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What role does archaeology play in the study of history? What are some important archaeological discoveries that have shaped contemporary understanding of the world?

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Archaeology is the evidence of history. Of course we know that history exists, but archaeological evidence is what gives that history its shape and color. 

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 Paleolithic until the advent of literacy in any given society.

For example, we may have written or other documentation which suggests that a certain people group once inhabited a land, and we may know (or think we know) how they must have lived based on similar groups or other some kind of external evidence. Until we see the artifacts of that culture, however, we really cannot be certain of anything. 

Artifacts reveal much more than the existence of a people group. The tools they used can tell us how they built things; the foundations of their homes (whatever they looked like) can tell us if they lived in large or small family units. The weapons they used...

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laurto | Student

Archaeology plays a huge role in the study of history. Archaeology helps us learn more about how past societies lived and how the human race developed. This is why we learn about history. We learn about history to understand about the past to better understand why we are where we are today. Archaeology is the best way to understand how the past lived and this is why it is so important.