Excavations at Atapuerca, an archaeological site in Spain.

Archaeology or archeology[a] is the study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of material culture. The archaeological record consists of artifacts, architecture, biofacts or ecofacts, sites, and cultural landscapes. Archaeology can be considered both a social science and a branch of the humanities.[1][2][3] It is usually considered an independent academic discipline, but may also be classified as part of anthropology (in North America – the four-field approach), history or geography.[4]

Archaeologists study human prehistory and history, from the development of the first stone tools at Lomekwi in East Africa 3.3 million years ago up until recent decades.[5] Archaeology is distinct from palaeontology, which is the study of fossil remains. Archaeology is particularly important for learning about prehistoric societies, for which, by definition, there are no written records. Prehistory includes over 99% of the human past, from the Paleolithic until the advent of literacy in societies around the world.[1] Archaeology has various goals, which range from understanding culture history to reconstructing past lifeways to documenting and explaining changes in human societies through time.[6] Derived from Greek, the term archaeology means "the study of ancient history".[7]

The discipline involves surveying, excavation, and eventually analysis of data collected, to learn more about the past. In broad scope, archaeology relies on cross-disciplinary research.

Archaeology developed out of antiquarianism in Europe during the 19th century, and has since become a discipline practiced around the world. Archaeology has been used by nation-states to create particular visions of the past.[8][9] Since its early development, various specific sub-disciplines of archaeology have developed, including maritime archaeology, feminist archaeology, and archaeoastronomy, and numerous different scientific techniques have been developed to aid archaeological investigation. Nonetheless, today, archaeologists face many problems, such as dealing with pseudoarchaeology, the looting of artifacts,[10][11] a lack of public interest, and opposition to the excavation of human remains.

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  1. ^ a b Cite error: The named reference Renfrew_Bahn1991 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  2. ^ Sinclair, A. (2016). "The Intellectual Base of Archaeological Research 2004–2013: A visualisation and analysis of its disciplinary links, networks of authors, and conceptual language". Internet Archaeology (42). doi:10.11141/ia.42.8.
  3. ^ Sinclair, A. (2022). "Archaeological Research 2014 to 2021: an examination of its intellectual base, collaborative networks and conceptual language using science maps". Internet Archaeology (59). doi:10.11141/ia.59.10.
  4. ^ Kristiansen, Kristian (2009). "The Discipline of Archaeology". The Oxford Handbook of Archaeology. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0191743443.
  5. ^ Roche, Hélène; Kent, Dennis V.; Kirwa, Christopher; Lokorodi, Sammy; Wright, James D.; Mortlock, Richard A.; et al. (May 2015). "3.3 million-year-old stone tools from Lomekwi 3, West Turkana, Kenya". Nature. 521 (7552): 310–315. Bibcode:2015Natur.521..310H. doi:10.1038/nature14464. ISSN 1476-4687. PMID 25993961. S2CID 1207285.
  6. ^ "What is archaeology? – Archaeology definition". Live Science. 28 March 2014. Archived from the original on 21 December 2019. Retrieved 25 August 2017.
  7. ^ The Oxford Encyclopedia of Mesoamerican Cultures. Oxford University Press. 2001. ISBN 978-0-19-510815-6. Archived from the original on 9 August 2020. Retrieved 22 July 2020.
  8. ^ "Archaeology as a Central Issue in the Creation of Identity". Encyclopédie d'histoire numérique de l'Europe. Retrieved 22 December 2022.
  9. ^ Bueno, Christina (2016). The Pursuit of Ruins: Archaeology, History, and the Making of Modern Mexico. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press. pp. 25 ff.
  10. ^ Markin, Pablo (10 April 2017). "A special issue of Open Archaeology on non-professional metal-detecting". Open Science (blog). de Gruyter. Archived from the original on 28 October 2019. Retrieved 14 June 2022.
  11. ^ Banning, Edward B. (29 May 2019). "The archaeological impacts of metal detecting". Open Archaeology. 5 (1): 180–186. doi:10.1515/opar-2019-0013. ISSN 2300-6560.