Please, for the love of god, do not ask an archaeologist “what’s the most interesting thing you’ve ever dug up?” because, when you do, somewhere a fairy gets punched in the colon. Archaeologists are interested in investigating questions about people who lived in the past, questions similar to what cultural anthropologists ask about groups of people in the present. What makes archaeology unique is that often times those questions are asked of groups of people who left no written record, so to access that information archaeologists excavate material culture that these groups left. We dig up other people’s garbage. We use the items as a set of data; they are a means to answer more complicated cultural questions, not the ends in and of themselves. We excavate carefully, follow specific guidelines and methods, and use sophisticated techniques of analysis on our artifacts. This is not the same thing as your Uncle Ed using a metal detector to find stuff at the beach. In fact, when your Uncle Ed uses that metal detector, somewhere a fairy gets hit by a truck.


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