In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Archaeology

  • Introduction
  • Journals
  • Textbooks
  • Anthologies

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Anthropology Archaeology
Wendy Ashmore, Thomas C. Patterson
  • LAST REVIEWED: 11 January 2012
  • LAST MODIFIED: 11 January 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766567-0032


Archaeology is a historical social science concerned with study of past societies and cultures through material traces, called the archaeological record. These traces may have been left by early human ancestors, millions of years ago—or by contemporary people as recently as yesterday. Study may be text aided among literate societies; most of the human past, however, involved societies with no writing, what some call “prehistory.” Research involves examination of artifacts (objects of human manufacture), features (arrangements of artifacts, construction elements, or other items), ecofacts (naturally occurring items that inform about human lives, such as soils), and sites (locations in which one or more of the foregoing occur). Archaeological ethics promotes growing collaboration with descendant communities in framing research goals and techniques. For that reason, and because the research process commonly destroys the archaeological record, practitioners increasingly seek less invasive or destructive methods. In all cases, archaeologists employ systematic scientific methods for recovery and study of material remains, documenting as fully as possible the materials encountered along with the temporal (stratigraphic) and spatial (association) contexts in which they were found. Archaeology is inherently interdisciplinary, calling on expertise in such fields as geology, biology, ethnology, and history. Interpretive aims vary with the research project, and with the theoretical orientation of its directors. In that way, theory is central to archaeology. Although in many parts of the world, archaeology is a discipline unto itself, in the United States it is most commonly considered part of anthropology. Exceptions are classical archaeology, allied more closely with history and art history, and historical archaeology, often teamed in the United States with history and American studies.


Those among the more prominent archaeology journals are listed here. American Antiquity focuses on findings and theory in the New World north of Mexico; the American Journal of Archaeology treats the classical world. Antiquity is committed to relaying new applications of technology to archaeological findings, with less concern historically for disciplinary boundaries. Archaeologies attends particularly to the sociopolitics and contexts of archaeological practice around the world. The International Journal of Historical Archaeology is an outlet for historical archaeology inclusively defined, from those concerned with literate societies to ones that focus on the spread of capitalism. The Journal of Field Archaeology reports new archaeological data and interpretations. The Journal of Social Archaeology is avowedly critical, theoretical, and interdisciplinary in scope. Individual issues of World Archaeology focus on specific themes. Other journals center on particular specialties, such as Egyptology or the application of scientific methods. Articles of archaeological interest also appear regularly in journals of wider disciplinary scope, such as the American Anthropologist, Current Anthropology, and the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute.

  • American Antiquity.

    Established in 1935, this is one of two flagship journals of the Society for American Archaeology and emphasizes findings and theory in North American archaeology; the other is Latin American Antiquity, founded in 1990, which focuses on the Americas south of the Rio Grande.

  • American Journal of Archaeology.

    The flagship journal of the Archaeological Institute of America focuses on the archaeology of the Mediterranean world, while its other publication, Archaeology, is geared to a wider audience and has broader coverage.

  • Antiquity.

    Published by the Antiquity Trust since 1927, this journal was meant to reach both scholarly and lay audiences. Founding editor O. G. S. Crawford defined its scope as the entire human past.

  • Archaeologies.

    The World Archaeological Congress has published this journal since 2003, succeeding the World Archaeological Bulletin (1987–2001).

  • International Journal of Historical Archaeology.

    Founded in 1997, the journal is a wide-ranging outlet for historical archaeology anywhere in the world.

  • Journal of Field Archaeology.

    From its first issue in 1974, this journal has focused on the presentation of archaeological data and interpretations from all time periods and parts of the world.

  • Journal of Social Archaeology.

    Established in 2001, this journal is avowedly critical, theoretical, and interdisciplinary in its focus and draws on archaeological issues from all parts of the world.

  • World Archaeology.

    Since 1969, this journal has solicited articles offering contrasting or complementary perspectives on prechosen themes and debates of current archaeological interest.

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