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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.Archaeology is an important field of anthropology, which is the broad study of human culture and biology.Archaeologists concentrate their studies on past societies and changes in those societies over extremely long periods of time.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.
For example, fabrics and flowers were found in the celebrated tomb of Tutankhamun, an Egyptian pharaoh who was buried in 1323 BC.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.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.
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Archaeological research spans the entire development of phenomena that are unique to humans.