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Archaeology: Most Popular Articles

These articles are the most popular over the last month.
The 10 Most Important Aztec Gods and Goddesses
Learn more about the most important Aztec gods and and the religion of the Aztec people
What Does A.D. Mean, Anyway?
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Top 10 Things to Know about the Aztecs
Short list of the main facts and aspects of Aztec culture
When Did People Begin Using and Controlling Fire?
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.
What Can Archaeology Tell Us About Who Aryans...
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.
Babylon (Iraq)
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.
Cattle (Bos spp)
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.
History Definition
Historians study the past by examining and analyzing the written documents of what people have written about past events. Here is a collection of the definition of history.
Why Don't We Call Them Cro-Magnon Anymore?
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
Dog History
When and where the partnership of dog and humans first occurred is currently under considerable debate.
What is a Tell?
How do ancient cities become buried? Archaeologists working in modern and ancient cities face the same problems with layers and layers of occupation debris stacked up over the centuries.
The New Seven Wonders of the World
A quick photo tour of the new seven wonders of the world--plus some extras that readers say should be in there, too.
Salt in Ancient Mesoamerica
Salt was an important product in Ancient Mesoamerica used as condiment, food preservative and dye mordant; Pre-Columbian Salt Production and Distribution.
Archaeology FAQ: How do I get to be an...
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.
BP (or B.P.)
Archaeologists use the term 'BP' to mean 'years before humans began to screw up the atmosphere by testing nuclear devices'.
Animal Domestication Table of Dates and Places
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.
Background Research
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.
Aksum of Ethiopia
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.
Cat History and Domestication
Although available evidence makes it difficult to say, the modern day cat was permanently domesticated about 4000 years ago, in Egypt.
How to Become an Archaeologist
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
Chickens (Gallus domesticus)
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.
Viking Social Structure
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
Quetzalcoatl
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
Arrowheads and Projectile Points
Arrowheads are among the most easily recognized artifact in the world. These little tools are often the subject of a number of myths, legends and misconceptions; here is a description of the five top myths and the five top unknown facts about this ubiquitous stone tool.
Emperor Qin's Terracotta Army
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.
Aztec Culture: The Aztec Capital City of...
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.
Research Paper Topics
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.
Where did lactose intolerance come from?
Why some people can drink milk without becoming ill and others cannot is a genetic trait that arose from our domestication and dependence on other mammals.
The Vikings
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.
What You've Always Wanted to Know about Otzi...
The Iceman is the name of a 5,300-year-old human body discovered high in the Swiss/Italian Alps in 1991.
Aztec Sacrifices
The Aztecs, or more properly the Mexica, practiced several different types of ritual sacrifice to secure the benevolence of the gods.
Damascus Steel - Sword Makers of the Islamic...
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.
L'Anse aux Meadows
Archaeological excavations in Newfoundland, Canada, reveal evidence of a failed Viking colony on the Atlantic shore of the American continent.
Huitzilopochtli
Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec god of war and sacrifice, learn more about Aztec mythology and religion
Hominin
: Over the last few years, the word "hominin" has crept into the public news stories about our human
Archaeology Definition
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.
A Guide to the Paleolithic
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.
Stratigraphy and Seriation
A short course on the various dating methods used in archaeological science over the centuries. Part 1: Relative Dating
Aztec Origins
This page describes the mythical and archaeological origins of the Aztec people, and the founding of their capital city of Tenochtitlán
Bitumen
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.
Aztec Religion
The Aztecs had a complex set of beliefs, ceremonies and gods, each one overlloking an aspect of human life...
Olmec Timeline and Definition
A guide to the Olmec civilization, including timelines, important sites, important facts, subsistence and settlement, burning issues, and a bibliography
Hunter Gatherers
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.
Chachapoya Culture
The Chachapoya culture is what archaeologists and ethnohistorians call the people who built several large communities on the tops of mountains in northern Peru between about 1000 and 1500 AD.
Popol Vuh
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...
Mesoamerican Ball Game
The Mesoamerican ball game was an exciting, dangerous game played by most cultures in central America.
Plant Domestication
A collection of plant histories, when and where humans domesticated them, with a table of dates and places and links to the stories themselves.
Tlaloc, the Aztec Rain God
Tlaloc, the rain god, was one of the most important gods in Aztec religion
Knotty Problems
The ancient Inca empire ruled much of South America when the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the 16th century AD, and they did it all without a written language. But did they?
Aztecs and the Aztec Civilization
Aztecs are the collective name given to seven Chichimec tribes of northern Mexico
Neanderthal Study Guide
A few important facts about Neandertals, part of an intensive study guide about these human ancestors. Page 2.
What Kind of Career Can I Have in Archaeology?
What kind of real-life career choices do I have with a degree in archaeology?
Minoans
The Minoan civilization is what archaeologists call the early part of the prehistoric Bronze Age of Greece.
The Domestication of Maize
Maize ( Zea mays ) is a plant of enormous modern-day economic importance as foodstuff and alternative
Aztlán, The Mythical Homeland of the...
Aztlan is the mythical homeland from which the Aztec/Mexica migrated to the Valley of Mexico in the 13th century.
Wine and its Origins
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Learn All about Maya Civilization with This...
Facts about the economics, politics, warfare, rituals, architecture, and other interesting things to know about the Maya Civilization. Page 3.
Ancient Maya Bloodletting Rituals
Bloodletting rituals and sacrifices were a widespread practice among the ancient people of Mesoamerica.
Ancient City of Ur
The Mesopotamian city of Ur, known as Tell al-Muqayyar, was an important Sumerian city state between about 2025-1738 BC.
Common Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L)
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...
C3, C4, and CAM Plants
Most plants fall into three groups, based on their chemical makeup: C4, C3, and CAM; archaeologists are particularly interested in C3 and C4 plants. Here's why.
Great Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe)
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.
Easter Island (Chile)
Easter Island's story is a microcosm for the devastation brought by humans, and the ability of people to overcome their own mistakes.
Cultural Evolution
Cultural evolution is the theory that culture changes over time as an adaptive response to stimulus.
Mixed Cropping
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 Kingdom of Kush
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 Moche Culture
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
Quipu (Khipu, Quipo)
The quipu (also spelled khipu or quipo) is the only known precolumbian information system in South America.
Kilwa Kisiwani
On a small island off the coast of Tanzania lies the site of Kilwa Kisiwani, also called Kilwa, the most important of about thirty-five trading sites on the Indian Ocean during the 11th through 16th centuries AD.
Archaeology of the Minotaur, Ariadne and Daedalus
The Palace of Minos, excavated by Arthur Evans, is a standard Minoan palace of extraordinary size, begun during the prepalatial period of the Minoan civilization.
Arrowhead Unknown Facts
Yes, there are many myths and legends about arrowheads: but there are also many interesting things about the projectile point that are unknown to the general public. Page 2.
Indus Civilization Timeline and Description
The Indus is one of the oldest societies we know of, including over 2600 known archaeological sites located along the Indus and Sarasvati rivers.
The (Pre) History of Clovis
Clovis refers to mobile big game hunters who roamed the Americas hunting elephants and bison for a very brief time 12,000 years ago.
Damascus Steel
Researcher Peter Paufler and associates investigate Medieval nanotechnology to solve a riddle of the Damascus steel. Page 2.
Material Culture
: The term "material culture" is often used by archaeologists as a non-specific way to refer to the artifacts
History of Rice, Part One
Archaeology has traced the history of rice to nearly 12,000 years ago.
Ancient Farming
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.
Wheat Domestication
Wheat was one of the very first crops domesticated by our ancestors, some 10,000 years ago in southeastern Turkey.
El Sidrón (Spain)
El Sidron is an archaeological site in the Asturias region of northern Spain where the remains of at least 12 Neanderthals have been recovered.
What is the Kennewick Man Controversy About?
The Kennewick Man controversy began with a couple of guys sneaking into a boat race; but the saga includes all of what modern archaeology is about, including science, religion, and indigenous people's rights. This series discusses the Kennewick findings, the issues at stake and the progress of the court case.
The Collapse of Angkor
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.
Aztec Creation Myth
The Legend of the Fifth Sun is an Aztec creation myth that exists in different versions
Top 10 Ancient American Civilizations
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.
Guide to the Inca Empire
The Inca were the largest pre-hispanic empire of South America when it was 'discovered' by the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century AD.
Inca Empire Timeline and Kinglist
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.
Cotton (Gossypium)
Refer to this page to learn more about the origin of cotton domestication and cultivation
Jericho (Palestine)
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.
Out of Africa Hypothesis
The Out of Africa or African Replacement Hypothesis argues that every living human being is descended from a small group in Africa.
Agave Americana or Maguey
Agave Americana (also called maguey) is an plant used throughout Mesoamerica as fiber for clothing and textiles and to produce alcoholic beverages.
Ochre
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.
Caral: The Earliest Civilization in the New World
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.
Aztec Empire
The Aztec empire was the last great precolumbian civilization on the American continents. This study guide is a capsule description of the important elements of the Aztecs, some facts and figures, some study questions, and a list of suggested readings.
Multiregional Hypothesis
The Multiregional Hypothesis argues that our earliest hominid ancestors radiated out from Africa and Homo sapiens evolved from several different groups of Homo erectus in several places throughout the world.
Kuelap (Peru)
Kuelap is the name of a ceremonial center of the 9th through 15th centuries AD, built and maintained by the Chachapoya culture.
Heinrich Schliemann and the Discovery of Troy
Heinrich Schliemann, that quintessential archaeologist of the 19th century, claimed to have discovered the real site of Troy. But did he?
What Is Stratigraphy?
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.
Mesolithic
The Mesolithic period falls between the Paleolithic and Neolithic.
Horse History
The modern domesticated horse (Equus caballus) is spread throughout the world and is among the most diverse creatures on the planet.
Why Ice Age Animals Went Extinct
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.
Capacocha Ceremony
The capacocha ceremony is the name of an Incan ritual, which involved the sacrifice of children, as reported in historical chronicles and evidenced archaeologically.
Angkor Civilization
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
Is the Bible Fact or Fiction?
History of Archaeology Part 3: The tyranny of the text. The third in the series discusses how early scholars sought for legendary archaeological sites in the Bible
The Invention of Pottery
Recent archaeological evidence shows that the oldest ceramics in the world so far were discovered in mainland China, and dated to 20,000 years ago.
What is the Aztec Calendar Stone?
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
Islamic Civilization
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.
Chaac
Chaac, was the Mayan god of rain, water and lightning. His origins are very ancient and he was worshiped all over the Maya area...
Hisarlik (Turkey)
Hisarlik is the modern name for the ancient site of Troy, located in what is now Turkey.
Cultural Resource Management
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.
Tezcatlipoca
Tezcatlipoca was the Aztec god of night, north direction and patron deity of Aztec kings
History of Agriculture
The history of farming begins some 12,000 years ago, in the hilly flanks of the Zagros Mountains of southwest Asia
Bering Strait and the Bering Land Bridge
The Bering Strait is a sea lane between Russia and North America, located over the top of the Bering Land Bridge, that now-submerged portion of the Bering Strait, that once connected the Siberian mainland with North America.
Zemis of the Taino Culture
Caribbean Tainos cultural and religious artifacts called zemis.
Viking History
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 villa Harald Hardrada in 1066, in a failed attempt to attain the English throne.
Upper Paleolithic
The Upper Paleolithic period saw great changes in the world as Homo sapiens became the only hominid running around on our planet.
The Fate of Amelia Earhart
Ric Gillespie's TIGHAR crew spent some time talking to the Nicumaroro island colonists, none of whom live there today, having only lived on the island from 1941 to 1963. Page 3.
Unknown Ancient Empires
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.
Pharaoh Hatshepsut's Deir el-Bahri
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.
Persian Empire: Timeline and Definition
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.
Dust Veil of AD 536
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.
The Ancient Maya or Mayans?
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BCE (or B.C.E.) and CE (or C.E.)
: BCE stands for "Before the Common Era" and it is basically equivalent to "BC", except that it doesn't
The Temple of Inscriptions at Palenque
The Temple of the Inscriptions at Palenque includes the funerary chamber of the great Maya ruler Pakal, is one of the most important discoveries of Pre-Columbian archaeology of all times.
Ix Chel
Ix Chel was the Maya moon goddess, patron deity of fertility, childbirth and weaving.
Lower Paleolithic (Early Stone Age)
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.
Oasis Theory
The Oasis Theory is a core concept in archaeology, referring to one of the main hypotheses about the origins of agriculture.
Archaeology Equipment: The Tools of the Trade
A photo essay of the tools that archaeologists use during the course of an investigation, before, during and after the excavations.
Archaeology Field Schools
Want to gain experience in archaeology? Thinking about a career or just looking for some interesting things to do with your summer vacation? Then the field school is for you.
Angkor Wat (Cambodia)
Angkor Wat was left out of the new Seven Wonders, something reader Jan S. cannot understand. Page 9.
Machu Picchu (Peru)
The New Seven Wonders: Machu Picchu (Peru). Page 4.
Archaeology and the Fate of Amelia Earhart
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.
Llama and Alpaca
Llamas and alpacas are two different species of camelid native to South America, and both domesticated in about the same location and the same time in the Andean highlands.
Mesoamerica Timeline
Description of the time periods for Mesoamerican archaeology. Mesoamerican civilizations timeline.
An Aztec God of Fertility and Patron of Warriors
Tonatiuh (pronounced Toh-nah-tee-uh) was the Aztec sun god. This deity had both a positive and negative aspect.
Mississippian Culture
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.
Economy, Architecture and Religion of the Inca...
Important facts about the economy, architecture and religion of the inca empire. Page 3.
Harappa (Pakistan)
Harappa is a large city of the Indus Civilization, and one of the best known sites in Pakistan, located on the bank of the Ravi River in Punjab Province.
Characteristics of Ancient Civilizations
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.
Calpulli
The Calpulli was the basic unit of social organization in the Aztec empire
Monumental Architecture
Monumental architecture refers to large man-made structures of stone or earth.
Pompeii: Buried in Ages
Arguably the best known archaeological site in the world--and one of the best documented on the web.
African Iron Age
In Africa, unlike the Europe and Asia, the Iron Age is not prefaced by a Bronze or Copper Age, but rather all the metals came at once.
Guide to Pre-Clovis
Pre-Clovis is the name archaeologists have given to the oldest and now fairly well-established human occupations of the Americas.
Viking Raids
Viking raids were a characteristic of the Scandinavian early medieval pirates called the Vikings, particularly during the first 50 years of the Viking Age (~793-850)
Atlatl
The atlatl is a sophisticated combination hunting tool or weapon, formed out of a short dart with a point socketed into a longer shaft.
History of Shoes
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.
Cave Paintings
Cave art refers to paintings, murals, drawings, etchings, carvings, and pecked artwork on the interior of rockshelters and caves.
Silkworms (Bombyx)
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.
Mehrgarh (Pakistan)
Mehrgarh is a Neolithic (7000-3200 BC) site on the Kachi plain of Baluchistan, Pakistan, and one of the earliest sites with evidence of farming (wheat and barley) and herding (cattle, sheep and goats) in south Asia.
Processual Archaeology
Processual Archaeology is the study of process, that is to say, investigations of the way humans do things, and the way things decay.
Cassava
Cassava (Manihot esculenta), also known as manioc, tapioca, yuca and mandioca, is a domesticated species of tuber, originally domesticated on the southwestern border of the Amazon Basin.

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