What is archaeology?

What is archaeology?Archeology is a science that is responsible for studying the development of societies since its inception, for which it resorts to the analysis of different material remains located in a variety of geographical areas. This analysis falls on artifacts, art samples, objects, tools and other remains.

Thanks to archeology, it is possible to know the characteristics of ancient societies, understanding how they conceived some elements such as their deities, their forms of government, family groups, historical data, etc. In some countries, archeology is considered a part of anthropology, while in others, a science of its own.

In any of the cases, his studies have generated great contributions to multiple areas, which has resulted in a classification of archeology, being a discipline of application for multiple categories. Next, we will know the different types of archeology that exist, as well as the objects of study to which they are dedicated respectively.

What is archeology?
What is archeology?


Biblical archeology is a branch of archeology specialized in the investigation of material remains and data present in the Bible, research that may be related either directly or indirectly to any of the data present in these writings.

Thanks to biblical archeology, it has been possible to corroborate an important variety of archaeological discoveries highlighted in the Bible. These discoveries date from the nineteenth century, a century since which multiple investigations have been carried out in order to find more and more information that allows corroborating the passages of the sacred book.

Due to the nature of its studies, biblical archeology research is mostly concentrated in the Near East and the so-called Holy Land, places where much of the events explained in the Bible have been described.

In more specific terms, many of these geographic spaces are made up of Jordan, the Land of Israel, and Palestine. However, some authors suggest that there are other geographical spaces that should be valued by biblical archeology, based specifically on what is indicated in some passages of the Bible. These geographic spaces are generally referred to Egypt, Rome, Asia Minor, Syria, among others.

Despite being a science that is responsible for studying elements of a theological nature, archeology uses methods of scientific origin with regard to its methodological body. This, in order to correctly contrast all the data collected in their research, generating information of scientific value.

Consequently, multiple discoveries have corroborated a large amount of data present in the biblical records. Many descriptions of the Bible that had been considered myth, would have been confirmed through archeology, which has reaffirmed the importance of this branch.

However, despite the fact that biblical archeology is capable of generating scientifically based information, this has not left aside the controversy that revolves around the different interpretations that the Bible receives.

In other words, biblical archeology has coincided with many data present in the Bible, while theologians have not been able to specify much of what they want to explain in their passages.


Historical archeology is a branch of archeology that is based on the study of objects, places and symbols belonging to a specific time. Its objective is to contextualize and provide relevant information on all the remains found in their analysis areas.

His objects of study vary from monuments, pyramids, human remains, tools, writings, structures, etc.

When speaking of historical archeology, many specialists could be referring to the study of those remains that date from the 15th century and later, which is called post-medieval archeology. However, this may vary depending on the approach, which has ended up generating divergences between the object of study of this branch.

In fact, as in the case of biblical archeology, where many of the studies have corroborated data from the passages of the Bible, scenarios have been presented in which a finding has ended up generating more controversy in relation to an investigation in particular.

The term historical archeology is used, in turn, to refer to a variety of subareas such as medieval archeology, Egyptology archeology and others. Likewise, the approach to historical archeology studies will depend on the area being investigated.

For example, when it comes to studies in America, most of these attempt to cover whatever data constitutes the period from the discovery of America to the present.

Despite this, it should not be confused with prehistoric archeology, which is specifically responsible for the study of prehistoric remains, that is, ceramic, bone and lithic bodies, which take place in generally European and peninsular spaces in this regard.


Process archeology is not properly a derivation of traditional archeology, it is a movement of intellectuals that would have started in the 60s, characterizing itself as an archaeological school based on the book “Method and Theory in American Archeology”, published in 1958 by Philip Phillips and Gordon Willey.

The introduction of this intellectual body is carried out with the aim of giving space to logical positivism as a unique approach to research. Logical positivism is a philosophy that suggests that the only valid knowledge is that which can be based on empirical information, that is, that obtained through observation.

With this, process archeology receives the name of “new archeology”, since this philosophy would never have been practiced in archeology. His approach, doing historical-cultural studies without having to be affected by subjective notions, typical of cultural concepts.

The idea of culture as a set of traditions and norms that a group of individuals would have established in accordance with their beliefs and customs is rejected. On the contrary, it was considered as the result of the behavioral adaptation that a society presented to changes in the environment specifically.

With this, it was intended to give a more uniform explanation of cultural phenomena during the archaeological study of societies, defining it as the adaptation of individuals to their environment.

The term “processual” is due to the fact that the task defined by processual archeology is to analyze, understand and reconstruct the cultural processes that make up the human being in different environments. This, in conjunction with the use of the scientific method, obtaining empirical information in their studies, and thus, valuable contributions.

Likewise, they appropriated different techniques from cultural anthropology in order to reconstruct the past. This, in conjunction with logical positivism, were the first steps in making your own scientific-type guidelines valid for your area of study specifically.

Process archeology can be considered as one of the most modern models when it comes to the investigation of ancient societies.

In fact, 10 years after its approach in the 60s, it receives a significant boost thanks to David. L. and Lewis Binford, which would mark its expansion into Latin America and Europe. The main of its approaches is the hypothetico-deductive method, in order to study the particular to explain the general from a previous existing idea.


Forensic archeology is a branch of archeology that is responsible for studying a scene in order to analyze a crime that occurred in the past. Its application is aimed at obtaining a concrete definition of the order of events, gathering all the information related to the events in question.

For this, forensic archeology makes use of the methodology of archeology, based on a legal context, in which all objects and / or features of a scene will be analyzed, in order to develop hypotheses regarding the facts that they explain the crime.

This will be possible through the reconstruction of all the actions that have arisen in the scene, which will be carried out through the documentation, observation, and obtaining of all the remains of it.

Because its techniques are not very different from traditional archeology, forensic archeology is often defined as an adaptation of archeology techniques to a forensic context. However, the definition obtained will strictly depend on the author consulted, since there is no definition of it.

In countries like Mexico, forensic archeology is considered a branch of criminology, so they share a similar methodology. Their objective, respectively, is to reconstruct the behavior of a criminal, managing to access the evidence that makes up a scene respectively.

Thus, the application of forensic archeology occurs jointly with forensic anthropology, since both provide essential data for the aforementioned reconstruction of a scene. In fact, the individual application of forensic archeology can be considered an error of judgment in the study of a crime scene, as it does not have the proper tools.

Some of the competencies required by the forensic archaeologist are presented as follows:

  1. Recovery of human remains with the use of sanitary prevention methods, controlling any contaminating or damaging effect on the remains.
  2. Mastery of techniques to perform searches in the subsoil, such as differential changes in vegetation, analysis of sediments and soils, etc.
  3. Forensic edaphology analysis.
  4. Knowledge of the spatial type, that is, use of compasses, geopositioners, grids, levels, maps, etc.
  5. Ability to differentiate human remains from non-human remains.
  6. Taking samples such as sediments, botany, human remains, etc.

Each of these competencies will depend on the approach of forensic archeology depending on whether it is considered a branch of criminology, a derivation of forensic anthropology, or simply an adapted application of traditional archeology.

In social sciences

In the context of social sciences, archeology has stood out as one of the most important tools, precisely, for the study of ancient societies, assessing precisely the remains, whether human or material, that are discovered by archaeologists in certain areas.

Thanks to archeology, it has been possible to understand and observe the changes that have occurred in society over time, understanding what were the characteristics of the first civilizations, and what elements and / or factors would have allowed their evolution to what society is today.

When archeology is explained as a social science, it is essential to emphasize that some theorists it really belongs to the humanities. In any of the cases, it is indisputable that archeology has generated important contributions for both sides in this regard.

As far as the social sciences are concerned, archeology studies the social organization and the changes it has undergone in the development of societies. This explains the interest in different material remains that allow contextualizing important aspects such as traditions, characteristics, beliefs, etc.

This allows him to analyze his point of greatest interest: the definition of the chronological sequences that are part of the periods of an epoch. It is here where it is possible to find multiple specialties of archeology, most of them based on each of the periods and / or epochs where different phenomena are reconstructed to explain each society.

Through these studies, archeology has been the author of multiple findings of great importance, which range from societies or human groups with peculiar features, to the discovery of completely unknown material remains, which are being fully investigated.

This has given an important responsibility to archeology as a social science, since it is the channel through which countries can access their archaeological heritage, considered, in many nations, as part of the human heritage that all must recognize and praise as part of your identity.

Finally, archeology, from where it arises, is presented as a tool of great useful value for the analysis of those scenarios that have become extinct in time, but at the same time, sufficiently preserved to be reconstructed, getting closer each time more to understand our origins as a society.


  1. (2021). Archeology. Wikipedia. Recovered from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archaeology
  2. (S / F). What does a forensic archaeologist do ?. Future Learn. Recovered from: https://www.futurelearn.com/info/courses/forensic-archaeology-and-anthropology/0/steps/67860
  3. Jarus, O. (2019). Biblical Archeology: The Study of Biblical Sites & Artifacts. Livescience. Recovered from: https://www.livescience.com/64838-biblical-archaeology.html

Read also:What is history?; Ancient ontology

This post is also available in: English Français (French) Deutsch (German) Español (Spanish) Nederlands (Dutch) Svenska (Swedish)