Archaeology Lesson for Kids: Definition & Facts

Instructor: Lindsy Frazer

Dr. Frazer has taught several college level Science courses and has a master's degree in Human Biology and a PhD in Library and Information Science.

Archaeologists are scientists who study the history of humans by looking at what man-made objects were left behind. In this lesson, you will learn what archaeology is, what archaeologists do and amazing facts about archaeology.

Dig In!

What kinds of clothing did people wear 2,000 years ago? What happened to the lost city of Atlantis? What about this curious object? What do you think it is? How was it used? Who made it? Archaeologists ask all of these questions and more.

Calendar stone used by ancient Aztecs

Archaeology is the study of artifacts, which are objects made by humans in the past, in order to learn about the activities and culture, or way of life, of those who lived in the past. These artifacts, like the calendar stone, can tell us a lot about how ancient people lived. Anything made by humans can be an artifact - clothes, dishes, tools, and much more.

So, let's dig in and learn more about this interesting occupation.

What Do Archaeologists Do?

Imagine you had to explain how you live to a visitor from the future without speaking or writing. How would you explain what you do every day, what you eat, where you live? You could show them objects you use - your cell phone, your house, wrappers from the food you eat. Archaeologists rely on objects from the past to learn about the cultures of ancient people.

Just like a detective might use fingerprints at a crime scene to figure out the identify of a burglar, archaeologists use artifacts and other objects found at their dig sites, places where evidence from past societies are found, as clues to learn about how people lived in the past. Archaeologists can use stone tools and pottery to determine what types of activities or work ancient people did. Seeds and animals bones left behind can tell archaeologists about what people ate in the past. Pieces of fabric or even an old shoe are clues about the types of clothes people wore long ago. Archaeologists piece all of these clues together to understand the lives of ancient people, just like a detective puts together all of the clues to figure out what happened.

While some archaeologists, called historical archaeologists, study the lives of past peoples who did know how to write, most archaeologists study peoples and cultures that existed before humans learned how to write, so objects are all they have to learn about those times. These objects can actually provide information about these people that we might not even find in their writings. Some archaeologists even study the activities and cultures of living peoples.

Excavation at an archaeological dig site
Archaeological Dig Site

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