What Is Archaeology?

Contributor: Nichole Brooker. Lesson ID: 11909

Would you like to get paid for playing in the dirt? Archaeologists do that, but it's not all play; it's hard work! These scientists find things from the past. Dig in and find out!


Social Studies

Social Studies
learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Fun Fact: Archeology can be spelled two ways. Both archeology and archaeology are correct!

  • If you were an archaeologist, what would you want to dig for? Why?

Dig into this lesson for the dirt on archaeology!

  • Have you ever heard the term archaeologist?

Before you answer that, print the Graphic Organizer - KWL Chart from Downloadable Resources in the right-hand sidebar.

  1. Fill in the first column under Know. Make a list of all you know about archaeology or archaeologists.
  1. When you are finished, move to the next column, Want to Know. List all the things you want to know about archaeologists. Some suggestions are below.
  • What does an archaeologist do?
  • Where do they work?
  • What are they looking for?
  • What have archaeologists discovered?
  • When did archaeology begin?
  • Why do archaeologists do what they do?
  • Who becomes an archaeologist?
  • How do archaeologists do their job?

An archaeologist is a professional who studies and analyzes the remains of past human cultures, including artifacts, structures, and other physical evidence, to learn about the history, lifestyle, and development of ancient societies.

  • Did you write that on your KWL chart?

If not, add it now.

You may have heard of a paleontologist, someone who specifically digs for fossils and dinosaur bones. Paleontologists differ from archaeologists because one looks for fossils while the other looks for human artifacts and remains.

This lesson will focus on archaeology and the study of human remains and history.

Humankind goes back for many thousands of years.

  • How do we know that?

We know that because archaeologists have been studying how human beings lived many years ago by examining the past.

As you read about Archeology, make a list of keywords and phrases that are associated with archaeology.

Learning vocabulary about a new concept can help explain it and make it more concrete. Your list should be at least eight or more words. Be sure to click on each of the tabs on this website and read the information.

  • How many vocabulary words did you write down?
  • Did you write down the following words?
  dig story-telling tools
  dirt sites puzzle
  clues collections artifacts
  past excavate research


When an archaeologist finds an artifact, it is carefully extracted from the ground with special tools. These tools look like this.

archaeology tools

The pieces of history that archaeologists discover are like puzzle pieces that explain how the earth has changed over time.

The information discovered by digging out artifacts helps lead human beings to how culture has changed and how our ancestors lived. Their discoveries shape our world, help historians write history books, and help explain how cultures have changed over hundreds of years.

In the Got It? section, you will use those vocabulary words to create your explanation of what archaeologists do and how archaeology works.

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