Archaeology: Most Popular Articles
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.
Facts about the economics, politics, warfare, rituals, architecture, and other interesting things to know about the Maya Civilization. Page 3.
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.
Learn more about the most important Aztec gods and and the religion of the Aztec people
Rocking art history, a handful of cave paintings in the southeast Asian island of Sulawesi are similarly dated to the oldest cave paintings in Europe.
The Iceman is the name of a 5,300-year-old human body discovered high in the Swiss/Italian Alps in 1991.
Drop in on a collection of quotes from historians--some professional, some decidedly not--trying their hand at defining the dark art of history.
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.
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.
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.
Important facts about the economy, architecture and religion of the inca empire. Page 3.
The initials A.D. (used with or without periods) is an abbreviation for the Latin
A quick photo tour of the new seven wonders of the world--plus some extras that readers say should be in there, too.
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.
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.
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.
Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec god of war and sacrifice, learn more about Aztec mythology and religion
The history of the relationship between humans and cattle is a long and varied one, with at least two and perhaps three domestication events.
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.
Short list of the main facts and aspects of Aztec culture
Learn more about the Homininae subfamily, including Hominini (humans and their ancestors), Panini (chimps), and Gorillini (gorillas).
When and where the partnership of dog and humans first occurred is currently under considerable debate.
Archaeologists use the term 'BP' to mean 'years before humans began to screw up the atmosphere by testing nuclear devices'.
The Mesolithic period in European history includes the history of the complex hunter-gatherers who developed the technology to cultivate crops.
Facts and figures about the Aztec civilization, including population size, areal extent, crops grown and rituals practiced. Page 3.
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 Little Ice Age was the last painful climate change, suffered by the planet during the Middle Ages. Here are four stories about how we coped.
A collection of plant histories, when and where humans domesticated them, with a table of dates and places and links to the stories themselves.
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
Wheat was one of the very first crops domesticated by our ancestors, some 10,000 years ago in southeastern Turkey.
The history of farming begins some 12,000 years ago, in the hilly flanks of the Zagros Mountains of southwest Asia
The Mesopotamian city of Ur, known as Tell al-Muqayyar, was an important Sumerian city state between about 2025-1738 BC.
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.
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.
The Out of Africa or African Replacement Hypothesis argues that every living human being is descended from a small group in Africa.
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.
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.
Beginning about 10,500 years ago, Neolithic people started keeping goats, for their milk, meat, dung, wool... but maybe not their sweet natures.
A few important facts about Neandertals, part of an intensive study guide about these human ancestors. Page 2.
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.
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.
What kind of real-life career choices do I have with a degree in archaeology?
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.
Pre-Clovis is the name archaeologists have given to the oldest and now fairly well-established human occupations of the Americas.
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.
The term bog bodies is used to refer to human burials, some likely sacrificed, recovered from peat bogs of Denmark, Germany, Holland, Britain, and Ireland.
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.
This page describes the mythical and archaeological origins of the Aztec people, and the founding of their capital city of TenochtitlÃ¡n
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 quipu (also spelled khipu or quipo) is the only known precolumbian information system in South America.
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 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.
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.
The Nazca Lines are large geometric animal and abstract geoglyphs from rocks in a desert in northern Peru.
Monumental architecture refers to large man-made structures of stone or earth.
Archaeological and botanical investigations lead researchers to believe that figs were the first plant domesticated in the world.
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.
Clovis refers to mobile big game hunters who roamed the Americas hunting elephants and bison for a very brief time 12,000 years ago.
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.
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.
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.
Tlaloc, the rain god, was one of the most important gods in Aztec religion
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 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 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...
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
Wine is an alcoholic beverage made from grapes; and depending on your definition of
Bloodletting rituals and sacrifices were a widespread practice among the ancient people of Mesoamerica.
Llamas and alpacas are two different species of camel in South America, both domesticated in about the same location and time in the Andean highlands.
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.
Cultural evolution is the theory that culture changes over time as an adaptive response to stimulus.
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.
A photo essay of the tools that archaeologists use during the course of an investigation, before, during and after the excavations.
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.
Chaac, was the Mayan god of rain, water and lightning. His origins are very ancient and he was worshiped all over the Maya area...
The Mesoamerican ball game was an exciting, dangerous game played by most cultures in central America.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The history of the domesticated horse (Equus caballus) is complex, the results of the spread of this marvelous creature throughout the world.
The study of tree rings can provide far more cultural information than simply the date a tree was cut down, as this study of the medieval German town of Lubeck demonstrates.
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 Upper Paleolithic period saw great changes in the world as Homo sapiens became the only hominid running around on our planet.
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.
The Aztecs, or more properly the Mexica, practiced several different types of ritual sacrifice to secure the benevolence of the gods.
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
A guide to the Olmec civilization, including timelines, important sites, important facts, subsistence and settlement, burning issues, and a bibliography
: The term "material culture" is often used by archaeologists as a non-specific way to refer to the artifacts
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A short course on the various dating methods used in archaeological science over the centuries. Part 1: Relative Dating
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 art to creating sustainable cities is one that humans have spent 10,000 years on: and modern urban planners might do well to listen to the archaeological and historical record of the failures and successes of our past.
Tezcatlipoca was the Aztec god of night, north direction and patron deity of Aztec kings
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 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.
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.
Sacsaywaman is a massive, monumental site in the Inca Empire, built as a religious center and fortress for the Inca city of Cusco.
The Inca road system included some 25,000 miles of roads, bridges, tunnels and causeways: it was an essential part of the success of the Inca Empire.
Chichen Itza - Temple of the Warriors - A Walking Tour of Chichen Itza - Ancient Maya Ruins of Mexico. Page 7.
Itzamna is one of the most important ancient Maya gods. He was considered the god of creation and the inventor of writing, and divination...
Facts about the Olmec concerning their colossal heads of stone, their written language, their rituals, their artwork. Page 3.
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.
A military and political pact formed by the Aztec of Tenochtitlan and other two cities of the Valley of Mexico. This is when the Aztec Empire began.
The Mayan civilization had an extensive economic system based on trade and agriculture. Here are some details of that system.
In archaeology, the term Site Formation Processes refers to the events that created an archaeological site.
The Royal Road was a major intercontinental thoroughfare built by the Achaemenid king Darius the Great (521-485 BC), to allow access to their conquered cities. It is also the road that Alexander the Great used to conquer the Achaemenid dynasty.
The Indus is one of the oldest societies we know of, including over 2600 known archaeological sites located along the Indus and Sarasvati rivers.
Breaking apart your data representations shows a clearer picture of seriation.
Cactus Hill is a buried multicomponent site on the Nottaway River of Virginia, with archaic, Clovis and, below the Clovis and separated by sterile sand, an apparent Pre-Clovis occupation.
Q'enqo was an important shrine and astronomical observatory for the Inca Empire, built by the Inca emperor Pachacuti in the 15th century AD.
The Aztecs had a complex set of beliefs, ceremonies and gods, each one overlooking an aspect of human life...
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.
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.
Refer to this page to learn more about the origin of cotton domestication and cultivation
Aztlan is the mythical homeland from which the Aztec/Mexica migrated to the Valley of Mexico in the 13th century.
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.
Chichen Itza - Sacred Cenote - A Walking Tour of Chichen Itza - Ancient Maya Ruins of Mexico. Page 19.
The Narmer Palette is an early Period Egyptian civilization artifact, showing the conquest of Upper and Lower Egypt by the first Egyptian pharaoh, Menes or Narmer.
Processual Archaeology is the study of process, that is to say, investigations of the way humans do things, and the way things decay.
Aztecs are the collective name given to seven Chichimec tribes of northern Mexico
Since at least the 1930s, the Ice Free Corridor hypothesis was the accepted human colonization route for the American continents; but the hypothesis has since been called into question.
Mount Sandel is the name of a small cluster of the oldest houses in Ireland, first built about 9,000 years ago. The seven small circular huts housed a small group, probably a nuclear family, as they fished and hunted on the banks of the River Bann at Coleraine.
Archaeology has traced the history of rice to nearly 12,000 years ago.
The sheep (Ovis aries) is one of the earliest animals ever domesticated, from the mouflon and more than 10,000 years ago.
Chichen Itza - Wall of Skulls (Tzompantli) - A Walking Tour of Chichen Itza - Ancient Maya Ruins of Mexico. Page 6.
Oracle bones are a type of artifact found in archaeological sites from the Shang Dynasty in China.
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
Post-Processual Archaeology is...
Mabila is the name of an as-yet undiscovered Mississippian town, at which a great battle between the Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto and the Mississippian warrior Tascalusa occurred.
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.
Ollantaytambo is the royal Incan estate of the Inca king Pachacuti, built in the 15th century AD, and the last refuge of the Inca against Pizarro.
The modern day city of Cuzco in the Andes Mountains of Peru was founded, according to legend, by Manco Capac, the founder of the Incan Civilization.
A pit house (also spelled pithouse) is a type of dwelling that was excavated partly into the earth, from a few inches to more than three feet.
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.
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.
Sedentism is the term archaeologists use to describe the process of settling down.
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.
Heinrich Schliemann, that quintessential archaeologist of the 19th century, claimed to have discovered the real site of Troy. But did he?
Archaeological flotation involves using water to process soil or feature fill to recover tiny artifacts.
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?
Arguably the best known archaeological site in the world--and one of the best documented on the web.
The story of how the Aztecs believe world originated, passed down by oral tradition, incorporating gods and myths adopted and modified from other tribes.
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 Natufian culture is the name given to the sedentary hunter-gatherers living in the Levant region of the near east between about 12,500 and 10,200 years ago.
El Castillo (Kukulcan or the Castle), Chichen Itza, Mexico. Page 16.
Great strides in understanding the development of modern human beings are being taken at the very southern tip of Africa these days.
Megalithic structures are immense collections of stone, earth and wood, some of which were built during the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods of Europe.
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.
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.