Branches of Archaeology

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Archaeology is defined by the Merriam Webster Dictionary as, “the scientific study of material remains (as fossil relics, artifacts, and monuments) of past human life and activities.” Sometimes this field of study stands on its own, and other times it is found as a sub-discipline of the field of Anthropology. Either way, the aim of this academic discipline is to correlate human cultures, both ancient and modern. Information gathered in Archaeology is based upon the impact humans have on the environment. These are examined and analyzed carefully, then it is the job of an Archaeologist to try and reconstruct the evidence and make an interpretation as to what had happened.

Archaeology, like many other fields of study has sub-disciplines and integrates other subject areas like biology, chemistry, geology, history, and art.

The sub-disciplines of Archaeology are as follows:

Classical Archaeology- K. Kris Hirst, an Archaeology Guide, stated that this sub-discipline “generally refers to the study of ancient Greece and Rome and their immediate forebears, the Minoans and Mycenaeans.”

Ethno-Archaeology-This discipline defined by the Oxford Dictionaries Online, is “the study of the social organization and other ethnological features of present day societies on the basis of their material cultures, in order to draw conclusions about past societies from their material remains.” In this discipline, Archaeologists are intrigued to find that hunter-gatherers from the past and those of the present have common aspects of life.

Environmental Archaeology-Again K. Kris Hirst defined this discipline area as one that “focuses on the impacts of a given culture on the environment, as well as the impact of the environment on that culture.” This is a practical field of study and is the joy for any students as they are allowed to examine soil samples, sediments, pollens, diatoms and other such environmental and archaeological factors. After these extractions have been collected, they are taken back to laboratories to be examined and experimented on.

Historical Archaeology-Hirst provided a brief definition for this discipline as “the study of people with a written record.”

Pseudo Archaeology-Kenneth Feder, according to Brian Fagan’s Oxford Companion to Archaeology, explained this discipline as the “non-scientific misapplication, misinterpretation, and/or misrepresentation of the archaeological record.” In other words, such an Archaeologist focuses mainly on that evidence that contributes to the worlds that were lost.

Still, there are disciplines in the field of Archaeology that deals only with, the use of scientific materials and techniques in Archaeology known as Archaeometry, and, evidence found under water such as remains from shipwrecks and buried cities, known as Underwater Archaeology.

Career opportunities in the field of Archaeology are numerous, encompassing specializations in conservation, cultural resources, heritage, historical monuments, artifacts, research, collections, surveyor and academics.


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