Archaeology can be a fun and adventurous hobby or career, but it also holds a more significant place in society than many people realize. Modern society is a direct descendant of historic peoples and cultures, and archaeological work helps to preserve and enhance cultural traditions, informs policymakers on important cultural considerations, and unites nations and ethnic groups through stories of their common heritage. Archaeology also encourages the preservation of land, as sites must be left undisturbed to allow inferences to be drawn from the surrounding environment and artifacts.
The primary goal of archaeologists is to reconstruct past societies and civilizations through the analysis of artifacts. This is done by examining the shape, size, and contents of an object (for example, a pot, a tool, or a building) to gain insights into how that particular item was used and why it was made. The goal is to determine the sequence of events that led to significant changes in a culture, such as the emergence of agriculture or the collapse of a major city.
To accomplish this task, archaeologists must work in conjunction with experts in a variety of fields. Anthropologists and sociologists help to provide theoretical frameworks for understanding social phenomena in the past, which are then applied to archaeological data by archaeologists. These theoretical frameworks, however, have a hard time translating into empirical predictions that can be tested.
Another major objective of archaeology is to understand human evolution. Archaeologists study the development and growth of early humans as well as the extinction of ancient peoples in order to understand why civilizations rise and fall. This allows them to make predictions about future trends in human evolution that can be used for planning purposes.
Archaeologists must also interact with the general public to help build a foundation of support for their research. This includes providing educational materials about the past and encouraging the participation of members of the public in the field, laboratory, and museum work. This interaction helps to keep the public interested in archaeology and to generate support for funding the fieldwork, conservation of artifacts, and research on human origins.