Archeology is an interdisciplinary field, which means it draws on many different disciplines. Many archeologists become specialized in a subfield of archeology. They focus, for example, on particular analytical techniques, artifact types, cultures, or time periods.
Subfields of Archeology
Zooarcheology (sometimes called archeozoology) is the study of animal remains from archaeological sites. These remains consist mostly of hard parts of the body like bones, teeth, and shells. Zooarcheology can help provide the archeologists with a more complete picture of the kinds of animals and plants present at a site.
- Paleobotany and Paleoethnobotany
Paleobotany (sometimes called archeobotany) is the study of fossilized plants. Paleoethnobotany is the study and interpretation of fossilized plants to understand past interactions between humans and plants. Paleontologists and archeologists can work together to have a more complete idea of the entire picture of historic events.
Archeopedology is the study of ancient soils in archeological contexts. At archeological sites soils often retain matter from cultivated plants, fires, human-made features and human daily activities such as cooking or waste disposal. This information can provide archeologists contextual information about how past people lived.
Geoarcheology uses geography, geology, geophysics, and other Earth sciences to inform archaeological knowledge and thought. Through geoarcheology, archeologists gain an understanding of what earlier landforms were like, where sites may be located, and insight into raw materials and resources in the area.
- Historical Archeology
Historical archeologists study peoples and cultures who left written documentary records. These records may include archives, government documents, letters, and other sources. Excavation and document research can test each other to identify inaccuracies in the documentary record, reveal underrepresented voices, and highlight issues of power.
- Underwater Archeology
Underwater archeologists examine sites in bodies of water, including oceans, lakes, and rivers. Archeologists who work underwater have techniques that are unlike terrestrial archeologists, because they use special gear (such as SCUBA equipment) and cannot control their excavations as well.
- Prehistoric Archeology
A term now dated and out-of-favor with many Tribes, prehistoric archeology refers to peoples and cultures before Europeans made contact with Native peoples in the New World. It traditionally is shorthand for archeology focusing on Native Americans.
- Forensic Archeology
Forensic archeologists apply archeological techniques to sites where possibly criminal events took place. It is used to recover evidence from areas of war, battlefields, and crime sites.
- Experimental Archeology
Experimental archeologists attempt to reconstruct past ways of manufacture, agriculture, arts, and other cultural ways of life. Examples of experimental archeology include flintknapping, adobe brick making, and cooking.
Archeoastronomers study the relationships between ancient peoples, their monuments, and astronomic events.
- Environmental Archeology
Environmental archeologists study the long-term relationships between people and the world they inhabit. The effects of climate change, weather events, animal migrations, and water supply are all aspects of environmental archeology.
- Collections Management
Archeologists who work in curatorial facilities, such as museums or government repositories, prepare and store artifacts and the associated documentation from excavations for long-term care. They manage collections, conduct conservation, do research, and make collections available for study.