Know Your Scientists : Archaeology vs Palaeontology

We say biologists, chemists and physicists daily, when there are hundreds of different areas of each subject, so we help you know your scientists. Archaeology and palaeontology are very different things and not OK to generalise one as the other, it tends to get on their nerves so here’s the difference between them.


Archaeology is the study of human history. This is done the majority of the time by studying the material remains a civilization leaves behind when they have gone. They obviously study human remains too, but there is a lot more to be learnt about a culture from the things it leaves behind. From something as simple as a cooking pot to the great pyramid of Giza, archaeologists study it all.

Humans have been around for thousands of years, so naturally there are many different branches of archaeology, just like there are of biology. The study of pre-history, for example, is the study of archaeology before human history was written down. Classical archaeologists study ancient western cultures while industrial archaeologists study the development and history of of engineering.


Palaeontologists deal with the more distant past than humans, instead of study the history of humanity, they are studying the history of life. They do a lot of fossil investigations and using these they have helped establish our evolution and heritage back to millions and billions of years ago.

When most people hear the word palaeontology they think of dinosaurs which is one of the main focuses of study for some palaeontologists. The study of palaeontology is just as diverse as archaeology, with some branches specialising in bones, some specialising in a certain species of plant and some field of the science are purely devoted to faeces.

The main similarity between the two sciences is that they both understand that basically the further down you go into the earth, the older remains become, and that’s essentially where the things they have in common stop. So don’t be getting them confused with one another!