For the next entry into my What are ...? series, I am looking at something that is often confused, the difference between an Archaeologist and a Paleontologist. This confusing was brought up recently when I was reading the question cards in my daughter's game of Dino Math Tracks:
Within the game, there are cards where the person must solve the math word problem in order to figure out how many spaces they can move. This is the card in question:
Archeologists must ship 24 tons of dinosaur bones to the museum. If each truck can hold 2 tons, how many trucks do they need to ship the bones? Move forward that number of spaces.
This brings up a common mistake in everyday life: mistaking what an archaeologist is versus a paleontologist.
Archaeologist: According to Webster's Dictionary archaeology is the study of past cultures through their surviving relics.
This means that an archaeologist studies the remains of civilizations that people leave behind. This can include some things like arrowheads to the pyramids, bowls to clothing, eating utensils to cave dwellings, and everything in between. Archaeologists study the changing human behavior but not the changes in our physical selves. This article puts it perfectly:
... archaeology is the reconstruction of ancient behavior from the things people left behind.