Basic Concepts of Archeology

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Definition and Introduction:

Archeology is basically the study of ancient and recent past of humanity. Things created, utilized and changed by humans are the subjects of study of the archeologists. They study material remains such as a simple dwelling hut, stone tools, and skeletons with gold jewelry or pyramids royally standing on a desert and so on. Archeologists around the globe practice archeology by working with people from various disciplines to know about the actual identity and roots of humanity. While doing this study or research archeologists come in touch with evidence which throws light on our upcoming future.

Basic Concepts:

Some basic concepts or terms of Archeology are briefly discussed below:

Archeological Sites:

The place which contains the physical remains of human activities happened in the past is known as an archeological site which can be of several types. Permanent native villages or cities, rock art pictographs, and petroglyphs, stone quarries, temporary campsites, cemeteries, memorial stone monuments, pyramids, etc. are prehistoric archeological sites. The vast range of historical archeological sites include factories, mills, slave quarters, cemeteries, plantations, military sites, shipwrecks, battlefields, etc.


The objects or things, produced or utilized by people who are studied by archeologists to gather information about these people, are called artifacts.


Features are non-portable artifacts on archeological sites such as stains or marks on the soil indicating where once upon a time fences or structures, garbage dumps, storage pits, etc. existed.


Natural remains found on archeological sites like animal and plant remains which can assist archeologists in obtaining information about subsistence patterns and diets.


In Archeology the relationship between the artifacts with each other and the circumstances when and where they are obtained or found is referred to as a context. Each artifact has an exactly specified location. That location is recorded before the artifact is removed from there. An artifact when removed without recording its exact location, the context, and the artifact’s scientific value both are lost. Context helps archeologists to assess the relationship between artifacts on a specific site as well as the relationship between different archeological sites.

Types of Archeology:

There are several types of archeology. The mentionable ones among them are as follows:

  • Prehistoric archeology studies the things before the introduction of written language.
  • Historical archeology studies the things after the introduction of written language. Written language was introduced about 500 years ago.
  • Biblical archeology studies artifacts pertaining to the bible.
  • Zooarcheology studies the animal remains from different archeological sites.
  • Bioarcheology studies the skeletal remains from different archeological sites.
  • Paleopathology studies the ancient diseases particularly signs of diseases, trauma seen on bones, etc.
  • Ethnoarcheology studies living cultures to have an understanding of the past lifestyle of people.
  • Underwater archeology focuses on the human activities’ physical remains under waters of wetlands, lakes, rivers, and oceans.

Apart from the above, there are many other types of archeology such as urban archeology, industrial archeology, cultural resource management archeology, etc.

Importance of Archeology:

Archeology plays an important role in human culture and history by helping people to understand the ancient and recent past of humanity. History depends primarily upon written documents and records to discuss great events and lives of great people but archeology takes us far back to the time period when written language was not introduced and gives us an understanding of the everyday lives of the people of that time by analyzing the things used and made by them. Archeology can be claimed as the only field of study covering all time periods and geographic regions occupied by people. People can educate themselves about the lives and cultures of individuals, families, forefathers and their communities with the help of archeology which would otherwise be impossible.

Read: An introduction to Anthropology

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