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Achieving this understanding requires ideas about how individuals and societies are formed and how they interact, ideas that archaeologists have frequently drawn from humanistic and social science disciplines such as philosophy, psychology, sociology, and cultural anthropology.In this sense, archaeology is a uniquely hybrid intellectual endeavour that requires knowledge of an eclectic, wide-ranging set of analytic methods and social theories to write the history of past societies.Archaeologists deploy the analytic techniques of many scientific disciplines—botany, chemistry, computer science, ecology, evolutionary biology, genetics, geology, and statistics, among others—to recover and interpret the material remains of past human activities.

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In Europe archaeology is more closely allied with humanistic pursuits such as classics, philology, and art history.

In the last few decades of the 20th century, this marked distinction in archaeological training and scholarship began to blur as the practice of archaeology became increasingly global and continual communication among archaeologists across national and regional borders accelerated.

Physical anthropologists work broadly on three major sets of problems: human and nonhuman primate evolution, human variation and its significance, and the biological bases of human behaviour.

The course that human evolution has taken and the processes that have brought it about are of equal concern.

Subsequent ground reconnaissance is designed to map and describe archaeological sites.

It frequently involves the systematic collection of surface artifacts (such as pottery, stone tools, human and animal bones, metal, and other durable objects) that can reveal the chronological placement (dating), spatial relationships, and, often, the social functions of archaeological sites.Archaeology differs from the study of history principally in the source of the information used to reconstruct and interpret the past.Historians concentrate specifically on the evidence of written texts, while archaeologists directly examine all aspects of a society’s material culture—its architecture, art, and artifacts, including texts—the material objects made, used, and discarded by human beings.The documentary record of an excavation includes detailed maps and architectural plans of excavated structures and other features, along with large quantities of recovered artifacts, the stratigraphic locations (that is, the precise horizontal and vertical position within the buried layers of a site) and depositional context of which have been meticulously recorded in standardized data forms.The final procedure of documenting the material remains of past societies entails careful, and often technically specialized, quantitative and qualitative analysis of recovered artifacts.Archaeological survey often employs aerial photographs and satellite images to locate human settlements and related features visible on the surface.