Dictionary of Human Evolution and Biology

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Subfield of anthropology that focuses on past cultural variation in prehistoric and some historic populations through an analysis of material remains; literally, the science of the old. Historically, in the Old World, the term archaeology was generally restricted to civilizations that had writing, and the term prehistory was applied to cultures that antedated these civilizations or to so-called precontact cultures. American archaeologists use the term much more loosely; sometimes spelled archeology in the USA, especially when referring to processual archaeology.

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