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Archaeology is the study of the past by looking for the remains and artifacts (historical things) left by the people who lived long ago. These remains can include old coins, tools, buildings, and garbage. Archaeologists, the people who study archaeology, use these remains to understand how people lived.
Archaeologists think it is important to understand the past, because so many people use the past to know where they come from.
When archaeologists do fieldwork, they look for remains, often by digging deep in the ground. When things are found, or even when nothing is found, the results of the fieldwork are taken back to the place where the archaeologist's base is, maybe a university or museum. They record everything they found by writing down on paper or entering the information into a computer, so that they can build a picture of everything that is found. As settlements (places where people lived in groups) change and grow, old buildings are often buried to make space for new buildings. Ancient Rome, for example, is now up to 40 feet (12 metres) below the present city. This is why archaeological fieldwork is expensive and why it takes a long time.
Fields of interest
Archaeologists do not all study the same civilizations, they specialize in different areas of interest. Some fields of interest include Ancient Egypt (these specialists are called Egyptologists), Ancient Greece, or the Vikings. Archaeologists study every civilization that is known, especially the ones where there is no written history. They can study any time period. For example, one might study the beginning of human life in Africa, or one might study World War II. Some archaeologists study things that are now underwater. They search for sunken ships or cities that have been lost under the sea.
Stonehenge, in England is a famous archaeological site, or place. Other famous sites include Angkor Wat, Machu Picchu, and Great Zimbabwe. In many countries, governments and other groups of people protect important sites so that they will not be destroyed and so that visitors can always come and see them.
Sometimes archaeological sites are found when foundations are dug for new buildings. Archaeologists have to work quickly when this happens, because people building often don't have a lot of time. Many times as soon as the archaeologists are done with their work, the remains that they have found will be covered over, unless they are very important.