What Is Archaeology?

Archaeology looks at the remains of past cultures to try to understand the behaviors and beliefs of ancient people. Archaeologists piece together how behaviors and beliefs have changed over time and how they've affected the modern cultures we live in. Read this article to learn more about archaeology. Schools offering Social Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Field Overview

Archaeology is the study of past cultures and societies through examination of physical remains. A slow and careful process is used to uncover these artifacts, most of which are buried. Archaeologists use these artifacts to better understand how past cultures and modern society have developed over time.

Important Facts About Anthropologists and Archaeologists

Median Salary (2014) $59,280
Entry-level Education Master's degree
Job Outlook (2012-2022) 19%
Work Environment Research organizations, colleges and universities, museums, corporations, government facilities

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Excavation and Research

Archaeologists start with a theory or hypothesis. From there, they determine a site to search for artifacts and then begin the excavation to unearth buried artifacts. Archaeologists collect data and artifacts, which are taken to labs for preservation and interpretation. Once the archaeologist makes his or her interpretations, the findings are published so that other scientists may learn from this research and build on it.

Education

There are various educational routes to becoming an archaeologist. Earning a degree is nearly always a requirement; however, the type of degree you earn may depend on the sub-field in which you'd like to specialize. If you want to research ancient Roman civilizations, an interdisciplinary degree, including the classics, is an option. According to the Society for American Archaeology (www.saa.org), most archaeologists in the U.S. have degrees in anthropology or history. While a bachelor's degree may get you started with a job with a field crew, most positions require a graduate degree. Archaeology degrees include:

  • Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Anthropology
  • Bachelor of Science (BS) in Archaeological Science
  • Master of Arts (MA) in Archaeology
  • Master of Arts (MA) in Anthropology
  • Ph.D. in Archaeology
  • Ph.D. in Anthropology
  • Ph.D. in Ancient History
  • Ph.D. in Ancient Near Eastern Art

Career Opportunities

There are many specializations within archaeology educational programs. There are just as many career options in various areas. However, many in the field of archaeology work in educational institutions, museums, historical societies, and government agencies. Archaeologists provide a variety of services, including:

  • Field research and excavation
  • Lab analysis
  • Teaching archaeology
  • Curatorial services
  • Surveying and analyzing land
  • Land and resource preservation

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