Archaeology, or archeology (from Greek ἀρχαιολογία, archaiologia – ἀρχαῖος, arkhaios, "ancient"; and -λογία, -logia, "-logy"), is the study of human society, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts and cultural landscapes (the archaeological record). Because archaeology employs a wide range of different procedures, it can be considered to be both a science and a humanity, and in the United States it is thought of as a branch of anthropology, although in Europe it is viewed as a separate discipline.
Archaeology studies human history from the development of the first stone tools in eastern Africa 3.4 million years ago up until recent decades. (Archaeology does not include the discipline of paleontology.) It is of most importance for learning about prehistoric societies, when there are no written records for historians to study, making up over 99% of total human history, from the Palaeolithic until the advent of literacy in any given society. Archaeology has various goals, which range from studying human evolution to cultural evolution and understanding culture history.
The discipline involves surveyance, excavation and eventually analysis of data collected to learn more about the past. In broad scope, archaeology relies on cross-disciplinary research. It draws upon anthropology, history, art history, classics, ethnology, geography, geology, linguistics, physics, information sciences, chemistry, statistics, paleoecology, paleontology, paleozoology, paleoethnobotany, and paleobotany.
Archaeology developed out of antiquarianism in Europe during the 19th century, and has since become a discipline practiced across the world. Since its early development, various specific sub-disciplines of archaeology have developed, including maritime archaeology, feminist archaeology and archaeoastronomy, and numerous different scientific techniques have been developed to aid archaeological investigation. Nonetheless, today, archaeologists face many problems, ranging from dealing with pseudoarchaeology to the looting of artifacts and opposition to the excavation of human remains.