Ask the Experts

Our Experts, who have volunteered to share their time and information, include researchers, university professors, AIA Board members, ancient art historians, field archaeologists, museum specialists, architectural historians, and more – all with specialized knowledge of specific ancient cultures and subjects.

We have created a catalogue of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). In the FAQ section are answers to some of the questions archaeologists are most often asked, arranged by topic. If you want to know the meaning of a particular archaeological term, please check our online Glossary.

If you cannot find an answer in the FAQ, please leave a comment! Please be patient, since our volunteer archaeologists are sometimes excavating, teaching, or otherwise occupied, and may not be able to respond immediately.


Im interested in Identifying some ancient books and writing. I'm unable to find anyone that can understand the writing. Its seem to be a mixture of Arabic and Hebrew I think, and maybe a n outdate language.

I can send a few pictures if anyone has an interest in seeeing them.




We would recommend contacting a local university or college.

Can anyone identify this? I dug it up in the woods in my backyard in Northern NJ about 35 years ago.  

Hello. For some reason I cannot view the photo that you posted. I am a NJ-based forensic geologist and have published on archeological discoveries.  I may be able to assist. My email is if someone has not already helped you.

You know, I had the weirdest dream about easter island and the community being an advance civilization. All I've seen tho about it was the Easter Heads based on the recognition of people's findings that advance their civilize manners. Everything from politics to architect of contraptions. I'm sure if they were alive today they tell us every name of each head before a volcanic incident and rough environmental sea demolish that whole sea island. 

 The people who weren't excepted by their community was vanqished on the other side of the island. I couldn't tell if it was eastern or southern but the funny thing tho is what I was doing that brought the whole imagination to me. I was using my ipad in island hopping the map/gps navigation using the 3d real time option. Me and my father were talking about the calderas in the pacific area and then all of a sudden i jumped onto the easter island. Now the unlucky island I looked at had a funny looking impact crater which was argued by my father as a caldera. I wouldn't doubt a soil geologist in taking a quick glance at it but I also had a weird thought. 

During a time as a tribesman I was standing on the north end of the island  admiring the stars as if it had something to tell me about existence. no Asterology philosophy but a person looking for reason to be recorded bigger then the faces of my own tribe. All of a sudden a big burning star crashes to the southern part of the island which lit up the horizon. As if it was a sign of something that I was asking for in proof of existence.  Then I wake up and realized it was just a dream... Anyways beyond that I dreamt about the future in the discovery of the impact crater where 50 feet of dirt was remove in claming it to be a lava tube, but also a debate on the actuality of it to be a portion of a comet gas tail. Or maybe even something worst undeclared as a hybrid asteroid/comet do to the internal gases not expanding till the rock has entered the atmosphere causing it to fall at greater speeds like a missle. Either way while writing this I had an imagination of a black and white photo or an earlier Polaroid picture of a crew who lifted it on a pully and discovered it already but misclaiming the actual findings. 

Either way I found no evidence or claims on the internet as hot searches for the discovery of what that was on the east island but I also started chuckling about if my imagination was real how ironic it was for the people to fled to the east part of the island during the "pompai" incident which shook the ocean to and how much safer the souther part of the island would be which was considered to have nothing and was deserted as an exile demonic place... Apparently in actuality it would of been safer but like I said I had no direction in my dreams just clues even tho I'm a sagittarius.

Anyways my question is is their any evidence of that crater being volcanic or an impact crater? 


Hello could anyone post a pic of a bison tooth? I think I've found one in a river bank but not 100% sure that's what it is.



I am having an argument with someone as regards hominid adaptation to the cold without furs and it would be really helpful if an archaeologist could provide me with details of any archaeological sites in arctic(or at least cold) climates where Homo Erectus fossils were found. All I could find online was some mention of Denisovans fossils found in the Altai mountains(now  a very cold, arid environment), but I was wondering if earlier hominids, such as homo erectus, had been found in Siberia or similiar cold environment? Thanks!

So I'm considering a story, and in it I need a library to be found after a long time, but the books are still in decent, if not perfect, condition. How old could this hypothetical library be, and be realistic?  Basicly, in a decent, unbreached enviroment, how long could paper or parchment last without care?

Was digging up some dirt, doing construction work and found a mask along with some other items in the ground. It looks like it's made of almost a marble material, very heavy. Almost like a long necklace. It was found in Guanajuato, MX.
I wish I could post a picture to show.

Is there anywhere I could take this to see the value of this item? I'm located in Chicago, IL.

Could you help me. I want to sell this document...

Dear Aslan,

The AIA does not buy or sell artifacts or assist with such commercial activities.

Why would an early inhabitant of New France have their head detached and placed between its knees or leg area when found buried. The skeleton was found in small graveyard dating to around 1705. Might it have something to do with witchcraft? Can you please respond asap

Is there a template or formula against which to evaluate the technology of a civilization? For instance, what is the value of a stick compared with the value of a pointed stick? If we were comparing two civilizations, one with a stick and one that had developed the pointed stick, how can we determine by how much the other civilization progressed?

Is there reason to believe that moch of the evidence of man during the Ice Ages would exist below sea level. After all men tend to settle warmer regions near shores. If man did so during the Ice Ages evidence would be far below current sea levels.

Why couldn't Core 7 have been drilled with a version of a hand brace drilling device with a shoulder mount looking like the top of a walking crutch only updside down, 3 men could drill it switch out positions and using leg power to push up, and the arm power of the other two, and using emerald or sapphire dust, prefferably sapphire with it being harder, with a copper cylinder head? Its not very hard to believe the Ancient Egyptians could have come up with multiman use tools, they had both sapphire and emerald, both harder than the granite, and no wooden pieces of such a tool would survive. Not positive if this has been thought of, ruled out, etc.. I just leanred of this watching Ancient Impossible, Season 1 Ep 6 that said no one had any idea how they could have accomplished it on H2 and I have no degree in engineering, archeology, geology, minerology, or any degree higher than an AA degree in psychology and biology and I thought of this while watching them talk about it. I'm sure the best minds of ancient egypt, whose sole job was the building of complex monuments and coming up with new technologies, could have figured it out. Yes, I understand that I'm predisposed to that technology, even if known as an at least medievil technology, I'm pretty sure a group of people's whose entire job was coming up with ways to do seemingly impossible jobs could have figured it out, or something close to it. Like I said, I'm asking, or at very most suggesting.

Peer-reviewed Journal of Archaeological Science.

'There is no radiocarbon date, but they make a convincing date that the mineralization and taphonomy of the incisions happened along the same time-line as the bone itself; and that the bone is from the Vero beach deposits. That is, it is not an imported specimen, nor is it a recent forgery. By comparison to the known pattern of extinction of megafauna (the bone is either proboscidean or sloth) then none and incision are inferred to be at least 13,000 calendar years old.'

Sir/Ms... I recovered many years ago what a University collections manager described as a 'carbonate encrusted chert nodule'  that has what a prudent person would agree is a trunked  mammal carved/ground/pecked in relief.  It is obvious to the enlightened that it is not recent.

If the carving/egraving from the Vero Beach artifact were discovered on a piece of chert would it have warranted a second look?. It appears to the layperson the medium (bone) taxonomy was requisite to validation . Also could you give me the concensus on Infrared Laser Raman Spectrography as it applies to ageing lithic material?

Thx in Advance


There was an account (maybe read it in NGA mag) of a discovery done by amateur explorers somewhere in Asia, I think near or around Cambodia, but it could be near the Harappans too, because of the tales from children that played in the jungle around one of the edifices. It quickly became obvious to the amateur explorers they needed professionals and that was the beginning of a huge discovery of a civilization that had sewers before the Romans did. I think the Harappans, did too, but I am not sure if this is the story, as I thought the discovery I talk about was in the 80’s and I understand the Harappans were discovered in the 20’s. 


Anyone heard about this?

I work in a very small school district in north east Ohio and have a young man (13 yrs. old) who would love to go into archaeology but is planning on becoming a mechanic instead "because I should focus on what is possible rather than something I know can't come true."   

Are there any volunteer opportunities in north east Ohio that are open to teens, which might show him that this IS a door he might open?


You recently provided a web address for online graduate degree programs--both master's and PhD-- offered in the U.S. and England.  Would you please provide an similar web address for online undergraduate degree programs offered in the U.S., Canada or England?  I have had difficulty in finding an authoritative list through my own searching.  Thank you.

I was stationed at Shemya island in the Aleution chain and was looking at it through google maps satellite view and noticed a carving that looked like a fish on the north east portion of the Island. Was wondering if you could look into this

Hi. I'd like to know what tense should be used to describe the features, say a tomb, when writing an archaeological report. Thanks!

Dear Westwind,

Typically, archaeological reports are written in the past tense as you are generally talking about work that was completed.



My friend looking for a having Master/Phd degree in Archaeology via online. he lives in Iraq,are there any programs in US unversities offering this kind of opportunity?He already has a Master in Archaeology from Baghdad University.

Thank You,

Ghaith Al

Hi Ghaith Al,

There are a few universities in the US and UK that offer online MA degrees in Archaeology. Here is a link that may be helpful:


In the Wescar Papyrus it refers to a the character "Reddedet" as the wife of a "wab-pnest of Re". It seems to suggest a follower or priest. My question is what is a wab-pnest of Re? Is wab-pnest mentioned elsewhere that defines the term or is the definition of the term based itself off the Wescar Papyrus? Second question, could a member of a royal family also be refered to as a wab-pnest of Re?


I was watching a documentary on ancient Eygpt, when I had a thought; Did the Eygyptians study history and archeology from even earlier civilizations?

Kind regards,



Hi Alex,

This is a tough question but here is the response from one of our Egyptian archaeology specialists:

The earlier groups in Egypt were the ones from which  the later civilization developed over the course of thousands of years. There is technically no earlier history because the field of 'history' begins with writing and when writing begins we already have ancient Egypt. I cannot think of any attestations of Egyptians being concerned about prehistoric people living in broader Africa or the Middle East. They would 'collect' elite goods which may have been old that may have traveled to Egypt from elsewhere but that's not really studying another culture.



I have a friend in the Philippines whose grandfather stumbled across what appears to be a collection of burial pots on his land.  They are definitely pottery because one of the tribal people washed off a small section of one of the objects and it was like wet, unfired pottery.  They are rounded, a bit larger than a basketball, and have a pinched closed opening.  This is a very delicate subject in that part of the world because so much of tribal history has been lost to looters and people who have taken advantage of the tribe and bought their artifacts for very little money. My friend has possession of one of these -- they do not wish to contact the government, they have in general been treated very badly by the government.  They do however wish to have an archaeologist look at them.  It is my understanding that an archaeologist in the Philippines must get permission from the government to even take a look at something like this.  The site is fairly near the facepots that were found in 2008 (I think).  Do you know of any legal way to have an archaeologist to just take a look at these things and maybe help them decide what to do, if anything?  I'm not in PH, I'm in California.  I have urged them to not wash any more pots, and to just leave them in place because I think that in order to figure out what they are would require the site to be undisturbed as possible.  We speak through hangouts.  I've been doing some fundraising and education volunteer work with this tribe, I gave them some computers  ( I am a web developer by profession) which they have taken too rather quickly which is why we are able to communicate through hangouts.

She is a member of the tribe.


Could you contact me directly at



What are some of the best sources to use when trying to learn more about the archaeologic field? And what sources would be best to use when trying to find out how to choose the right college and field for a high schooler interested in this?

I have found pebble artifacts in gravel that once was in the North Sulphur River in Tx. Many things are depicted including animals, rituals involving 2 human faces pressed together and mastodon carvings which indicate the spiritual union of humans and mastodons. They really are not photographable or reproducable; I am doing drawings of the depictions. Please advise me.

Hi Carol,

You should contact the Texas State Archaeologist's office and discuss these finds with them.



I was wondering if you might be able to tell me if universities had to be accredited in some way other than regionally or nationally in order to be considered an official school of archaeology, soft of like engineering has ABET.

Hi Dylan,

No, there is not an overseeing body that accredits archaeology programs.


I would appreciate your guidance on these two questions:

1.  Is there a list somewhere of the extant writings remaining from the Old Kingdom (not about the Old Kingdom)?

2.  If Egyptian pyramids were looted during the Old and/or Middle Kingdoms, the loot must have been sold to someone.  It is logical that only the rich would have been able to purchase such purloined items from thieves.  If this is correct, there must be large personal caches of looted items removed from pyramids and other tombs during the two-three thousand years prior to the Greeks and Romans.  Why have these caches not come to light?

Dear Dr. Jennings,

In response to your first question, I would suggest that you look at this link:

As for question two...

I would think that most looted objects would have been melted down or otherwise dismantled and sold. Also while there may have been collectors there is no reason to assume that collections would have stayed intact over thousands of years. “Collectors” probably sold or distributed some objects while other objects may have been lost or damaged. Regardless, even if objects were collected they probably were dispersed over time. 



What evidence is there for migration out of Africa into Australia (40-60kya) as opposed to migration out of Indonesia to Australia?

Certianly the most direct route is through Indonesia but if one does not stay there very long there might not be enough DNA changes to suggest they actually came from that location.

Can you shed some light on this?

I believe Australia was populated by humans who migrated out of Africa and, almost non-stop, ended up in Australia.  Others I am talking to do not and think they came from a group that was resident (for some time) in Indonesia.

Thank you for your response.


Hi Bill,

This article might help with your question, It does appear that people were in Australia around 50,000 years ago.


I'm from Northern Ireland and live in the country and have alot of fields around my house that my family own, if i were to start digging and found ancient artifacts that were maybe a few thousand years old or even dinosaur fossils, what right would the government have to to come on to my land or to claim the artifacts/fossils as government property, would i not get a say in the ownership of anything found on my own land?

Hi Jason,

I would suggest that you get more information on the Treasure Act and antiquities law in Northern Ireland at



I have several fossils/relics I have kept with me over the years, originally found during my adventurous youth.  How would I go about finding someone to examine them and provide information on its time period, history etc?  

- Shark teeth from a creek in Selma, AL

- A stone hatchet head, with what looks like old blood stains, from a mountain in northeast AL

- A rock with hundreds of fossils from the TN river


This is purely for curiousity's sake.  Thanks in advance for any assistance.

Hi Travis,

You should contact your State Archaeologist or Historic Preservation Officer. They or someone at their office will be able to help. Local musuems would also be a good place to look for information.




im writing an archeology essay for university. It is a first year essay and the topic is a bit ambiguous so I was wondering if someone could help me with a few ideas, I'm pretty stuck.



is hunting and gathering a way of life(culture), or a form of economic subsistence(survival)?

i decided to use the  both option, but I don't have much to say.

Hi Andrija,

Hunting and gathering is both a way of life and a form of economic subsistnece so I would agree with your choice of both.


Submitted by Ray

How long did modern Homo sapiens and Neanderthals co-exist? Most of my research says approximately 5000 years. If Y-chromosomal Adam lived approximately 338,000 years ago. If you believe the fossils of omo1 and omo2 are fully anatomically modern Homo sapiens that lived approximately 200,000 years ago. that would give us approximately 160,000 years that we could have co-existed. Surly not all Neanderthal tribes left Africa at the same time. As the Neanderthals left looking for food and better climate doesn't it seem likely some of the Homo sapien tribes would have followed their Neanderthals cousins.

Hi Ray,

The 5000 to 6000 year overlap is for humans and neanderthals in Europe. Several sources seem to indicate that interbreeding may have occured between the two groups especially in the Middle East for a lot longer than that--around 20,000 years. See this article:


Submitted by Katherine

When a new fossil has been found, how do you know if it is part of the same species as current animals, or that it is an abnormality?   I was having a debate with my brother who thinks we didn't evolve, and explained away fossil evidence that it was probably someone with down syndrome, or bone abnormalities.

Submitted by Ben Thomas

Hi Katherine,

This question would be best answered by a paleontologist. Generally, scientists who discover fossils have to compare the new finds to existing fossils. They look for unique characteristics that cannot be explained by abnormalities or variation within a known species. But this is a very simplistic explanation for a complex issue. For more on identifying species and how it works, look at these articles:


I'm about done with a novel involving archaeology. But I need expertise for accuracy. If an archaeologist were doing underground excavation and found an ancient mural in an ancient Roman dig , would the archaeolgist use a flash camera to record the image?

I gather there's some controversy about whether flash cameras really damage art. But even if they would not normally be used in my situation, how would an archaeologist record the image without flash if there's insufficient ambient light? Some other kind of camera? A drawing? Thanks for your help.

Michael Polelle

Professor Emeritus


I was curious as to the condition of a sword that was found in beach sand near the ocean.  If it were a steel sword and was buried 300 years ago, would the sword still be intact, or would it be rusted through and not identifiable?  The reason I am asking is I am writing a children's book about buried treasure and a sword would be found in the same site as the treasure and I want to write it as accurately as possible. 

Thank you for your time,


Submitted by Ben Thomas

How well (or badly) an item is preserved over time depends on its composition and the conditions in which it is buried. In this case, our experts believe that it would be safe to assume that the object would be recognizable as a sword but would be rusty and dull. Also, the hilt, depending on its material, would preserve differently from the rest of the sword.

I've found that some of the most important Mesozoic formations of China (Yixian, Jiufotang), are located in territories, where the cultures with oldest depictions of chinese dragons developed. Is there any link between early dragon represantations and dinosaur fossils, or is this just a coincidence?

Submitted by Ben Thomas

While we cannot be completely certain that the discovery of fossils and the stories of dragons are linked, I would not be surprised if they were. Look at this entry from


I am majoring in AnthropologyArchaeology, with a specific interest in the Ancient Near East. What languages would be most useful to learn for this field of study? What languages are most popular in publishing related texts? 

Thank you.

Submitted by Ben Thomas


The more commonly taught ancient Near Eastern languages are Sumerian, Akkadian, and Ugaritic. You may also be interested in the four main languages in the area: Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish, and Persian.

Hello there (and sorry for the length),

I have always been interested in fossils (found my first in a ravine in San Diego, CA. at the age of 6).  I know that fossils are dated with a variety of methods, one of them being the measure of the half life or radiactive decay etc.  I also understand the great pressure and time it requires to cause bones to fossilize.  

But when I look at historical cartography and references, "here be dragons" always comes up. Sometimes the term was used to designate dangerous or unexplored seas, but it started being observed in writings/maps more and more as seafarers (and explorers) traveled further and further into the unknown. 

As superstitious as I think men have been in the past, I believe there are enough historical records and accounts to ensure the possibility that there actually was physical living creatures that inspired the use of the term "dragon", rather than just superstitious hearsay.

Now I dont necessarily believe all 'dragons' were flying or fire-breathing (perhaps some, perhaps none, not all though).  Maybe SOME were only large snakes like anacondas, or lizards like komodo dragons.  But It makes sense to me that if a man encountered a larger than average reptilian animal, possibly scaled or furred, such as a dinosaur, the first thing he would call it is a dragon.  Yes, this was in the time before the complex taxonomy of animals, but I think a men (even superstitious men) know the difference between a newt, and a leviathan.

The historical references where dragons are named though, arent old enough for bones to fossilize, so fas as science has led me to believe.  

I say all of this to ask this question:  Is it possible that the timeline of fossilization could be advanced by catalysts, possibly through a combination of influences, such as active elements in the sediment reacting together (my chemistry is horrid), or environmental events (meteors striking would cause the addition of elements, sediments, ores etc, as well as heat and force)?  

I just find incongruities in the historical records citing dragons (which were most likely dino's)  and the fact that fossils take millions of years to form.  

Maybe its more likely that whatever dinosaurs or 'dragons' still existed when man began reciting his history were hunted to extinction.  But if thats the case, then again, where are the bones among the ruins that have been exhumed?  Among all the chalices and bullion that have been found?  Maybe any carcasses were fully utilized, bones ground for supposed restorative properties?

Thank you very much for taking a look at my question, I appreciate your time.  Feel free to chuckle at some of my layman conjectures :)


See this piece from on dragons and dinosaurs:

Hello, my english class is doing a career essay and I am writing about archaeology for my essay. I was wondering if it was possible for you to answer some of the questions I have about archaeology. When looking for information about archaeology, there is not that much in depth answers on what actual archaeologist think about their job, so I was wondering, if possible, if you would be able to answer some of the questions I have about being an archaeologist.

  • What are the most important skills and attributes needed for an archaeologist?
  • What are a couple of misconceptions people have about being an archaeologist?
  • What is a typical working day for you?
  • How much travel is involved in your job?
  • What are the benefits or disadvantages of being an archaeologist?
  • What educational classes do you need to take to become an archaeologist?

If possible, can you answer any of the questions above. Also, if you have any additional information that you think would be helpful it would be wonderful if you could add it.



Submitted by Ben Thomas

Dear Laurel,

We get too many requests like this and cannot answer each one. Please refer to the Education section of our website for answers to these questions. Look under Archaeology 101.

Where can I find the exact longitudes and latitudes (to the nearest arc second) for Egyptian pyramids?  I know that the locations for the major pyramids can be found in the Wikipedia entry for each famous pyramid, but I cannot find the exact longitudes and latitudes for the less famous pyramids, e.g., the Unfinished Pyramid at Zawiyet el-Aryan.

Submitted by Ben Thomas

I would suggest using a program like Google Earth to get these locations.

There are a lot of rumors about piercings in Ancient Rome and Egypt. I've seen some that say centurions pierced their nipples, and even that Julius Caesar had pierced ears. Some sites say that King tut is the oldest known person to have stretched earlobes. Oh, and of course that navel piercings were popular with the Pharoahs.  Any truth to any of that?

and if not, what is the truth about piercings in these cultures?



do dolmen roofs tilt in a certain direction

Submitted by Ben Thomas

No. A dolmen is defined simply as two or more upright stones that support a horizontal one.

I've been looking at images of the Sphinx in Egypt and it seems off? For example the paws are massive in comparison to the tiny head pearched on the top. When everything else is almost perfectly porportioned when it comes to Egypt's ancient ruins, why is one of the largest and most recognized symbol so odd looking and out of character? 



I am teaching secondary students a unit on the discovery of Otzi the Iceman.  We notice that an artefact located with the body is described as 'green leaves' (having been green leaves).  Is anyone able to explain the science that allows us to know that the leaves were green? 


Thank you,  Ian


I can understand how relative chronological sequences of Egyptian kings can be arrived at by archaeological investigations and ancient historical records.  What don’t understand, is by what means contemporary dates (i.e.,  c.1293-1291BCE for Ramses I) are ascribed to specific reigns.

There seems to be some variations between dates, such as those of Dr. P. A. Piccione, Ian Shaw (Oxford), and others.  Is this due to different methods of dating, or interpretations of the data.

Than you for your consideration,

Timothy Stevenson

How did ancient egyptians raise the sails on their ships? I just saw a program on the Science channel indicating they did not have block and tackle, something I question deeply. It is one thing to say we did not find block and tackle and quite another to think they did not have the technology, hence my curiosity about sails. Even a simple pulley is a big step in that direction. Thanks!

According to our expert on Egyptian ships the ancient Egyptians did not use pulleys. They used lines that were passed through rings on the sides of a mast head. This point-like bone artifact is actually completely dull, the edges are nearly sqaured off. Any ideas? Thanks very much!

Thanks for your inquiry. As a rule we don't comment on artifacts (or images of artifacts) that are not from excavated contexts. You should check with a local museum or historical society.

My grandmother told me a story about her sister throwing many family artifacts into a bog on their farm.  Apparently, she went a little mad one day.  From what she described, there were some significant historical items among them, such as a set of two drone bagpipes and a solid silver coat-of-arms.  My uncle purchased the farm and subsequently filled in the bog to protect his livestock and increase the amount of tillable land.

Supposing that artifacts can survive for millennia in a bog, what happens to those artifacts after a bog is filled in?  Are the artifacts still preserved?  Is the length of time they will survive shortened?

Thank you for your assistance,

Daren Loucks


The objects could have survived depending on their robustness, the materials with which they were made, the nature of the fill material, and the manner in which the bog was filled. If the fill material was acidic then a lot of the organic materials will have deteriorated. The process of filling in the bog could have crushed the more delicate artifacts but they would still be preserved. The silver should have survived but some of the delicate objects like the bagpipes may be beyond rescue.

I've been kicking around an idea for a play based around an archaeological dig. The biggest problem keeping me from starting (is overthinking things, but I digress) is that I'm uninformed on a few details that I really want to get accurate first.

1.) What organizations preside over archaeological digs? Universities, I take it, but are there others?

2.) Where do archaeologists live and/or stay during digs? Do they tend to stay in an area where they have expertise? Or, for example, does an American archaeologist live in America but fly out to Africa to dig at a new site there? During a dig, do they stay in a hotel, or is there somewhere else? Are they typically allowed to bring their spouse and/or children if the situation demands it?

3.) Where do artifacts go after they have been dug up? How exactly do they fall into the hands of museums and private collectors? Who else might end up with them?

I think that's all I have for now. I'm sure more questions will plague me down the road.

Please check out the Education section of our website. The answers to most of your questions are on the website under FAQ and Introduction to Archaeology. In many countries archaeology is overseen by government agencies. Universities typically have to get permits from a government agency to carry out an excavation. But rules vary across the globe. Living conditions and rules also vary by site and region. Archaeologists can (and do) travel out of their home countries for excavation. Artifacts that end up with private collectors were often stolen from archaeological sites and sold illegally.

What can you tell me about Mayan bee god Ah-Muzen-Cab?

Hi there. My career exploration class and I have to make a project on the profession of our choice. Interested in archeology, I chose this subject. My teacher has asked us to find someone who is in this field of work and ask them the following questions. I would be very grateful if you'd answer these questions.

-  describe your job in a few sentences.

-how many times have you changed jobs in your life?

-what do you like about your work?

-how long have you been working in this field?

-what are some obstacles you encounter?

-what kind of post-secondary studies did you follow?

-do you have any social benefits?

-if you could change anything about your work, what would it be?

-is it possible to open your own "business" in this field?

-does being a man or a woman have an effect on the reality of your work?


thank you, it's greatly appreciated!



We get too many requests like this and cannot answer each one. Please refer to the Education section of our website for answers to these questions.

               I have an artifact that was my grandfathers'. who had found it when he was digging a canal about 60 years ago.its been lying around the house for ages now. Nobody seems to know what it is? or how old it is? i personally think its a plate.its made of bronze i think.and its from the Pakistan-Afganistan region.It would be a please if you could tell me what it really is and how old it is.. 
                                              thanking you in anticipation.

As a rule we don't comment on artifacts (or images of artifacts) that are not from excavated contexts.


I'm wondering are there any burials in hocker position in Roman empire? Or in AD centuries? Do you know?


Thank you!

I am in need of answers! How does an archaeologist choose his site?

Please refer to the Education section of our website and look up FAQ and the Introduction to Archaeology.

i need help identifying or evaluating a wooden statue that was found buried in Jerusalem 20 years ago

As a rule we don't comment on artifacts (or images of artifacts) that are not from excavated contexts.

I am incredibly torn: I know I want to be an archaeologist. However, I'm not sure if I want to be an Assyriologist or an Egyptologist! Both are such passions of mine; since I was a child, I've been almost equally obsessed with both cuneiform tablets and mummies! Both the walls of Babylon and the pyramids of Egypt! Both require a lot of work, with Egyptology requiring an incredibly amount of determination, willingness to work like crazy and for ridiculous hours, and a competetive spirit, and Assyriology demanding the same things but on a lesser basis (only, like, 1 in every 5 Egyptologist have actual careers). Is it possible to be both? Could I get, like, a Masters in Near Eastern archaeology, and a pHD in Egyptology? Or does an archaeologist have to only one subfield? 


Verily eagerly awaiting your response,


We found a rock at Christmas cove in MI that has a very interesting imprint on it. an oval shape with what looks like letters and a symbol. It just looks to much like something to be a fluke. I have taken a picture of it so if there is a way for me to email it to someone please contact me. Thank you

Resently I have found a fossil tooth in my creek that is very large. It's not a shark tooth but i can only tell that it's from a plant-eating animal and that it's also not from a dinosaur. what kind of animal fossils have been found in Missouri that would probably be my tooth?

I found two , what appear to be musket balls on my property in rural southern Colorado. One appears to be about 40 or 45 caliber and is made with  gold alloy or plated with gold. The other is made of silver and is smaller. It has two rings around the equator of the ball and has numbers and letters inscribed on it. The Inscriptions on the ball are so small that you have to look through a magnifying glass to see them clearly but are very intricately carved I have pictures of both balls and a very old rusted buckle that was found next to them that I could send if someone were interested in taking a look. I can be reached at 719-491-1970

Did the Jordan River ever reach the Red Sea - particularly, during the period Man may have lived nearby?

Dear Norris,

It does not appear that the Jordan River ever reached the Red Sea. The terminus of the Jordan River is the Dead Sea.

Hello, my name is Mike Ludwig. I am a 15 year high school student attending a parochial school in northern New Jersey. I have always had a very strong interest in arachaeology and history, and I would like to take steps to enter this field. I am in honors classes with currently a 4.2 and I am also a starter on the football team. I say this because it means I don't have trouble in academics and I could certainly get into a school of choice. As a freshman, what steps can I take to get my foot in the door, so to speak? Should I read on the subject and take classes on the sciences related to archaeology? Should I visit lectures at local colleges? What should I be doing to get a good foundation of knowledge and experience on top of my historical knowledge? Mind you, despite my interest in adventure and cultural experiences similar to that of Indiana Jones, I understand the reality most archaeologists face. I have heard it is 90% studying and 10% in the field, which I accept. I also understand the amount of pay is not always sufficient, but this is my passion. I  would like some advice from experienced archaeologists who were once in the same position I am in today. Thank you.

Please refer to our section on Archaeology under Education

I hope that I'm directing this question at the right people. If I'm not, please forgive the intrusion. If you do know anyone who can field my queries, please let me know.

My question actually stems from the recent trend of barefoot running around the United States. Many people laud the benefits of barefoot running, claiming that this more natural approach actually helps to improve things such as posture and muscular imbalances and helps to eliminate pain in the lower extremities, specifically the knee and ankle joints and the lower back. Basically, the argument is that if prehistoric man and even ancient cultures didn't see the need for shoes, why should we? 
I find several issues with this line of thinking, but I'm always interested in finding the truth, or fact, about things. People believe all sorts of wacky things on scant information, only to discover their folly years later. In this case, though, 've done some reading so far and it seems that many cultures, including the ancient Greeks and the not-so-ancient American Indians, saw no need for footwear a majority of the time.
That's an interesting discovery for me, but it still doesn't tell me enough. So I figured I'd appeal to the authority on the subject; that is, people who have analyzed remains of people from many different cultures in which footwear wasn't in vogue.
So, I ask you, while examining the remains of people and cultures, have you discovered evidence to support the idea that older, even ancient or prehistoric peoples were actually healthier because they traipsed around the world without shoes, or does the evidence support otherwise? Things like arthritis in lower joints, shin splints and stress fractures all seem like decent indicators that prehistoric footwear (that is, nonexistent or poor footwear) isn't actually a better alternative to a comfortable pair of New Balances. The frequency in which they are found also seems important. But you're the experts, and I'm all ears.
My second question may be outside the scope of your expertise, but if the evidence seems to support the healthfulness of living sans shoes, would it be a safe application today considering the toughness of modern surfaces such as asphalt, which a majority of people are walking on?
 I appreciate any time you take to answer these questions. Thanks! I hope to hear from you. 

i need help finding information about a historic soapstone bowl that i have. if you have time please help me.

Hello, i am half way through my current degree but i've always had a passion for history, espically Ancient Egypt though i know a few degrees i can do to become a Archaaeologist, but i would just like to know what you did to become one ( degree wise) and what happened after you finshed you're degree. I love history with a passion but i would like to know more about how to find a job when i am done with it. Plus what an expert would like to tell me how to go about doing this.

i have an old piece which written on it an ancient script i need to know what is the language of this script and the ages of this language and what is it's translation

any one can help


To whom it may concern,

Hello, I would like to ask some questions, as a rising freshman, I am taking a course called Pre AP World History, and just finished a magnificent book called "The Source" by James A. Michener. With this book, I was given some assignment questions to answer and hand in to my teacher on the first school day. I had finished up most of the questions, but there were two questions that I am currently confused about. I would really appreciate it if you could help me with these 2 problems.

1. What is an archaeological tel?
2. By what means do historians & archaeologists date, classify and arrive at generalizations about the civilizations?
If you could answer these two questions, I would greatly appreciate it. 
N. Kumar

Hello! I am looking for graduate school programs to pursue my career in archaeology! I am currently a history major with a chemistry minor, going into my senior year of college. I am looking specifically for a PhD program for carbon-14 dating or conservation. However, I do not know where to begin! What types of programs should I be looking for? What exactly is the title of the profession that I would be involved in?

How would you make something to last for thousands of years to be discovered in the future? You dig to find things people in the past left behind...but how would you make something that would last for the future to receive. Like an archive/library...

Hello I have a question about mummies. I have been arguing with people in my university about the reason why mummies, after being mummified could still have skin, hair, etc... after being found thousands of years later. I have read many different arguments about how or why this could have occurred. The answer I found most commonly and that makes most sense to me is that ancient Egyptians would use salt, which would take out the moisture away from the body, therefore maintaining the features of the body for many years to come. nevertheless, I have professors and books that state that humanity is still uncertain of what was used in keeping the mummies preserved. So I guess my question to you would be, do we as humans know for certain what helped preserve the mummies or is it just educated guesses that archaeologists and scientists assume?

Thank you

Nasrri Q.

Dear Nassri, You are right about the ancient Egyptians using salt (in this case natron) in the mummification process. We actually know quite a lot about how the Egyptians mummified the dead. Check out this link:

Despite constant research, endless lists, and email exchanges with current grad students, I've yet to decide which area of study would be best. I've got a BA in Anthropology and an MLitt in Museum and Gallery Studies; my passion is in preserving the archaeological integrity of material culture and the sites yielding it. I'll travel anywhere to get the training required to perform at the highest level.

I'd love most of all to work in the field as well as the lab, and avoid teaching if possible (taught for several years and didn't care for it). There isn't one specific geographical area that thrills me; I'm very open. Yet after taking into account the length and cost of programs, job prospects, faculty research interests, and type of degree offered, I'm still a bit lost.

Forgive me for not having a more specific question, but I've not had much guidance to this point. Is there any advice you can give that might help refine my focus? Is there anything I haven't considered?

Thank you so much for offering your help on this wonderful site.

My advice would be to participate in an archaeological field school. A field school will give you an opportunity to try both field and lab work. There are also programs that provide opportunities to assist with conservation. For field opportunities look at

I wonder if you can help. If one discovers ancient coins can you keep them or must you give them up to the authorities?


I am a junior at Kalamazoo College and have an interest in the chemistry of archaeology, particularly preservation. I am required to complete a Senior Individualized Project, or SIP, and am interested in working at an active archaeological lab. I would really appreciate talking to any expert who has a project I could be involved in. I am a hard-working and dedicated student who is very excited to explore this field.

NEXT November (2013 – yes I am planning ahead!) I will have 40 days between archaeological projects in Jordan.

These are volunteer projects and I am not 'attached' to any particular university or study program IN Jordan.

So I am investigating learning some basic Arabic over the 40 days. I know it will be very beginner level however it has to be a marked improvement on the 3 basic phrases I know now!.

Any suggestions for a language class conducted in November/December over such a short period – 40 days?

Location is not an issue since I finish in Wadi Musa (mid November 2012) and relocate to Tabaqat Fahl in the north at the beginning of January 2013.

Many thanks for any advice

Barbra Wagner





dear experts

i was wondering if you could tell me and others how archaeology has helped researchers understand the ways early stages of human religion are examined cross-culturally?   that is:  how have archaeological finds changed the way we understand things like shamans, religious experiences, shared beliefs, union of educational and other social functions within a belief system?   thank you.

jonathan sheriff

Dear Jonathan,

This is a great question that cannot be adequately answered in a forum like this. Tracing the origins of religion is a difficult issue. Archaeological investigations can help us identify “religious” objects, ritual spaces, and religious iconography. I qualified “religious” because the designation of an ancient artifact as religious is based on the archaeologist’s interpretation of the object. Furthermore, since we deal with material remains, we cannot say when religious belief first emerged but we can make statements about its manifestation in object form. Once objects have been identified as religious artifacts, we can usually trace how they changed (both in form and function) over time. Creating a chronology for the evolution of religion within different cultures allows us to compare and contrast them. Cross-cultural comparisons, however, have to be undertaken cautiously. Many cultures share superficial similarities. Archaeology shows us in material terms that human cultures have been dealing with ideological and “religious” issues for a very long time.



I have a clay doll found in Northern California that I would like more information on. It was found in what I believe was an area inhabited by indians. Would like to provide a photo.





Dear Richard,

Thank you for contacting the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA). The AIA follows a strict code of ethics that precludes us from examining undocumented objects like the clay doll that you have in your possession. To view our code of ethics please go to


Ben Thomas
Director of Programs, AIA


My name is Elena and i am 13 years old.  This year i am doing a project for history day on archeology. this year the theme is revolution, reaction, and reform.   I would love to speak with an archeologist and have an archeologist answer this question:  if / how has carbon 14 dating revolutionized archeology? and Has carbon14 dating changed the historical timeline? I may have more questions depending on the answer.

Thank you for your time.

Elena Kervitksy

Hi. I read that the earliest settlement at Merv in Turkeminstan is at a depth of 17 metres and is therefore inaccessible to researchers. I always wondered how exactly such sites became buried to such great depths. I mean, how exactly does a surface become buried in 5 stories of dirt?? The blowing wind? Or what? Thanks in advance!

What is the primary reason why their was development of city states in central and south America, but not North America ?   ie   The Maya, Aztec and Incas had highly developed city cultures...but to my knowledge this did not develop in North America....    Is there any books where this is examined ?



Craig Shores


I'm 20 years old, and I'm currently attending the Carl D. Perkins Job Corps Center for a Hospitality course, but thats not what I want. I just did it because I was unable to find any great colleges for archaeology. Any suggestions? I'm looking for one that has Financial Aid. I'm interested in any thing that is available. This is truly what I want. Please email me if you have any suggestions. My email is Put "Archaeology" in the subject line please.

Thank you. 

I am glad to hear you are interested in archaeology!  Becoming an archaeologist takes a lot of hard work, but it is an interesting and fun subject to study. 

While searching for colleges with archaeology programs, it is important to remember that only a few schools have stand alone Archaeology Departments.  In most cases, archaeology is part of the Anthropology, Art History or Classics Departments. Look through the course lists and department descriptions of these majors for schools that peak your interest to see if an archaeology concentration is available through their programs. Although I cannot recommend a specific school for you, here is a list of universities that offer archaeology classes. Keep in mind it is not a complete list and you should keep looking for schools that interest you.

Once you are in college, if you are studying archaeology, most programs will also encourage you to participate in an archaeological excavation (and there are even a few excavations that take on high school students).  You can find out about different excavations and opportunities around the world on our website:

Specific required classes for an archaeology degree differ for each college, usually depending on what department the program falls under. Most will require classes on technique and field experience. The classes you choose are largely dependant on what cultures and areas of archaeology you want to study. For languages: many archaeological texts are written in French and German so they are useful, and again, languages pertaining to cultures of interest to you. Take into account that universities will usually have certain cultures that they focus on more than others dependant on where their faculty does their field work.

Finally, most archaeologists also go on to get graduate degrees and there are many schools that offer MA and PhD programs.

Please let us know if you have any more questions!

Best wishes.

is it true that a fossil was found in the glen rose limestone which is designated as middle cretaceous, supposedly 110 million years old and contemporary with the dinosaurs? also is it true that a unique iron hammer with partially coalified wooden handle was found in lower cretaceous limestone, supposedly 140 million years old

I assume from the title to your question that you are asking about human fossils. Many fossils have been uncovered in the Glen Rose limestone, however , none of them are human.

As for the hammer, it appears to be a lot younger than 140 million years. The style of the hammer would argue for a date of a few hundred years ago.

My general answer to both these questions is essentially the same--there is no evidence of humans from the time of the dinosaurs.

I live in New York and have found rocks that appear very old.  Who can I contact to find out the age of the rocks I have?

The right people to contact to know more about your rocks would be geologists. Archaeologists usually study a bit of geology, but we are no experts.

However I can tell you that rock formations are very old compared to the organic forms present on our planet. The area where you live was for a very long time covered by ice. When the ice retreated, at the end of the last ice-age, it "scratched" the surface of the earth creating several  geological features. Most importantly it exposed layers of rock formations from different ages. If you have the time you should use a geological map of the area where you found the rocks (they are available on line), the different colors in on the map will tell you what kind of rocks you can find in that area, and their relative age.

Best wishes.

Hello I'm an student from Syracuse Academy of Science and I'm writting a research paper on archeology and what it's like being an archaeologist if you can e-mail me some information or I can interview one of the archelogist of this site.


i am in dilema...

what kind of work can i do when i grow up?

can you explain the description of archaelogist?

i really want to know about it as i can decide what  i want to be?

First of all, choosing a career for when you grow up has a lot to do with what interests you today. What is that one thing that you would do day and night, and you never get bored of?

Archaeology studies past civilizations in all their aspects, and all over the world. There are a lot of things about humans that we still don’t know of. Questions like: how and when did we dominate fire, how did we invent bronze, or when did we start exploring the earth by land and sea… and many many others are waiting for you to be answered. If you like history, and museums. If you dream of discovering a long forgotten civilization, or slowly recreating a society from little pieces of a buried puzzle, then archaeology is just the thing for you. However you should know that you will have to study a lot, but if you are passionate and have good teachers you will love every moment of it.

Please let me know if you have any more questions!

Best wishes

I am a junior in high school. I am doing a reseach project on  what I want  to be when I grow up and I am thinking about archaeology. I want to know what do archaeologist do, how  they live in their jobs, do they have adventures like in the movie "Indiana Jones." Or is it more serious and just digging under the sun and finding artifacs of people who lived 1,000 years before us. Is there any adventure do you get to visit different places, meet new peopl. Is it easy to get highered by companies or people to go to a site in a country and stury the thigns you found and get to have fun. It would be really nice if I get descriptions about what made you decide to become an archaeologist, how was the education was it fun or out of the books and boring, once you graduated for your study was it easy for you to get a job in a site and go strait to finding new stuff, and is it easy or hard, what requirements do you need. Thank you so much.

Priscila o.

my email is

Dear Priscila,

I am glad to hear you are interested in archaeology!  Becoming an archaeologist takes a lot of hard work, but it is an interesting and fun subject to study.

Archaeologists study past civilizations, our focus are past humans, how they lived and died. We research on every aspect of past civilizations, from engineering knowledge, to their concept of art and beauty, from their religious beliefs to their fashion sense, from their technological and scientific knowledge, to what they eat and drank. We do this through both research on books and in labs, and through on site data collection (digs). Our lives are usually divided between the field and the classroom or library. You need both “brain and muscle” to be an archaeologist! We do travel a lot, and meet the locals wherever we go. This usually includes also learning their language and costumes to better adapt.

So up to this point it all looks quite like Indiana Jones’s life! What is fictional about the movies are the way he “discovers” things, and the gun fights! Although those look exciting on TV… I am sure that you wouldn’t like to risk your life at the hand of Nazis, or being buried with thousands of poisonous snakes!! YAIKS!! However if you go on a dig, you will find out that the discovery of even a small fragment of pottery, is the most exciting thing you have ever done! Imagine… being the first one in centuries, or thousands of years, to see and touch that fragment! And through it you can answer a lot of questions about the people that lived there and used that object.

There are field schools, where you can learn how to dig, that accept high-school students, you can find some on our website:

Please let me know if you have any more questions!

Best wishes.

Hi, I want to take a course in nautical archeology. I am a dive master and tv producer. I am very interested in underwater archeology, and I need some advice.


The following is a partial list of schools with Nautical Archaeology masters programs, they should be able to help you:

East Carolina University
Program in Maritime Studies

Florida State University
Research in Maritime Archaeology

Texas A & M
Nautical Archaeology

University of Miami
Management of the Underwater Archaeological Heritage

University of West Florida
Martime Archaeology

I am a student in the Department of Anthropology in the third year and I'm from Egypt and I like working in excavations and in my country. Is it possible to work as a volunteer? I did not work before, but I like this life and the type of work.

A great number of archaeological excavations around the world accept volunteer workers, regardless of how much field experience these volunteers may or may not have. And with your background in anthropology, you may even be able to go as a student and perhaps receive college credit for the work you do. For a list of field excavations around the world, you can go to the AIA website at You could also ask the professors at your university if they know of any excavations that you may be able to participate on. Good luck in your search!

Kelly Lindberg

Programs Assistant

To whom it may concern,

First, my name is Devon, and I hope you can help me answer a question that is bothering me presently.  As you know, recently the earthquakes that occured just off the coast of Japan caused the tsunami.  Well, as an interested party, I was looking over the topography of the Pacific plate, when I stumbled over something that has been keeping me up at night.  The specific area is that of 45N and 160w, and the reason I went to check that area, was due to my own leap of logic that this would potentially be an upcoming danger area for eruptions or plumes. 

Now...what I saw there shook me.  From a distance of approximately 498miles in height I see this very distinct, very obviously created landscape.  I took from past underwater cities, and see similar though more eroded paths, in particular those in the area of 9s 43e. These in general are best viewed at approximately 643 miles in height.  I used Google earth, as well as topography going back to 2000.  And, in further I found an M.I.T study, partially funded by NASA, sent to the same area, as well as found it has a generally higher wave pool centering above it.  I can give you the link to the actual study by Charlotte if you see fit to look into this further. 

Next I tried to find the obvious, Glacier formation or erosion due to, and nothing is potentially viable under examination. This is no small area either, and rather large in scope and seemingly interconnected with other areas.  It was made, but as yet goes unexplored... While its far more prevalent in structure than anything else I can find thus far on the earth's surface.  It looks very laid out like a city, and a very very acutely made one at that. The angles, the unbelievable perfect measurments..  Im astounded there is nothing said of this area. It's far more noticeable, with topography, than even those of the nazca lines. 

So, I come to you, hopefully for answers, and better sleep *smile*

Thanks in advance for any of your time, and please, contact me if you can help


Ive noticed that anthropology is a more commonly pursued class and career, and so far I have failed in finding any good colleges with a decent archaeology program. Also any advice or information about the education steps I should take for archaeology would be deeply appreciated, for I am only fourteen and my knowledge on colleges or majors is minimal. 

thank you 


I would like to know what the demand for the job is if i were to pursue a career in the field of archeology.

Professional archaeologists, depending on their focus, can find a job in various areas. Posts as professional archaeologists are available at state and city level throughout the US. Archaeologists are also employed in national parks, and by private companies to do cultural research management (CRM). If you are more interested in scientific application to archaeology, such as dating, GIS, sourcing, chemical analysis etc, you could find a job in a lab. Conservationists are also part of the archaeological work force, and don’t forget museums also employ a lot of archaeologists. Last but not least, archaeologists can work for NGOs such as the AIA, or go into academia, and get employed by universities.

The demand, as for any other job, is tightly related to the offer, and the current economic condition. As you can see there are a lot of variants to be considered!

Best Wishes.

Good Morning

I am beginning my studies in archaeology next year. Now i have taken a General BSc degree and took archaeology and chemistry as my majors. Will I possibly get work with this combination and if so are there any other subjects i can group with these two subjects that will benefit me in the this field?



What Scholarships are available to those who want to study archaeology?

hello, my name is Emily and im a 6th grader at high tech middle media arts in California, and in our science class we're learning about life science careers. We each picked one career and i chose archaeology. now everyone has to talk to or email or call an actual person that has that occupation, so i was wondering if u can tell me a little about archaeology, like how long do archaeologists usually work a day? Whats the oddest thing thats ever happened to you while working? and last but least, where do archaeologists usually look for dead artifacts and such? well, thank you please respond.


Question on carbon 14 dates,

Dear Sir/Mam

My question is about the possibility to date pots or vases made from red clay, using C14. Is it possible to do this?

Thank you in advance for taking this question!
G M Matheny

C14 is usually used to date organic material, pots or vases can be dated using this method if they have traces of it. Some ceramics were intentionally made mixing clay with different grasses. There are several examples of C14 being used to date entire sites using only these ceramics.

Best Wishes

Hi, im from Itasca ISD. My character teacher is asking us what we want career we want to take. If you dont mind i would like to ask some questions.

  1. Where all do you get to go?
  2. Do you only study bones and artifacts?
  3. Do you have to go through hands-on training?
  4. When you find the bones do you take them back to the lab?
  5. What do you like best about your job?
  6. How long in a day do you work?
  7. How do you know where to find artifacts?
  8. Is it hard to find artifacts?
  9. Do you go way under the ground to look?
  10. Where is the best college for this career?

I'm 32 & I am a single parent. I recently completed an Information Technology degree. I choose IT because it is the field I'm working in, and the work has always come naturally and been easy for me. But ultimately, it isn't what I want to do with my life. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to become an archaeologist. I think I may have waited too long to pursue my dream. My question is  - when is it too late to start? My life would require some sort of online degree program or waiting until my daughter is out of college herself. 

I have a passion for archeology but I don't know what classes I should take to become an archeologist. Can you tell me what classes I should take and recomend a good college to go to for those classes.

I am glad to hear you are interested in archaeology!  Becoming an archaeologist takes a lot of hard work, but it is an interesting and fun subject to study. 

While searching for colleges with archaeology programs, it is important to remember that only a few schools have stand alone Archaeology Departments.  In most cases, archaeology is part of the Anthropology, Art History or Classics Departments. Look through the course lists and department descriptions of these majors for schools that peak your interest to see if an archaeology concentration is available through their programs. Although I cannot recommend a specific school for you, here is a list of universities that offer archaeology classes. Keep in mind it is not a complete list and you should keep looking for schools that interest you.

Once you are in college, if you are studying archaeology, most programs will also encourage you to participate in an archaeological excavation (and there are even a few excavations that take on high school students).  You can find out about different excavations and opportunities around the world on our website:

Specific required classes for an archaeology degree differ for each college, usually depending on what department the program falls under. Most will require classes on technique and field experience. The classes you choose are largely dependant on what cultures and areas of archaeology you want to study. For languages: many archaeological texts are written in French and German so they are useful, and again, languages pertaining to cultures of interest to you. Take into account that universities will usually have certain cultures that they focus on more than others dependant on where their faculty does their field work.

Finally, most archaeologists also go on to get graduate degrees and there are many schools that offer MA and PhD programs.

Please let us know if you have any more questions!

Best wishes.

What are the most important tools of the trade used in archaeology? Were they developed through trial-and-error? Why do archaeologists use the tools that they use today?

Archaeologists use a wide variety of tools. Any tool that can help an archaeologist record a site through survey and mapping, position an excavation, carefully and efficiently move soil to expose artifacts and features, and help recover these objects and transfer them to a lab for analysis, is used on an archaeological project. Modern surveying and mapping tools like Total Stations and GPS mapping devices have made the archaeologists’ lives a lot easier. These tools allow us to gather and process data much more rapidly and efficiently than in the past. Computers are invaluable in helping to organize and process the large amount of data that are collected at archaeological sites. Positioning an excavation is often based on a combination of what is visible on the surface and an archaeologist’s experience at picking out clues that may indicate what lies below the surface. Additionally, modern geophysical tools like ground penetrating radars and magnetometers help us to “see” what is below the surface before we start digging. Once we are sure of the location for our excavation we use a number of different tools to actually move the soil and uncover the archaeological remains. The type of tool depends on the nature of the excavation. Often shovels and pick-axes are used to get through the top layers of soil that usually contain modern debris and roots. After that we switch to finer tools like trowels and when we encounter especially delicate deposits we may even use dental picks. Again, the goal here is to move dirt efficiently and carefully without damaging any of the archaeological remains. In most cases the soil that we remove from an excavation is sifted through screens which allow us to find any small artifacts that may have been overlooked in the excavations. Finally, all of these artifacts are brought back to the lab where they are cleaned, stabilized, cataloged, photographed, drawn, weighed, measured and subjected (if necessary) to special chemical analyses in an effort to retrieve every piece of information possible from these artifacts. After analysis the artifacts are conserved and stored. After all this is done, the archaeologist has to spend time writing and publishing the results of the work that was done so that people interested in the research can read about it.

Ben Thomas
AIA Director of Programs

I have just returned from Italy where I saw many examples of ancient, one piece, several meter tall, marble columns. The uniformity of columns in a particular building, and the apparent perfect shape of the individual column seems beyond belief. They look molded. Could you please direct me to a source that explains how the columns were constructed, and once constructed, how they were placed in a vertical position?

If you were looking at Roman-era remains, I suspect what you saw was actually a type of plaster, not marble. Since it was expensive to make columns out of marble, the Romans sometimes cheated and made them out of bricks, then plastered them over, shaping the plaster with regular flutes to make it look like a carved marble column. Finally they would paint the columns to complete the illusion that they were expensive marble. You can see a great example of this in the basilica on the forum at Pompeii. Today most of the paint has come off, so it often times looks like a dull cement column, but if you look closely at places where the plaster has chipped away, you can actually see the bricks underneath.

The uniformity of columns in a particular building, and the apparent perfect shape of the individual column seems beyond belief. They look molded. Could you please direct me to a source that explains how the columns were constructed?


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