Archaeology is the study of past peoples. Archaeologists learn about earlier communities by examining their material remains—the human-made artifacts, architectural features, and even plant and animal residues that people have left behind.
Early archaeological excavations—those of the 18th and 19th centuries—were often little more than haphazard treasure hunts. In contrast, today’s excavations are scientific and systematic, involving detailed data analysis and the careful recording of site information. Modern archaeologists do not seek “treasure”; they look for clues to help explain how people lived long ago and how they met their basic human needs. These clues often appear in the form of potsherds, stone tools, architectural ruins, and other evidence of human activity.