About Archaeology

What is Archaeology?

Archaeology is the study of human society from its material remains, including such things as artefacts, buildings, bones or plant remains. It is primarily concerned with the past but its methods can be equally applied to contemporary societies; it operates in the distant past, before written records (prehistory) as well as in historic periods (historical archaeology). Archaeologists study almost all apsects of society from ideologies and belief systems to economic and political systems, from technology and trade to art styles. Because of its focus on material culture retrieved from the ground, archaeology shares both methodological and theoretical aspects with both the human/social sciences and the natural sciences – especially disciplines such as history, anthropology/ethnology, biology and geology.

Working in Archaeology

Archaeologists work in a variety of contexts – education (e.g. University of Iceland), collections and exhibitions (e.g. National Museum www.natmus.is), heritage management (e.g. State Heritage Agency www.fornleifavernd.is) and commercial and research projects (through private firms such as the Archaeology Office www.fornstofan.is and the Institute of Archaeology www.instarch.is). Research – including fieldwork – can take place through any of these institutions and is funded through both private and public funds. Throughout the world today, the majority of fieldwork is increasingly being undertaken in advance of development work (new buildings, roads etc.), and is normally paid for by the developer; in Iceland ‘pure’ research still forms a substantial part of archaeological fieldwork, and this is mainly funded by State grants.