Archaeology is, quite simply, the study of past human cultures. The study of human cultures in general is anthropology, which means that archaeologists are, first and foremost, anthropologists. Where archaeologists differ from anthropologists is in their method of study. While the anthropologist enters the field to study among extant human groups, directly observing activities, recording interviews with informants, and interacting with members of the society, the archaeologist studies past human activities and behaviors primarily through observation of materials, features, and structures left behind by the past society. Archaeologists seek to explain the same cultural phenomena that anthropologists study among modern peoples; the two fields are, therefore, inseparable. In fact, archaeologists rely heavily on studies and conclusions regarding modern cultural porno characteristics and patterns in making inferences about those of past peoples. It is important to understand that archaeologists do not simply excavate, describe, and analyze artifacts and ecofacts. Although these activities are certainly practiced by archaeologists, they are not the “be all, end-all” of archaeological research.
The ultimate goal of archaeology is to make sound interpretations about past human behavior, and to look for patterns that might help us to understand cultural change. Archaeologists are able to make interpretations based on careful study of archaeological sites and the materials recovered from archaeological contexts at the site. An archaeological site is an area that was used by human groups in the past, and evidence of its occupation comes in the form of archaeological materials: artifacts, ecofacts, and features. Careful examination and analysis of artifacts (man-made tools or other objects), ecofacts (natural materials included in an archaeological site), features (man-made structures that cannot be removed from a site), and human burials allow archaeologists to piece together a scenario regarding past human lifeways, including interpretations about technologies and subsistence strategies, social complexity, group mobility, intergroup trade, health patterns, and diet.