What is an archaeologist anyway?

We could define archaeologists as people who study human history and prehistory, and who also try to understand and develop interpretative theories about past communities. They do this through the excavation of archaeological sites and the analysis of archaeological materials or other physical remains. So essentially, we could say archaeologists have three main occupations: 

  • Excavate archaeological sites to obtain data on how past women, children and men lived;
  • Study several components and materials found at the archaeological sites;
  • Use all the gathered results and information to build theoretical frameworks that might bring us closer to the communities we study.

Our end goal is always to understand human behaviour and practices. The way we do it can be very different. An archaeologist can study stone tools to understand how past humans produced and used technology – this archaeologist could be called a lithic specialist. An archaeologist can study animal bones to know what past humans ate – a zooarchaeologist. They may decide to study charcoal to see how humans used fire – an archaeobotanist. Or to study sediments to see how the archaeological site was formed – a geoarchaeologist. Or even to explore past societies’ social organizations, beliefs and ideologies.

Basically, archaeologists tend to specialize in specific fields. These fields are broad and exciting, mixing several sciences and disciplines, from the natural sciences to computer science and philosophy. It is through the combination of all these specializations that we are able to understand past humans and changes in their behaviour through time.

Still curious about what archaeologists do?  Then stick around. We’ll be posting weekly content about archaeology and we’d love for you to join in and explore a bit more about this broad scientific discipline. Who knows, maybe you’ll dig it.


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