Branches of Archaeology

Archaeology is the scientific study of societies by examining the artifacts civilizations left behind. Archaeologists learn about people by the way they lived, worked, played, ate, clothed themselves and governed one another. While most people associate archeology with the study of past societies, the branches of archeology have expanded their scope to artifacts found under the water and in present times. These branches help in different segments of society that go beyond academia.

Historic archaeology consists of looking at artifacts from a historic perspective, considering general artifacts such as household items, musical instruments, weapons and medical equipment. Scientists use their findings to learn about the daily lives of different civilizations. At time historical and cultural anthropology are studied as one branch of archaeology.

Maritime archaeology studies human interaction with water, including oceans, lakes and rivers by looking at their seafaring vessels, shore-side facilities and underwater landscapes. They study war ships, cargo ships and passenger vessels. Marine archaeologists examined shipwrecked vessels, including cargo, ship crew members, artifacts and passengers. They piece together events that lead to the demise of ships. One of their most notable scientific expeditions is the discovery of the RMS Titanic.

Forensic archaeology is the study of crime scenes to helps medical examiners, police officers and legal professionals solve homicides. Forensic archaeologists look at human remains, specifically in cold cases, to learn the age, gender, height and physical appearance of victims. They also examine the crime scene for other artifacts, including grass, insects and possible weapons. The elements discovered by forensic archaeologists help investigators learn cause of death and length of time body has been at archeological site.

Urban archaeology, or city archaeology, includes looking at maps and city plans before the beginning of a construction projects. Archaeologists study historic documents to get an idea of what they may find at city site before workers begin digging in the area. If it is a historic part of the city, they make sure they are not disturbing a site that should be preserved or determine whether or not artifacts can be moved to an alternative location.

Osteology is a branch of archaeology that studies bones, including skeletal structure, the teeth, bone hardening, disease and pathology. Similar to forensic archeologists, they identify human remains to determine age, sex, cause of death, and development and growth. They examine the bones of humans and animals.

Environmental archaeology is the study of humans throughout history and how the environment shaped their cultures, including their ecological, economic and social implications. It also includes examining insects, plants and animals relationship to the environment. Environmental archaeologists used the sciences of biology and geology to examine land erosion, sedimentation, natural disasters and weather changes.

Phoeniciology is the branch of archaeology in which archaeologists focus on ancient Phoenicia, including the areas in Cyprus, Malta, Sicily Corsica, Israel and Spain. This archaeological examines farming techniques, business and trade, writing and language. The Phoenicians, who lived in places along the Mediterranean Sea, were a seafaring people. The artifacts help scientists theorize about life.

The science of archaeology has become hard to define because it no longer consists of looking at ancient cultures and peoples. The different branches of archaeology sometimes look at the past or examine recent events to form a story, including solving crimes. Each branch work together to from a tapestry of how people work and live, creating a picture of society as a whole.