Archaeology became established as a formal discipline in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

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For the most part, the only things that survive are durable items such as potsherds (small fragments of pottery), tools or buildings of stone, bones, and teeth (which survive because they are covered with hard enamel).

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.

Archaeology also examines many of the same topics explored by historians.

But unlike historythe study of written records such as government archives, personal correspondence, and business documentsmost of the information gathered in archaeology comes from the study of objects lying on or under the ground Archaeologists refer to the vast store of information about the human past as the archaeological record.

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.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.The earliest archaeological sites include those at Hadar, Ethiopia; Olduvai Gorge and Laetoli, Tanzania; East Turkana, Kenya; and elsewhere in East Africa.These sites contain evidence of the first appearance of bipedal (upright walking), apelike early humans.The earliest subjects of archaeological study date from the origins of humanity.