Archaeology: Most Popular Articles
Learn more about the most important Aztec gods and and the religion of the Aztec people
The discovery of fire was one of the earliest discoveries of humans. Fire's purposes are multiple, some of which are to add light and heat, to cook plants and animals, to clear forests for planting, to heat-treat stone for making stone tools, to burn clay for ceramic objects.
This collection of quotes from historians--some professional, some decidedly not--trying their hand at defining the dark art of history.
The initials A.D. (used with or without periods) is an abbreviation for the Latin
The archaeological site of Babylon was the capital of a small city state of Mesopotamia, named Babylonia, located in what is now Iraq, near the modern town of Hilla.
A quick photo tour of the new seven wonders of the world--plus some extras that readers say should be in there, too.
The Iceman is the name of a 5,300-year-old human body discovered high in the Swiss/Italian Alps in 1991.
The Aryan Invasion Myth was developed in the late 19th century to explain the blossoming of the Indus River Civilization; but it stems from a flawed argument and old fashioned racist supremacism.
A definition and chronology of the Stone Age (more commonly known to scholars as the Paleolithic era), which in human prehistory is the name given to the period between about 2.5 million and 20,000 years ago.
Although evidence for hunting wild forms of cattle exists at archaeological sites dated to our earliest days on the planet, herding cattle was first accomplished in Western Asia by about 6000 BC, and in perhaps the eastern Sahara desert about 1000 years earlier.
Cro-Magnons are what scholars now call Anatomically Modern Humans or Early Modern Humans, mostly because Cro-Magnon refers to to a specific archaeological site which isn't really typical of the rest
The Mesolithic period in European history includes the history of the complex hunter-gatherers who developed the technology to cultivate crops.
When and where the partnership of dog and humans first occurred is currently under considerable debate.
Hunter gatherers is the name anthropologists have given to people who rely on a combined living of hunting game and gathering root vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Hunting and gathering was the lifestyle of all human beings until the invention of agriculture about 8000 years ago; and, to state it simply, hunter-gatherers hunt game and collect plant foods.
Ile-Ife is the traditional home of the Yoruba civilization, and an archaeological site located in southwestern Nigeria.
Short list of the main facts and aspects of Aztec culture
Domestication is the process of genetically adapting an animal or plant to better suit the needs of human beings; this page includes a definition of domestication and a table of domestication dates for animals in the world.
Archaeologists use the term 'BP' to mean 'years before humans began to screw up the atmosphere by testing nuclear devices'.
The Out of Africa or African Replacement Hypothesis argues that every living human being is descended from a small group in Africa.
Have you always dreamed of being an archaeologist, but don't know how to become one? To become an archaeologist takes education, reading, training, and persistence. Here's how you can get started exploring that dream job
The modern day cat was permanently domesticated about 4000 years ago, in Egypt; but archaeologists say it may have been closer to 10,000 years ago.
The history of farming begins some 12,000 years ago, in the hilly flanks of the Zagros Mountains of southwest Asia
Learn more about the Homininae subfamily, including Hominini (humans and their ancestors), Panini (chimps), and Gorillini (gorillas).
Clovis refers to mobile big game hunters who roamed the Americas hunting elephants and bison for a very brief time 12,000 years ago.
What kind of real-life career choices do I have with a degree in archaeology?
A collection of plant histories, when and where humans domesticated them, with a table of dates and places and links to the stories themselves.
Viking society is traditionally described as highly stratified, with three classes as written into mythology, slaves (thrall), farmers (karl), and aristocracy (jarl or earl)V
The Aztec culture site called Tenochtitlan was located in a very peculiar place today, in a marsh in the middle of a lake surrounded by mountains--a place now called Mexico City.
The history of chickens and when they were domesticated is something of a puzzle, but most likely it was about 8,000 years ago in Thailand.
The Mississippian culture is what archaeologists call the precolumbian horticulturalists and mound builders, who were spread across the American midwest and southeast, between about AD 1000-1550.
Arrowheads are often the subject of a number of myths, legends and misconceptions; here is a description of the top myths and the top unknown facts.
Bitumen is a naturally-occurring organic byproduct of decomposed organic materials used by humans for many very useful things for the past 40,000 years.
The Hopewell civilization (also called Adena in some regions) is a prehistoric culture of the American middle west.
The Bering Land Bridge allowed human population into the Americas some 15,000 years ago: and scholars suggest it may partly regulate global climates.
The continents of North and South America were 'discovered' by the European civilizations in the late 15th century AD, but their civilizations were vast and complex long before the first European landed. The following are a taste of the complexity of the civilizations of ancient America.
What kind of job can I get in archaeology? Does it pay well? Do you have to work when it's hot? These are the questions that everyone who is thinking about being an archaeologist wants to know.
A few important facts about Neandertals, part of an intensive study guide about these human ancestors. Page 2.
Damascus steel, the legendary steel blade scimitar of the Islamic side in the Crusades, was a formidable piece of weaponry for the middle ages. Modern science has given us new insights into how this iron metal was forged, and why this useful technology became lost.
A guide to the Olmec civilization, including timelines, important sites, important facts, subsistence and settlement, burning issues, and a bibliography
The Mesopotamian city of Ur, known as Tell al-Muqayyar, was an important Sumerian city state between about 2025-1738 BC.
The archaeological site of Tel Tsaf is a Middle Chalcolithic site located near Beth-Shean in the Jordan Valley of Israel
The first steps in the Mesopotamian writing system were clay tokens not that different from the ones we play board games with, but 10,000 years ago.
At the end of the last ice age (ca 15,000-10,000 years ago), 85 percent of the large mammals (called megafauna) went extinct.
The quipu (also spelled khipu or quipo) is the only known precolumbian information system in South America.
The Tell Asmar sculpture hoard is a collection of 12 alabaster statues, discovered beneath the floor of the Square Temple at the Mesopotamian site of Tell Asmar (Iraq)
The end of the Khmer Empire (or Angkor civilization) came about as a direct result of the civilization's inability to adapt to an extended drought brought about by climate change.
Facts about the economics, politics, warfare, rituals, architecture, and other interesting things to know about the Maya Civilization. Page 3.
What is Archaeology? The study of archaeology has been defined in a number of silly and serious ways. Here's a collection of pithy quotes from archaeologists and non-archaeologists.
The Kingdom of Aksum (first through sixth centuries AD) was one of the most powerful kingdoms in sub-Saharan Africa, connecting the Roman empire and the rest of the world in the region of the Red Sea.
Ancient farming methods used by farmers throughout the world varied quite a bit. Farmers developed many ways to maintain soils, ward off frost and freeze cycles and protect their crops from animals. On this page you'll find core concept definitions, articles on examples of archaeological research into ancient farming, detailed examination of some special farming techniques and bibliographies of related topics.
The Aztecs had a complex set of beliefs, ceremonies and gods, each one overlooking an aspect of human life...
Archaeologists recognize that in some cases, in some places, at some times, simple societies for one reason and another morph into more and more complex societies, and some become civilizations.
Wine is an alcoholic beverage made from grapes; and depending on your definition of
Monumental architecture refers to large man-made structures of stone or earth.
The Indus is one of the oldest societies we know of, including over 2600 known archaeological sites located along the Indus and Sarasvati rivers.
Beginning about 10,500-10,800 years ago, Neolithic farmers in the Near East began keeping small herds of goats for their milk, meat, dung, as well as for materials for clothing and building: hair, bone, and sinew.
: When archaeologists speak of a "secondary products revolution" (sometimes abbreviated SPR), they refer
Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec god of war and sacrifice, learn more about Aztec mythology and religion
Wheat was one of the very first crops domesticated by our ancestors, some 10,000 years ago in southeastern Turkey.
The Archaic period is the name given to generalized hunter-gatherer societies in the North American continent from approximately 8000 to 2000 years BP.
A 4500 year old statuette of a dancing girl from the ancient Harappan town of Mohenjo-Daro dances across space and time into our imaginations.
The Mousterian industry is an ancient Middle Stone Age method of making stone tools, associated with our hominid relatives the Neanderthals in Europe and both Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis in Africa.
Cultural Ecology is an anthropological theory put forward by Julian Steward, that considers adaptation to environment as the paramount driver in cultural change.
Facts about the Olmec concerning their colossal heads of stone, their written language, their rituals, their artwork. Page 3.
Hatshepsut's Deir el-Bahri (also spelled Deir el-Bahari) is one of the most beautiful temples in Egypt, built by the architects of Queen Hatshepsut, a pharaoh of the New Kingdom.
The common bean comes in a multitude of colors shapes and sizes, and as you've no doubt been told, they're really good for you. They are an American domesticate, and their domestication history is an interesting one...
The dust veil of AD 536 was a period of a year to 18 months when the world experienced some kind of calamity, and historic records and dendrochronological records from around the world hold the evidence.
Lascaux Cave is a rockshelter in the Dordogne Valley of France with fabulous cave paintings, dated to between 15,000 and 17,000 years ago. Sadly, it is no longer open to the public.
The modern domesticated horse (Equus caballus) is spread throughout the world and is among the most diverse creatures on the planet.
What's for dinner? Archaeological studies of shell middens throughout time, including an extensive review of the published literature.
This page describes the mythical and archaeological origins of the Aztec people, and the founding of their capital city of TenochtitlÃ¡n
A short course on the various dating methods used in archaeological science over the centuries. Part 1: Relative Dating
The Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent, is one of the most famous pre-Columbian deity and his cult was widespread in many Mesoamerican cultures.
The natural yellow-red-brown pigment known as ochre was humankind's first paint pot, used by our hominid ancestors nearly 300,000 years ago.
Arrowheads are the most identifiable archaeological artifact in the world. Whether they've personally collected them from nearby farmlands, seen them in museum displays or just watched them being shot into people in John Wayne movies, most people know the triangular tips of arrow shafts are the remnants of a hunting trip.
The physical attributes of the human remains known as Flores Man had similarities to several other hominids on our planet, but its variability makes it hard to categorize.
The atlatl is a sophisticated combination hunting tool or weapon, formed out of a short dart with a point socketed into a longer shaft.
The Uruk period in Mesopotamia is largely synonymous with the rise of the Sumerian state, the first great flourishing of the oldest cities in the world.
Cultural evolution is the theory that culture changes over time as an adaptive response to stimulus.
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The exquisite terracotta army of the first Qin Dynasty ruler Shihuangdi represents the emperor’s ability to control the resources of the newly unified China, and his attempt to recreate and maintain that empire in the afterlife.
A photo essay of the tools that archaeologists use during the course of an investigation, before, during and after the excavations.
Pigs (Sus scrofa) were domesticated in the Fertile Crescent about 11,000 years ago, but that's not the only place humans changed wild animals into a nicely behaved, edible food crop.
Heinrich Schliemann, that quintessential archaeologist of the 19th century, claimed to have discovered the real site of Troy. But did he?
Jericho (also called Tell es-Sultan) is the name of tell situated on an ancient lake bed plain in what is known as the West Bank, in the territory belonging to Palestine.
Megalithic structures are immense collections of stone, earth and wood, some of which were built during the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods of Europe.
Tlaloc, the rain god, was one of the most important gods in Aztec religion
A collection of sites in the Supe Valley of Peru are proving to be the ancestral source of the Inca and other later civilizations of South and Central America. Caral and the other Supe Valley sites promise to teach us why people choose to become urban dwellers.
Angkor Wat was left out of the new Seven Wonders, something reader Jan S. cannot understand. Page 9.
The Middle Paleolithic period (ca 200,000 to 45,000 years ago or so) is the period during which Archaic humans including Homo sapiens neanderthalensis appeared and flourished all over the world.
Pre-Clovis is the name archaeologists have given to the oldest and now fairly well-established human occupations of the Americas.
The Aztecs, or more properly the Mexica, practiced several different types of ritual sacrifice to secure the benevolence of the gods.
After classical Egypt, the first civilization in Africa was called Kush or Kushite, located on the third cataract of the Nile River in what is now the Sudan.
The Vikings were a farming culture, who originated in Scandinavia about the 4th century AD, and began to spread out and conquer the Europe in the 9th century AD. They were mostly defeated or subsumed into other cultures by the 13th century AD.
Arguably the best known archaeological site in the world--and one of the best documented on the web.
: "Venus figurine" is the name given to a nearly universal type of art, appearing first in the Upper
The story of how the Aztecs believe world originated, passed down by oral tradition, incorporating gods and myths adopted and modified from other tribes.
The Chalcolithic is the name given to the period in the Near East and Europe after the Neolithic and before the Bronze Age, between about 4500 and 3500 BC.
We don't really know what the Minoans called themselves--the ancient early Bronze Age culture in Greece was named for the legendary King Minos.
Radiocarbon dating is a method used by archaeologist to date organic materials by comparing the amount of Carbon 14 (C14) available in living creatures as a measuring stick.
Shoes are the use of typically organic materials (cloth, plant matter, wood, leather) to protect our feet, and they were likely invented some 40,000 years ago.
Archaeology has traced the history of rice to nearly 12,000 years ago.
Lucy is the name of the nearly complete skeleton of an Australopithecus afarensis, found in 1974 at AL 288, a site in the Hadar archaeological region on the Afar Triangle of Ethiopia.
Anthropology is the study of human beings; their culture, their behavior, their beliefs, their ways of surviving; but that's just my opinion. Here is a collection of other definitions.
The Upper Paleolithic period saw great changes in the world as Homo sapiens became the only hominid running around on our planet.
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Chultuns are underground cavities dug by the ancient Maya, used to store water and possibly for other purposes as well...
The Popol Vuh, often dubbed the Bible of the Maya, is a colonial document which narrates the creation myth of the Maya Quiché of Guatemala and the Story of the Hero Twins...
The Lower Paleolithic period (2.7 million to 200,000 years ago) is the first archaeology, that is to say, that period when the first evidence of what scientists consider human behaviors occurred.
The hardest thing a student does is pick a research paper topic. Archaeology, the study of a million years of human behavior, is an excellent starting place.
The sheep (Ovis aries) is one of the earliest animals ever domesticated, from the mouflon and more than 10,000 years ago.
The Nazca (often spelled Nasca in archaeological texts) civilization was located in the Nasca region as defined by the Ica and Grande river drainages, on the southern coast of Peru between about AD 1-750.
Everyone knows of some ancient civilizations, either from World History classes in school, from books or films, or from television specials on the Discovery Channel, the BBC or Public Broadcasting. Ancient Rome, Ancient Greece, Ancient Egypt, all of these are covered again and again in our books, magazines, and television shows. But there are so many interesting, less well-known civilizations! Here's an admittedly biased selection of some of them and why they are not to be forgotten.
The Pacific Coast Migration Model is a theory concerning the original colonization of the Americas that proposes that people entering the continents followed the Pacific coastline
The rulers of the Inca Empire were known known as the 'capac', and there are 12 known leaders of the Inca Empire, led by the founder Manco Capac. Page 2.
Baltic amber is a fossilized tree resin which formed about 60 million years ago and was actively traded beginning in the Mesolithic period of Europe.
At its height about 500 BC, the Persian empire had conquered Asia as far as the Indus River, Greece, and North Africa including what is now Egypt and Libya.
Mixed cropping, also known as inter-cropping or co-cultivation, is a type of agriculture that involves planting two or more of plants simultaneously in the same field.
The Solutrean-Clovis connection suggests that at least some of the Clovis people from the North American continent were direct descendants of Solutreans from Europe.
The Mayan civilization had an extensive economic system based on trade and agriculture. Here are some details of that system.
Some of the world's oldest art is also the loveliest - cave paintings throughout the world. Here you'll find several of the best examples.
Refer to this page to learn more about the origin of cotton domestication and cultivation
Folsom is the name given to early Paleoindian hunter-gatherers of the North American continent, ca. 9,000-10,500 years ago.
The use of the silk worm species Bombyx to produce cloth was invented at least as early as the Longshan period (3500-2000 BC), and perhaps earlier.
Background research refers to accessing the collection of previously published and unpublished information about a site, region, or particular topic of interest and it is the first step of all good archaeological investigations, as well as that of all writers of any kind of research paper.
The Ubaidian or Ubaid culture was a widespread shared set of traits and behaviors that predated the urban flowering of Mesopotamia.
Feudalism is a system of political organization, in which an elite individual called a lord controls several common people (vassals).
Llamas and alpacas are two different species native to South America, both domesticated in about the same location and time in the Andean highlands.
Viking settlers lived not so much in villages, but rather on isolated, regularly spaced farmsteads surrounded by grain fields, and led by chieftainships with multiple farmsteads.
In archaeology, the study of stratigraphy involves looking at the geological and archaeological layers that make up an archaeological deposit to better understand the processes that created the site.
Ancient boats made of reed basketry and covered in pitch were built about 7500 years ago in ancient Mesopotamia, the earliest boat building known.
Over the 250 years of the period called the Viking Age, the economics of the people known as the Vikings changed and adapted, and sometimes failed.
The Moche culture was a South American society, whose sites were located along the arid coast of what is now Peru between 100 and 800 AD
Bloodletting rituals and sacrifices were a widespread practice among the ancient people of Mesoamerica.
: The term "material culture" is often used by archaeologists as a non-specific way to refer to the artifacts
The TIGHAR project searching for traces of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan was begun in the 1980s, and the earliest archaeological investigations were focused on Nikumaroro island. Page 2.
The Aztec Calendar Stone, known more properly as the Aztec Sun Stone, is a basalt sculpture with carvings related to the sun god Tonatiuh and other calendar symbols
Mesopotamia is an ancient civilization that took up pretty much everything that today is modern Iraq, a triangular patch wedged between the Tigris River, the Zagros Mountains, and the Lesser Zab River.
Megafauna is a term used by archaeologists and paleontologist to refer to large-bodied mammals, that is, any mammal weighing more than 100 pounds (45 kilograms)
Cultural Resource Management is, essentially, a process by which the protection and management of the multitudinous but scarce elements of cultural heritage are given some consideration in a modern world with an expanding population and changing needs.
The Viking Age was a time of great change on the European continent. The Viking Age traditionally refers to the period in northern Europe between the first Scandinavian raid on England, in AD 793, and ends with the death of Harald Hardrada in 1066, in a failed attempt to attain the English throne.
The New Seven Wonders: Machu Picchu (Peru). Page 4.
The Mesoamerican ball game was an exciting, dangerous game played by most cultures in central America.
The Angkor Civilization (or Khmer Civilization) is the name given to an important civilization of southeast Asia, including all of Cambodia and southeastern Thailand and northern Vietnam
The bull-headed lyre discovered at the Royal Cemetery of Ur likely belonged to a musician, buried with one of the retainers in an elite burial.
Chauvet Cave is one of the oldest rock art sites in the world, dating to the Aurignacian period in France, about 30,000-32,000 years ago; although its date has been questioned recently.
The residential palace of the Inca king Pachacuti has drawn tourists from all over the world because of its lovely impossible location at the edge of the world. Gina Carey was at Machu Picchu during the Summer of 2004, and shares her photographs with us.
The Islamic Civilization is in reality an amalgam of wide variety of cultures, from North Africa to the western periphery of the Pacific Ocean, and from Central Asia to sub-Saharan Africa.
Great Zimbabwe is an important African Iron Age site, one of hundreds of such sites in Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa dated between the 10th and 15th centuries AD.