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Basic Information

Archaeology is the study of people in the past by way of studying the physical objects they left behind. It is related to Anthropology (the study of human cultures) and Paleontology (the study of fossils), but generally regarded as a distinct field of study from either. (Some schools of thought view Archaeology as a subfield of Anthropology, but the distinction might not matter for the sake of gaming.)

An interesting subschool is experimental archaeology - essentially attempting to recreate the past based on the evidence uncovered by traditional archaeology, whether attempting historical smithing techniques, building a recreation castle or trying to sail replica boats. Comparing the results of the recreation to the existing evidence allows the experimenter to test whether or not they have a correct model of the way things were actually done. It can also make for entertaining television.

One who practices archaeology is correctly referred to as an archaeologist.

See Also:

Adventurer Archaeologist
Angel Mounds
Antikythera Mechanism
Archaeoastronomical Sites
Archaeological Dig Site
Composite Mummies Unearthed In The Hebrides
Crystal Weapons Found In Spain
Funerary Practices
Grave Robbing
Hush-hush Archaeology
Jihadi Bulldoze Ancient City
King Tut’s Tomb Treasures
Looters Are Pillaging Native American Burial Grounds
Medieval Battle Records Go Online
Nan Madol
Oldest Skeleton in Americas Found in Underwater Cave
Out Of Place Artifact
Public Domain Artifact
Pulp Era Sources
Reconstructing London’s Temple of Mithras
Standing Stone Cup Marks May Represent Star Constellations
Swiss Watch Found In Ancient Chinese Tomb
Vampire Corpses Unearthed In Bulgaria


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • In the pre-modern era, archaeology and "collecting cool stuff from ancient sites" were somewhat over-connected, leading to a lot of context being lost and important evidence being destroyed. Sadly, this sort of thing continues into the present day - it's just not passed off as archaeology anymore.
    • For game purposes, this can mean pulp-era and earlier archaeologists are free to engage in two-fisted adventures in search of shiny and prestigious artifacts rather than spending months down a hole with a small brush.
      • Indiana Jones, for example, is right on the cusp of this - he is, technically, a professor of archaeology/anthropology with a (technically) scientific approach, but is still to be found grabbing the shiny thing and running on a lot of occasions. In his case, that will usually be because it is at risk from treasure hunters (or has already been stolen by them) or circumstances (also know as plot) have otherwise interfered.
    • In modern settings, the PCs are either tasked with fighting off the raiders, stealing stuff back from them, or finding out what happened to the proper archaeologists - roleplaying an actual dig will bore players rigid.
      • Glossing over the actual digging up artifacts part, you still have cutthroat academic intrigue, the politics involved in getting (or not getting) permission to dig things up and/or transport them, and any odd properties of the artifacts themselves.
    • Even so, one man's archaeology can be another man's grave robbing.
  • Experimental re-enactors accidentally re-create a ceremony with unfortunate results.
  • Archaeologists are the main suspects when it comes to meddling with the leavings of precursors and/or unsealing canned evil.
  • They may also be responsible for finding the mcguffin required to defeat the BBEG - and very unhappy to see it used for its intended purpose rather than kept in their museum.
    • Equally, they may find, and put in their museum, a mcguffin that the BBEG requires. Such things going missing is a fairly standard kick-off for an adventure, especially in games like Call of Cthulhu.
  • Like any other science, the thing that will get an archaeologist most excited will be something that overturns current theories. "Current theories", in this context, being history; if your game has any kind of secret history, expect archaeologists to be at the forefront of uncovering it… and thus in danger from The Conspiracy.
    • Speaking of "current theories" being wrong, and/or loss of context, misclassified artifacts are always popular ranging from the "mummified indian babies" that crop up in the Call of Cthulhu classic //The Old Damned House" through all manner of leavings of precursors, unrecorded human civilisations and other things from behind the wainscot.
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