Archaeology

At it's most basic, archaeology is about stuff. Just that. It is the study of stuff, usually old stuff, sometimes physical remains, the stuff we and all living things leave behind when we check out.

The odd fabulous haul aside, much of it is junk. In fact, archaeologists have dug dumps to gain insight into the past decades of this century. Old Roman junk has transcended junk status, and now even one of their safety pins can set you back thirty dollars.

Brian Hayden has titled his book for general readers Archaeology: The Science of Once and Future Things, precisely because archaeology is not committed only to the study of prehistory, but can provide clues to any culture that produced or produces stuff.

When it comes to interpreting the clues and coming up with theories, it can be confusing as to what the difference is between archaeology and anthropology. Only a few universities in North America have their own archaeology department. In others, archaeology courses are given by the Anthropology department.

At Simon Fraser University one can study primate behaviour with Birute Galdikas in a course designated Archaeology 344, even though there is very little emphasis placed on stuff at all. By studying living primates we have a source of insight into our earliest Australopithecine and Homo hablis ancestors whose brains were not a great deal larger than a chimp's.

Archaeology, then, includes theorizing from the data (stuff and/or analogy and/or whatever is interesting), even at the risk of crossing into what might be regarded as the territory of anthropology (and/or primatology and/or whatever is interesting).

For a basic definition we can say that archaeology is the study of material culture (then qualify from there).

And while archaeology may be very dry for the most part, it isn't completely without glamour...