Archaeology

Archaeology is the study of human history and prehistory through the excavation of sites and the analysis of physical remains. Oxford Reference provides more than 6,200 concise definitions and in-depth, specialist encyclopedic entries on a wide range of subjects across this discipline. Our coverage comprises authoritative, highly accessible information on the principles, theories, techniques, artefacts, materials, people, places, and equipment relating to archaeological finds throughout the world. Written by trusted experts for researchers at every level, entries are complemented by illustrative line drawings, charts, and chronologies wherever useful.

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Meet the Experts

All the Archaeology content in Oxford Reference is created by recognised experts and is subject to a rigorous editorial process. Our trusted authors and editors are the reason Oxford Reference can answer with authority. Meet our Archaeology experts here.

Featured Author

Timothy Darvill

A graduate of the University of Southampton, Timothy Darvill has supervised excavations in Cirencester and elsewhere around his Cotswold homeland. After working for the Council for British Archaeology, Western Archaeological Trust, and English Heritage he established his own consultancy and amongst many other projects worked on Britain’s first Environmental Assessment for the Channel Tunnel land-fall sites in Kent. In 1991 he was appointed the first Professor of Archaeology at Bournemouth University. Tim was also a founding director, now Chairman, of Cotswold Archaeology. Current research interests focus on the origins of monumental architecture and the meaning of stone to Neolithic peoples. In 2006 he won the National Award for the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage of Russia presented by the Russian Archaeological Heritage Foundation (Археологическое Наследие), and he was appointed OBE in the 2010 Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

Author Q&A

In your opinion, which is the most fascinating entry in your titles and why?

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, Alberta, Canada: the name of the site is so evocative and the nature of the site so extraordinary: a cliff over which herds of buffalo were driven in order to kill them for food, first used around 5400 BC and still in use in AD 1797.

What do you think is the most commonly held misconception in your subject area?

The most common misconception about archaeology is that most of our time is spent digging! In fact, some archaeologists never get into the field at all. Their research can be based on museum collections, or the scientific analysis of finds and samples taken by others. And of course archaeological resource management is a major area of endeavour directed towards spatial planning, environmental impact assessment, community archaeology, and presenting results to the public in various ways. Archaeology these days has a lot of different facets.

Which figure in your subject’s history would you most like to invite to a dinner party? What would you ask him/her?

William Stukeley (1687– 1765), an antiquarian, traveller, doctor, cleric, and co-founder of the Society of Antiquaries of London. He lived through interesting times, variously embracing the emergent philosophical traditions of positivism and romanticism. He was one of the first to make detailed surveys of Stonehenge and Avebury and saw the archaeological sites of southern Britain before they were subjected to the erosive effects of intensive land-use over recent centuries. I would very much like to ask him about his experiences of Stonehenge in the 1720s as I’m sure it would be a real eye-opener.

 

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Additional Resources

Looking for more content from Oxford's reference program in Archaeology? Explore our compilation of recommended web links as a supplement to these Oxford Quick Reference print titles

Dictionary of Archaeology: Companion Website