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What is Archaeology?

Archaeology (Greek: Study of antiquities) is a science that focuses on the investigation of the cultural development of people. Compared to the study of Ancient History, which is primarily working with early literary sources, archaeology is concerned with material remains. Therefore, it is often the only possibility to research early civilizations and it gives a more direct insight into their daily lives. Buildings, tools, art objects, images or everyday objects are investigated with the aim to learn more about early societies, the living and everyday situations of their individuals, their behavior and thoughts, their forms of economy, and/or their beliefs and values.

In order to answer these questions, numerous methodological approaches have been developed i. e. for the correct documentation of objects and images, for reconstruction purposes, for dating and for interpretation. Since many objects only become comprehensible within their original context of use, archaeological excavation make up a central part of investigation within the discipline, although it has recently been influenced by other methods of research. The overarching goal remains that the investigated objects can be understood in their greater cultural and historic contexts, which is why the development of theories and interpretational approaches is of great importance. Therefore, archaeology is a field of study that places practical and theoretical research on the same level. It requires a lot of patience because the works in the field, in laboratories and in libraries are tedious and detailed processes.

history. It is rooted deeply in the humanities, where the questions and theoretical models for the investigation on early cultures originate. Because of this, close connections to related disciplines such as Ancient History, Art History and Ethnology have been present. Lately, methods and approaches that stem from natural and computer sciences have gained an increasing influence. Archaeological research is thus conducted in multi-disciplinary large scale projects in which archaeologists are responsible for the formulation of the overarching questions, the coordination of the different methodological approaches and the interpretation of the partial results. Archaeology plays an important part between humanities and natural sciences, which is why the Cologne study program focuses on both.

Archaeology has a long tradition: the systematic research on early civilizations reaches back to the times of the Renaissance and the interest in the classical times that has come into life in the 15th century. Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717-1768) can be considered the founder of archaeology as a proper science. Because of the prevailing interest in the Greek and Roman cultures in early times of the field, classical archaeology can be seen as the oldest archaeological field. Subsequently, several fields in archaeology have arisen that are concerned with various eras and/or regions, due to a fast growth in knowledge about early cultures and civilizations. At the University of Cologne the following are available: Classical Archaeology, Archaeology of the Roman Provinces, Prehistoric Archaeology, and Egyptology. Besides theses, there are several other relevant fields that are specialized on particular methods or sources, from which Archaeoinformatics (digital applications within Archaeology), Epigraphy (study of inscriptions), Numismatics (study of coins) and Papyrology) are located in Cologne. The different fields of Archaeologies in Cologne cooperate closely with the neighboring University of Bonn and thus together they form one of the most important locations for archaeological research in Germany.