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The Australian National University

Archaeology

Preah Vihear Temple CambodiaArchaeology is the study of past human activities emphasising interpretations of material evidence. By excavating the physical remains of people, the places they lived, and the objects they made and used, archaeologists gain knowledge of human history and prehistory.

Archaeology may be applied to all periods of the human past, from the first evidence of tool-making hominids two and a half million years ago to the grand civilizations of the ancient world to the recent history of colonial Australia.

 

The approach of archaeology gives us insights into the lost or hidden behaviour of people and cultures of earlier times.

Topics that are explored include:

  • Accounts of the ancient history and pre-history of humans in many regions of the world: Britain before, during and after Roman occupation; origins of agriculture, domestication and civilization in many parts of the globe; evolution of human culture in Africa and Europe; human life in Asia, Australia and the Pacific during ancient times.
  • Techniques of archaeological investigation, including how to excavate and date material, and the analysis and interpretation of the material evidence that is recovered. This includes the examination of the environmental context of archaeological materials.
  • Applied archaeological practice, including excavation and survey of archaeological sites.
  • Archaeological evidence for the treatment of deceased people, including the study of how ancient people died and what mortuary practices were applied to them.
  • Research skills that archaeologists employ, such as designing projects, approaches to using text resources, and data analysis.
  • Examination of the ways our society treats archaeological discoveries. This includes the presentation of the human past to the public, through museums, texts and films. It also involves discussion of the protection of archaeological materials.

Archaeologists in the School of Archaeology and Anthropology are actively engaged in research and teaching across many areas including: human evolution and the emergence of culture; the economy of ancient hunters and gatherers; origins of agriculture and animal domestication; the health and life style of past people across the world; forensic anthropology and archaeology; history of archaeology; and popular presentations of the past. Staff research in many regions including Australia, South East Asia, Melanesia, South America and Europe.

Find out more about Archaeologists in the School of Archaeology and Anthropology.

Find out more about Major Archaeological research projects.

Find out more about the Master of Archaeological Science.

Updated: 7 January 2014/ Responsible Officer:  Head of School / Page Contact:  Web Publisher