Tell Me Thursday

Posted on August 18, 2011

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Every Thursday I will do this feature about something my readers want to know..
Please submit your questions via anyone of these sources:
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Today’s Tell Me Thursday subject is:

“Please tell me more about fields of specialization in Archaeology”

What an interesting question! Most of us think that you have to become a field archaeologist, but there are so many specializations you can go into. I won’t go into too much detail as there are way to many specialization fields. Here are some I could find:

Aerial Archaeology –

Aerial archaeology is the study of archaeological remains by examining them from altitude. (Source and more on this)

Archaeoastronomy –   

Archaeoastronomy or archeoastronomy is the study of how people in the past “have understood the phenomena in the sky how they used phenomena in the sky and what role the sky played in their cultures.”
Sinclair 2006:13
Archaeometry – 

Archaeometry is a field of study that aims to systematize archaeological measurement. It emphasizes the application of analytical techniques from physics, chemistry, and engineering. It is a lively field of research that frequently focuses on the definition of the chemical composition of archaeological remains for source analysis. Glascock et al. 1994

Archaeogenetics

This is a term coined by Colin Renfrew, refers to the application of the techniques of molecular population genetics to the study of the human past. This can involve:

  • the analysis of DNA recovered from archaeological remains, i.e. ancient DNA;
  • the analysis of DNA from modern populations (including humans and domestic plant and animal species) in order to study human past and the genetic legacy of human interaction with the biosphere; and
  • the application of statistical methods developed by molecular geneticists to archaeological data.

 (Source and more on this)

Battlefield archaeology –

Battlefield archaeology also refers to the specific study of a particular archaeological horizon in which a military action occurred. This may include both ‘bounded’ battlefields where troop dispositions, numbers and the order of battle are known from textual records, and also from undocumented evidence of conflict. The discipline is distinct from military history in that it seeks to answer different questions, including the experiences of ordinary soldiers in wider political frameworks. Therefore, battlefield archaeology is not concerned, primarily, with the causes of conflict but of the sites where conflict actually took place, and of the archaeology of the event. (Source and more on this)

Behavioural archaeology – 

An approach to the study of archaeological materials formulated by Michael B. Schiffer in the mid 1970’s that privileged the analysis of human behaviour and individual actions, especially in terms of the making, using, and disposal of material culture. In particular this focused on observing and understanding what people actually did, while refraining from considering people’s thoughts and intentions in explaining that behaviour. (Source and more on this) 

Biblical archaeology –  

The term applied to the archaeology of the biblical lands, especially those of the ancient Middle East. While the thousands of written texts found in the languages of the ancient Middle East illuminate the Bible itself, the artifacts uncovered by archaeologists help re-create the cultural setting of its time.

Bioarchaeolgy – 

Redefined in 1977 by Jane Buikstra, bioarchaeology in the US now refers to the scientific study of human skeletal remains from archaeological sites, a discipline known in other countries as osteoarchaeology or palaeo-osteology. In England and other European countries, the term ‘bioarchaeology’ is borrowed to cover all biological remains from sites. (Source and more on this) 

Classical archaeology – 

Classical archaeology, in simpler terms, can be considered as the study of the most civilized cultures of the world, namely, the Greek and Roman civilizations. By investigating and researching on these two ancient cultures, a 2000 years span of the classical history can be studied. Athens and Rome form the main sites of study for classical archaeology. (Source) 

Cognitive archaeology

is a sub-discipline of archaeology which focuses on the ways that ancient societies thought and the symbolic structures that can be perceived in past material culture.

Commercial archaeology –  

As a relatively recent development within the field of archaeology, commercial archaeology focuses on the impact of developing technologies on culture and design. More specifically, commercial archaeologists study spaces and places of commerce as well as the material culture that is associated with the machine age, primarily that which has developed in association with the automobile and roads. Commercial archaeology also aligns itself closely with the field of culture studies.

Computational archaeology – 
Computational archaeology describes computer-based analytical methods for the study of long-term human behaviour and behavioural evolution. As with other sub-disciplines that have prefixed ‘computational’ to their name (e.g. computational biology, computational physics and computational sociology), the term is reserved for (generally mathematical) methods that could not realistically be performed without the aid of a computer. (Source and more on this)

Contemporary archaeology –

Contemporary Archaeology is a field of archaeological research that focuses on the most recent (20th and 21st century) past, and also increasingly explores the application of archaeological thinking to the contemporary world. It has also been referred to as the archaeology of the ‘contemporary past’.  (Source and more on this)

Cultural resources management

In the broadest sense, Cultural Resources Management (CRM) is the vocation and practice of managing cultural resources, such as the arts and heritage. It incorporates Cultural Heritage Management which is concerned with traditional and historic culture. It also delves into the material culture of archaeology. Cultural resources management encompasses current culture, including progressive and innovative culture, such as urban culture, rather than simply preserving and presenting traditional forms of culture.” (Source) 

Environmental archaeology – 

Environmental archaeology deals with the study of environment by applying the archaeological principles. This is an interesting field for the science students, as the main focus is on studying soil science, sediments, pollens, diatoms and other environment-related archaeological factors. Environmental archaeology encompasses field studies along with laboratory experiments.  (Source) 

Ethnoarchaeology – 

This archaeology type attempts to link the past with the present life. The basics of ethno-archaeology involve anthropology, which is associated with the archaeological theories. For example, studying the present day hunter-gatherer groups helps in examining the mode of hunting and gathering food in the ancient times. The archaeologists found that the past and the present day hunter-gatherers share some common aspects of life. (Source)

Experimental archaeology – 

Experimental archaeology represents the application of the experimental method to develop more highly controlled observations of processes that create and impact the archaeological record. (Source and more on this)

Feminist archaeology – 

Feminist archaeology employs a feminist perspective in interpreting past societies. It often focuses on gender, but also considers gender in tandem with other factors, such as sexuality, race, or class. Feminist archaeology has critiqued the uncritical application of modern, Western norms and values to past societies. It is additionally concerned with the androcentric biases structuring disciplinary norms of archaeology itself, and gender equality within the profession. (Source and more on this)

Forensic archaeology – 

Forensic archaeology, a forensic science, is the application of archaeological principles, techniques and methodologies in a legal context (predominately medico-legal).
Forensic archaeologists are employed by police and other agencies to help locate evidence at a crime scene using the skills normally used on archaeological sites to uncover evidence from the past. Forensic Archaeologists are employed to locate, excavate and record buried remains, the variety of such targets is large and each case is unique in its requirements (hence the need to use an experienced professional forensic archaeologist). (Source and more on this) 

Gender archaeology – 

Gender archaeology is a method of studying past societies through their material culture by closely examining the social construction of gender identities and relations. Gender archaeology itself is based on the ideas that even though nearly all individuals are naturally born to a biological sex (usually either male or female, although also intersex), there is nothing natural about gender, which is actually a social construct which varies between cultures and changes through time.

Geoarchaeology –   

Geoarchaeology is a multi-disciplinary approach which uses the techniques and subject matter of geography, geology and other Earth sciences to examine topics which inform archaeological knowledge and thought. Geoarchaeologists study the natural physical processes that affect archaeological sites such as geomorphology, the formation of sites through geological processes and the effects on buried sites and artifacts post-deposition. Geoarchaeologists’ work frequently involves studying soil and sediments as well as other geographical concepts to contribute an archaeological study. (Source and more on this) 

Historical archaeology –

This branch of archaeology includes the study of ancient history based on historical sites, artifacts and other historical documents that help in arranging the cultural chronology of ancient historic times. It is more or less similar to biblical archaeology that encompasses the study based on written records. It is to be noted that historical records are not always correct and hence, it should be supplemented with other evidences. (Source)

Industrial archaeology – 

Industrial archaeology, like other branches of archaeology, is the study of material culture from the past, but with a focus on industry. Strictly speaking, industrial archaeology includes sites from the earliest times (such as prehistoric copper mining in the British Peak District) to the most recent (such as coal mining sites in the UK closed in the 1980s). However, since large-scale industrialisation began only in the 18th century it is often understood to relate to that and later periods. Industrial archaeologists aim to record and understand the remains of industrialisation, including the technology, transport and buildings associated with manufacture or raw material production. Their work encompasses traditional archaeology, engineering, architecture, economics and the social history of manufacturing/extractive industry as well as the transport and utilities sector. (Source and more on this) 

Interpretitive archaeology – 

Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/interpretive-archaeology#ixzz1VOAdpToB 

Landscape archaeology – 

Landscape archaeology is the study of the ways in which people in the past constructed and used the environment around them. Landscape archaeology is inherently multidisciplinary in its approach to the study of culture, and is used by both pre-historical, classic, and historic archaeologists. The key feature that distinguishes landscape archaeology from other archaeological approaches to sites is that there is an explicit emphasis on the study of the relationships between material culture, human alteration of land/cultural modifications to landscape, and the natural environment. The study of landscape archaeology (also sometimes referred to as the archaeology of the cultural landscape) has evolved to include how landscapes were used to create, naturalize, and reinforce social inequality and to announce one’s social status to the community at large. (Source and more on this) 

Maritime archaeology – 

Maritime archaeology (also known as marine archaeology) is a discipline within archaeology as a whole that specifically studies human interaction with the sea, lakes and rivers through the study of associated physical remains, be they vessels, shore side facilities, port-related structures, cargoes, human remains and submerged landscapes. (Source and more on this) 

Mediaeval archaeology – 

Medieval archaeology is the study of humankind through its material culture, specialising in the period of the European Middle Ages. At its broadest, the period stretches from the 5th to the 16th century and refers to post-Roman but pre modern remains. The period covers the upheaval caused by the fall of the Roman Empire and cultures such as the Vikings, Saxons and Franks. Furthermore it concerns on the study of medieval settlements, especially including medieval towns. Although it was considered by some historians to be useless and not able to solve major problems for a long time, today it is fully acknowledged as one of the branches of historic sciences. (Source and more on this) 

Metallurgy –

Metallurgy, when used by archaeologists, is the study of the ancient processes of producing objects made of metal, including quarrying, mine construction, and smelting. (Source) 

Nautical archaeology –

A specialty within maritime archaeology is nautical archaeology, which studies vessel construction and use. Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/maritime-archaeology#ixzz1VOArpxlN 

Near Eastern archaeology –

Near Eastern Archaeology (sometimes known as Middle Eastern archaeology) is a regional branch of the wider, global discipline of Archaeology. It refers generally to the excavation and study of artifacts and material culture of the Near East from antiquity to the recent past. (Source and more on this) 

New Archaeology –  

Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/new-archaeology#ixzz1VOB2cDEB 

Paleontology –

Paleontology is the study of prehistoric life, including organisms’ evolution and interactions with each other and their environments (their paleoecology). As a “historical science” it tries to explain causes rather than conduct experiments to observe effects. (Source) 

Processual archaeology –  

Pseudo- Archaeology – 

Another sub-discipline of archaeology is pseudo-archaeology. As the name suggests, it aims at non-scientific approach and deals with real as well as imagined evidences to reassemble past life. The pseudo-archaeologists mainly focus on the evidences that contributes to the lost of continents like Atlantis and Mu. (Source)

Post-medieval archaeology –

Post-medieval archaeology is a term used in Europe to describe the study of the material past over the last 500 years. Increasingly the field is referred to as Historical archaeology, a term in international usage. It is closely related to Industrial archaeology, although Post-medieval archaeology conventionally has not extended its studies past the mid 18th century. Such a ‘cut-off’ date is increasingly critiqued by work within Historical archaeology and contemporary archaeology. (Source and more on this) 

Post-Processual archaeolgy –

Read about it here  

Osteoarchaeology –  

A branch of archaeology that deals with the study and analysis of human and animal anatomy, especially skeletal remains, in the context of archaeological deposits. (Source) 

Settlement archaeology –   

The study of the internal structure, arrangement, distribution, and relationships of ancient settlements in the context of their environmental setting and landscape position. (Source) 

Social archaeology –   

A subdiscipline of archaeology developed in the 1970s by Colin Renfrew and others which follows the contention, widely held in Anglo-American archaeology, that understanding the archaeological past must involve reconstructing past societies and social practices in their totality; that artefacts and other archaeological finds must be placed in a social context. Taking a lead from anthropological and sociological enquiries this means taking a ‘top-down’ view by focusing on the systems, institutions, and organization of society before attempting to look at the role of the individual and their actions.

Underwater archaeology – 
Underwater archaeology is an interesting sub-discipline of archaeology. It is associated with the study of underwater evidences such as shipwrecks, water-buried cities and other inundated archaeological sites. Archaeologists practicing in this field attempt to discover the submerged evidences by diving underwater along with sophisticated excavating tools. (Source) 

Urban archaeology –

Urban archaeology is a sub discipline of archaeology specialising in the material past of towns and cities where long-term human habitation has often left a rich record of the past. (Source and more on this) 

Zooarchaeology –

Zooarchaeology, also known as Archaeozoology, is the study of animal remains from archaeological sites. The remains consist primarily of the hard parts of the body such as bones, teeth, and shells. Such remains may represent the food refuse of ancient populations as well as animals used for transportation, farm or other labor or pet, or for decoration, clothing and tools and the scrap therefrom.
The study of these remains helps archaeologists understand past human subsistence strategies and economic interactions, and completes our picture of the kind of environments humans have inhabited. (Source and more on this)

Thanks for asking this question! I have learned a lot by finding this answer 🙂

Oh and I know I must have left something out, if someone finds what it is, please post in comments!

Please don’t forget to send me more questions!
Sources:

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_are_the_different_fields_of_archaeology#ixzz1VNxLNZp3
And all the rest I pointed out


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