig on federal land, I spelled the title “Archaeology.” Officials told me that (among other revisions) I had to take the a out, so I redid the title as “Rchaeology.” For some reason, they weren’t amused.


Reading about past times, you see dates given in various ways. In this book, I use the terms B.C. (“before Christ” — about 2,000 years ago and earlier) and A.D. (Latin words anno domini, translating to “year of our Lord” and actually meaning after the birth of Christ — so there is no A.D. 0). A.D. is always written before the number to make sense in Latin. These are still the most commonly used ways of writing dates in English. Some writers use B.C.E (“before the common era” or “before the Christian era”) and C.E. (“common era”) to mean the same things but without religious overtones. Another notation is B.P., meaning “before the present”; to change B.C. dates to B.P. dates, just add 2,000 years.


Nearly all modern archaeology uses the metric system because that system is internationally understood and the world standard for science. Exceptions to this rule may pop up when you’re mapping and digging historic sites where objects may have originally been deliberately constructed in feet and inches, so measuring them in the same units makes more sense.

You may not be used to metric measurements, so in this book I sometimes give them in feet and inches. But just remember that an inch is about 21⁄2 centimeters (cm), a meter (m) is a little over a yard, and about 30 centimeters is a foot. If you do end up switching to the metric system for archaeology, you may never go back!


Most of the archaeology done today is part of anthropology, the social science that studies humans in all their biological and cultural aspects. Some archaeology falls under the heading of classics or some other field (as I describe in Chapter 3). In this book, I try to give you a little of all kinds of archaeology while emphasizing that archaeological findings aren’t just cool artifacts or ancient treasures but rather clues to exploring human behavior.

What you’re not to read

You don’t have to read the sidebars (the text in gray boxes) — that material is interesting but tangential. You don’t have to read text that’s flagged by the Technical Stuff icon either. After all, technical stuff isn’t for everybody.

My Assumptions

In writing this book, I assume that you the reader

Have always loved to read about archaeology or watch it on film.

Like seeing archaeological sites and museums.

Want to join a dig or at least visit one.

Are studying or considering studying archaeology at a college or university.

Love old stuff and the excitement of discovery, puzzles, and figuring things out.

Enjoy imagining the human past.

If any of these statements is true about you, this book should help you explore archaeology’s many and exciting dimensions.

How This Book Is Organized

This book is divided into six parts: Part I defines archaeology and its varieties and thought processes. Part II describes the fieldwork — finding things. In Part III, you find out what to do with everything after you find it and how complicated it is to piece together the puzzle of the human past. In Part IV, I relate what archaeology has revealed about that past — all 2 million years of it! Part V gives you an idea of why archaeology is relevant to your life and how you can go do some yourself. Part VI lists places to visit archaeology.

Part I: Archaeology: Seeing Past People Today

This part introduces you to archaeology, how archaeological sites are formed, and the nature of the evidence. I give you a little of the glorious history and adventure of archaeology and also try to counteract the stereotypes and mistakes common in the public media. I list the many different kinds of archaeology and discuss how archaeologists think about and try to solve the mysteries they investigate, including an example from my own work.

Part II: Archaeological Fieldwork: The Adventure Begins!

In this part, I describe the adventure of fieldwork, how you can prepare, what to bring along, and what you can expect. Then I answer the common question, “How do you know where to dig?” You discover how archaeological survey locates sites, and then the actual excavation and all it entails, from equipment to technique. Finally, I go over the ethical issues involved in archaeological investigation, from dangerous field conditions to respecting local communities and descendants of the people whose stuff you’re digging up.

Part III: After the Dig: You’ve Only Just Begun

The work after the dig is the largest part of archaeology. Part III explains how you process and analyze the materials and data from the dig and then how you piece the past together. I describe laboratory work and artifact analyses and then show you how archaeology tells the story of past human behavior based on those material remains. To show the wide array of viewpoints in archaeological interpretation, I give you some of the major theoretical perspectives used to understand past societies.

Part IV: Archaeology Reconstructs the Whole Human Past

In this part, I run briefly through the great drama of what archaeology has found out about our ancestors and their lives, from the time of the earliest humans through the emergence of ancient civilizations. Only archaeology brings this past alive! Even in historic times, archaeology shows much more than history can ever tell you, especially about people whose history was never written (or was written poorly). Finally, I show you how the method of archaeology — using material culture to interpret human behavior — is useful to study the modern world in ways no other science can.

Part V: Archaeology Is for Everyone

This part is about public archaeology (which is really all archaeology today). Here I show you the many different kinds of interests in archaeology: political, financial, practical, recreational, professional. I give you some case studies of recent hot controversies in archaeology. You explore how archaeological findings affect many aspects of life in ways you may not expect. I also give you tips on how to get involved in archaeology yourself.

Part VI: The Part of Tens

In this part, I list (about) ten neat places to visit archaeology in the U.S. and outside the U.S. I also include ten fun archaeological experiences. You may soon add your own entries to these lists!

Icons Used in the Book

Throughout this book, you’ll see these icons, which I use to highlight important information or direct you to interesting tidbits.

discovery(archeology).eps Archaeology is all about discovery! Though I discuss exciting excavations and findings throughout much of the book, this icon tells you about specific fun details of particular finds.

TechnicalStuff.eps Archaeology is a scientific pursuit, often with some complicated processes, operations, and even equipment. This icon signals examples of areas where you need much more expertise than I can provide in this book. But at least you see the technical terms (and you can use them to impress friends).

Remember.eps I use this icon to remind you about the most crucial concepts in archaeology and to point out corrections or true versions of some mistakes.

ponderthis.eps Archaeology brings us face-to-face with our human heritage, whether wonderful or disgusting. I use this icon to mark aspects of human nature worth thinking about as you discover archaeology’s potential.

Tip.eps Whenever I provide specific advice that will aid in actual archaeological work or your study of archaeology, I use this Tip icon.

Warning(bomb).eps I use this icon to point out important safety-related information, misconceptions, and other dangers that may threaten your archaeological work or experience.

Where to Go from Here

Jump around and read whatever chapter or section catches your interest. Or read the book from front to back. The choice is up to you. Archaeology provides wonderful stories of the past and often high adventure in the present. It’s also very relevant to modern life. This guide tells you what basics you need to know to understand and do it. But you don’t need a pith helmet and safari clothes — old jeans, a bandanna, bug spray, sunscreen, and an open mind should suffice! After seeing how to do archaeology, you yourself can move, as the old Firesign Theater folks said, “forward into the past!”

Part I

Archaeology: Seeing Past People Today


In this part . . .

A rchaeology is exciting and romantic — the thrill of discovery, the recreation of the glories of the human past! But it’s complicated too, and much confusion exists about what it is and how it works. In this part, I define archaeology and explain how it developed and branched into specialties. Chapter 1 shows you how archaeology is unique in its method of investigation. I explain what archaeological evidence consists of and how archaeological sites are formed; you also get some of the background and history of how archaeology was developed by those early adventurers and explorers. Chapter 2 makes it clear that archaeology isn’t dinosaurs or treasure hunting or looting artifacts for sale. All the many kinds of archaeology can be confusing, so Chapter 3 helps you sort them out. To understand how an archaeologist thinks and investigates, read through Chapter 4.