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.
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 initials A.D. (used with or without periods) is an abbreviation for the Latin
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.
The Iceman is the name of a 5,300-year-old human body discovered high in the Swiss/Italian Alps in 1991.
Learn more about the most important Aztec gods and and the religion of the Aztec people
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 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.
A quick photo tour of the new seven wonders of the world--plus some extras that readers say should be in there, too.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Mesolithic period in European history includes the history of the complex hunter-gatherers who developed the technology to cultivate crops.
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 modern donkey (Equus asinus) was bred from the wild African ass (E. africanus spp) in northeastern Africa during the predynastic period of Egypt, about 6,000 years ago.
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.
Clovis refers to mobile big game hunters who roamed the Americas hunting elephants and bison for a very brief time 12,000 years ago.
When and where the partnership of dog and humans first occurred is currently under considerable debate.
Proto-cuneiform is the transitional written language of Uruk period accounting in Mesopotamia, between Neolithic clay tokens and literary cuneiform.
Short list of the main facts and aspects of Aztec culture
Archaeologists use the term 'BP' to mean 'years before humans began to screw up the atmosphere by testing nuclear devices'.
The Bering Land Bridge allowed human population into the Americas some 15,000 years ago: and scholars suggest it may partly regulate global climates.
Learn more about the Homininae subfamily, including Hominini (humans and their ancestors), Panini (chimps), and Gorillini (gorillas).
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
What kind of real-life career choices do I have with a degree in archaeology?
A short course on the various dating methods used in archaeological science over the centuries. Part 1: Relative Dating
The Mesopotamian city of Ur, known as Tell al-Muqayyar, was an important Sumerian city state between about 2025-1738 BC.
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 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 collection of plant histories, when and where humans domesticated them, with a table of dates and places and links to the stories themselves.
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.
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.
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.
Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec god of war and sacrifice, learn more about Aztec mythology and religion
Ancient boats made of reed basketry and covered in pitch were built about 7500 years ago in ancient Mesopotamia, the earliest boat building known.
The history of farming begins some 12,000 years ago, in the hilly flanks of the Zagros Mountains of southwest Asia
Facts about the economics, politics, warfare, rituals, architecture, and other interesting things to know about the Maya Civilization. Page 3.
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 Out of Africa or African Replacement Hypothesis argues that every living human being is descended from a small group in Africa.
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 Ubaidian or Ubaid culture was a widespread shared set of traits and behaviors that predated the urban flowering of Mesopotamia.
Wheat was one of the very first crops domesticated by our ancestors, some 10,000 years ago in southeastern Turkey.
The Inca were the largest pre-hispanic empire of South America when it was 'discovered' by the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century AD.
A few important facts about Neandertals, part of an intensive study guide about these human ancestors. Page 2.
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 quipu (also spelled khipu or quipo) is the only known precolumbian information system in South America.
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.
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.
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.
A guide to the Olmec civilization, including timelines, important sites, important facts, subsistence and settlement, burning issues, and a bibliography
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.
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 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 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.
Facts about the Olmec concerning their colossal heads of stone, their written language, their rituals, their artwork. Page 3.
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 Ptolemies were members of the final dynasty of Egyptian pharaohs, members of a Greek family based in Alexandria.
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 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.
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.
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.
: The term "material culture" is often used by archaeologists as a non-specific way to refer to the artifacts
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.
The Inca trail system was an essential part of the success of the Inca Empire, which included an estimated 40,000 kilometers of road way
Cultural evolution is the theory that culture changes over time as an adaptive response to stimulus.
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 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 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 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...
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.
Archaeology has traced the history of rice to nearly 12,000 years ago.
The Three Sisters were what Native American groups called the combined intercropping of maize, beans and squash. Recent scientific research has shown what a stroke of genius this combination was, on many health and environmental methods.
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 history of the domesticated horse (Equus caballus) is complex, the results of the spread of this marvelous creature throughout the world.
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.
Complex hunter-gatherers or affluent foragers, are hunter-gatherers with benefits.
Tlaloc, the rain god, was one of the most important gods in Aztec religion
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dilmun was a trading center and perhaps polity, mentioned in the earliest cuneiform records of Mesopotamia, and located on the island of Bahrain.
Monumental architecture refers to large man-made structures of stone or earth.
Wine is an alcoholic beverage made from grapes; and depending on your definition of
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H3 is an Arabian Neolithic site on the northwestern coast of Kuwait, where evidence of Mesopotamian reed boats has been found dated about 5300 BC.
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.
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.
The Hopewell civilization (also called Adena in some regions) is a prehistoric culture of the American middle west.
The Mayan civilization had an extensive economic system based on trade and agriculture. Here are some details of that system.
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 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.
This page describes the mythical and archaeological origins of the Aztec people, and the founding of their capital city of TenochtitlÃ¡n
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.
Paleo-Eskimo is the collective name for the supremely adaptable cultures who colonized the American Arctic beginning about 5,000 years ago.
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
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
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.
The sheep (Ovis aries) is one of the earliest animals ever domesticated, from the mouflon and more than 10,000 years ago.
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.
The Archaic period is the name given to generalized hunter-gatherer societies in the North American continent from approximately 8000 to 2000 years BP.
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.
In archaeology, the term Site Formation Processes refers to the events that created an archaeological site.
A photo essay of the tools that archaeologists use during the course of an investigation, before, during and after the excavations.
The Aztecs had a complex set of beliefs, ceremonies and gods, each one overlooking an aspect of human life...
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.
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.
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 atlatl is a sophisticated combination hunting tool or weapon, formed out of a short dart with a point socketed into a longer shaft.
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.
Paleontology is the study of the fossil forms of all life, animals and plants. Here is a collection of definitions.
Pre-Clovis is the name archaeologists have given to the oldest and now fairly well-established human occupations of the Americas.
Megalithic structures are immense collections of stone, earth and wood, some of which were built during the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods of Europe.
The term textiles includes cloth, baskets, sandals, nets, string, cords--anything made of natural fibers. Textiles are very old indeed!
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.
Chaac, was the Mayan god of rain, water and lightning. His origins are very ancient and he was worshiped all over the Maya area...
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.
Acheulean handaxes are a type of stone tool made by our earliest hominid ancestors.
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.
Hawk bells were copper or bronze objects that were used in Medieval falconry in Europe, and also as a trade good for the conquistadors of the Americas.
Aztecs are the collective name given to seven Chichimec tribes of northern Mexico
Tonatiuh (pronounced Toh-nah-tee-uh) was the Aztec sun god. This deity had both a positive and negative aspect.
The Mesoamerican ball game was an exciting, dangerous game played by most cultures in central America.
Seriation is a method archaeologists use to create chronological maps of changes in artifacts over time, and to use those maps to illuminate relative dates of archaeological deposits and sites.
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.
Oracle bones are a type of artifact found in archaeological sites from the Shang Dynasty in China.
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.
The Aztecs, or more properly the Mexica, practiced several different types of ritual sacrifice to secure the benevolence of the gods.
Refer to this page to learn more about the origin of cotton domestication and cultivation
The Upper Paleolithic period saw great changes in the world as Homo sapiens became the only hominid running around on our planet.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Ecology is an anthropological theory put forward by Julian Steward, that considers adaptation to environment as the paramount driver in cultural change.
The southwestern gate of the upper city of Hattusha was guarded by a pair of stone lions standing at the base of a parabola arch and guard towers. Page 3.
Evidence for chicken domestication suggests that it may have been domesticated several times over the course of several centuries, but beginning by at least 8,000 years ago. Page 8.
An interview with David Dearborn, on his research at the interface between astronomy and archaeology.
Tezcatlipoca was the Aztec god of night, north direction and patron deity of Aztec kings
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.
The cities, settlement patterns, and subsistence methods of the Olmec. Page 2.