Who Are Archeologists?

Archeologists work at Fort Vancouver

Archeologists look at old things and places to investigate how people lived in the past. Archeologists are a hardy bunch. They dig everywhere, including in old garbage piles and toilets, for clues about how people lived. They seem to know something about everything people in the past did: how they made tools, why they moved around, and what kinds of foods they ate.

Do archeologists study dinosaurs?

  • Rawr, no! Paleontologists study these very ancient animals and their environments, which lived on Earth way before our human ancestors came on the scene.

Do archeologists study rocks?

  • Yes! Archeologists know how to identify rocks, soil, and earth formations. Geologists, however, are the real experts in this field.

Do archeologists study people?

  • Yes! Archeologists are anthropologists, or people who study people!
archeology excavation crew
Field crew members take turns surveying, excavating, recording, and sifting.
A field crew is a team of people who excavate, or dig, archeological sites. The leader will have a graduate degree in archeology, lots of field experience, and may excavate as their job. The team may also include field technicians, students, and volunteers who are new to archeology and want to see what archeology is like.

Keep clicking on the list below to find out who's on the field crew team.
Artifacts in lab
Working in an archeology lab is the chance to see things not seen for hundreds of years.

Also called curators and archeological technicians, collections specialists take care of excavation records and artifacts.

Collections specialists work everywhere archeological collections go, including museums, historical societies, colleges and universities, and parks. They help to preserve archeological materials, and they help researchers and the public learn from the collections.

Fishing for bones
Fish are an important part of many cultures' diets, which makes them a focus for archeologists' studies.

Zooarcheologists study animal remains, or fauna, from archeological sites. Their work shows what people ate, the animals they hunted and raised, and about their health. Researchers can also use faunal data to learn about ecosystems in the past and changes over time.

Read what archeologists say:
Archeology at Yellowstone Lake revealed the significance of fish and other animals to local populations in the past.

Scuba archeology
Archeologists working underwater find shipwrecks and other debris.
A little water won't stop archeologists! Underwater archeologists use similar methods as landlubbing archeologists. They excavate everything from rock shelters to abandoned ships to airplanes. Their work tells us about seafaring life and culture, such as war or the cargo carried for trade on shipwrecks.

Learn how archeologists solved a mystery:
Nobody knew what happened to the so-called English China Wreck, but archeologists figured it out.
Historical drawing of a Native American massacre
Native American descendants of the Sand Creek Massacre worked with archeologists and historians.
If you like to read family records, diaries, letters and maps, paintings and drawings, historical archeology might be for you. Historical archeologists compare documentary sources with what they find at sites. Sometimes they find the actual events or artifacts described in the texts hidden in the ground.

Learn more:
By comparing a variety of historical sources with oral history, archeologists and Native Americans located the site of the Sand Creek Massacre.
Landscape at Kalaupapa
People living with Hansen's Disease on Molokai built a life and culture using the natural resources nearby.
Environmental archeologists look for answers about the relationships between the Earth and people. They look for ecofacts—natural remains—such as those of wild and domesticated plants and animals found in the archeological record.

Learn more:
Archeologists have found that people have shaped and have been shaped by the land, water, plants, and animals on the Kuka’iwa’a landshelf.
Drawing from Manzanar
Oral history from Japanese Americans who were interred at Manzanar helped archeologists locate sites.
Archeologists talk with people to learn about what they remember about growing up in a place, how they lived and worked, and how they used the objects archeologists dig up.

See what archeologists say:
Oral historians spoke with Japanese Americans who were interred at Manzanar during World War II to learn about their experiences. They met at the Barracks Exhibit.

Last updated: March 6, 2023