Margin of error in radiocarbon dating
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With its focus on the ancient past, archaeology somewhat resembles paleontologythe study of fossils of long-extinct animals, such as dinosaurs.However, archaeology is distinct from paleontology and studies only past human life.
Because many items disintegrate over time, archaeologists get an incomplete view of the past that they must fill in with other kinds of information and educated reasoning.
These remains include the fossils (preserved bones) of humans, food remains, the ruins of buildings, and human artifactsitems such as tools, pottery, and jewelry.
From their studies, archaeologists attempt to reconstruct past ways of life.
The archeological record encompasses every area of the world that has ever been occupied by humans, as well as all of the material remains contained in those areas.
Archaeologists study the archaeological record through field surveys and excavations and through the laboratory study of collected materials.
Archaeologists have also recorded how primitive forms of humans spread out of Africa into Asia about 1.8 million years ago, then into Europe about 900,000 years ago.
The first physically modern humans, Homo sapiens sapiens, appeared in tropical Africa between 200,000 and 150,000 years agodates determined by molecular biologists and archaeologists working together.Today, archaeologists study the great cultural diversity of humanity in every corner of the world.Archaeological study covers an extremely long span of time and a great variety of subjects.Sites containing signs of the first simple but purposeful burials in graves date to as early as 40,000 years ago in Europe and Southwest Asia.By the time people lived in civilizations, burials and funeral ceremonies had become extremely important and elaborate rituals.Dozens of archaeological sites throughout Asia and Europe show how people migrated from Africa and settled these two continents during the last Ice Age (100,000 to 15,000 years ago).