If your idea of excitement is sifting dirt to find bits of pottery, chances are that you're an archaeology enthusiast. Archaeology is all about understanding the past by analyzing material culture — that is, objects shaped by human hands.

The Greek suffix -ology ("the study of") should be familiar. Consider the word biology: bios is Greek for "life," so biology is "the study of life." Arkhaios is "ancient." Thus, archaeology is "the study of ancient things." Early archaeologists tended to seek sensational finds — like Howard Carter, who found King Tut's tomb. Contemporary archaeologists are generally more concerned with reconstructing the lives of everyday people through careful analysis of mundane artifacts — like tools and feeding utensils.

Definitions of archaeology

n the branch of anthropology that studies prehistoric people and their cultures

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archeology of the ancient Assyrians
archeology of ancient Egyptian artifacts
the archeology of ancient Sumerians
marine archaeology, marine archeology, underwater archaeology, underwater archeology
the archeology of underwater sites
palaeoclimatology, paleoclimatology
the study of the climate of past ages
palaeogeography, paleogeography
the study of the geography of ancient times or ancient epochs
the study of ancient forms of writing (and the deciphering of them)
palaeopathology, paleopathology
the study of disease of former times (as inferred from fossil evidence)
palaetiology, paletiology
the explanation of past events in terms of scientific causes (as geological causes)
palaeology, paleology
the study of (especially prehistoric) antiquities
protoanthropology, protohistory
the study humans prior to the invention of writing
palaeoethnography, paleoethnography
the ethnography of paleolithic humans
the study of ancient inscriptions
protoarchaeology, protoarcheology
the study of prehistoric human artifacts and human fossils
Type of:
the social science that studies the origins and social relationships of human beings

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