An archaeological site is any place with physical evidence of past human activity. Such sites might be from pre-history as well as history; even remnants from modern times can count as archaeological sites.
The leave-no-trace principle is mandatory for these places. Legal consequences for trespassing in closed areas, damaging remnants, or removing artifacts, might be harsh. Respect local authorities.
Some archaeological sites give opportunities for tourists to take part in excavations. Other sites have developed into tourist traps, where commerce is dominant above the genuine experience.
For places that are both archaeological sites and still inhabited, we have a separate list at Old towns.
- See also: Art and antiques shopping
There are several kinds of archaeological souvenirs. Note that there are export restrictions or total prohibition against the export of archaeological artifacts in many countries and penalties can be anything from seizure of the article to prison sentences. Therefore, permits may be required to export archaeological and other cultural artifacts, especially the genuine ones:
- Genuine artifacts: Possession of these might be illegal. In every case collecting at archaeological sites destroys valuable historical information. You need a scientific strategy, elaborate methods and the permissions of the relevant government authorities.
- Forged artifacts: These are claimed to be genuine, so they might cost as much and cause as much legal trouble as a genuine artifact. They are not worth either the price or the trouble.
- Cheap imitations: Often available from vendors near the sites or in tourist shops nearby. These can be a good buy, but you will often have to bargain hard to get a reasonable price. Quality ranges from absolute junk to excellent.
- Official replicas: These are generally sold by museums, copies of items in their collection. They are probably the safest choice for a traveller, usually good quality and sold at fixed prices. Not all are sold at the sites themselves; the country's national museum may offer replicas and major museums like the Smithsonian or the British Museum have fine replicas based on finds from all over the world.
Nearly all travellers should restrict themselves to the last two categories.
Archaeology involves a great deal of work and helping out on a site might be both fascinating to a participant and valuable to a project. Unfortunately the field is generally not well funded and most projects cannot afford to pay anyone except professionals and perhaps some graduate students or, in some places, cheap local labor.
There are programs in various countries that involve volunteer work on archaeological digs:
- World Heritage Volunteers. A UNESCO program mainly working on preservation of UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- Past Horizons. An index of archaeological projects worldwide that need volunteers
Famous archaeological sites
- France: Nîmes, Le Pont du Gard
- Greece: Athens/Acropolis, Delos, Delphi, Kos, Knossos, Mycenae, Olympia, Rhodes, Samos, Samothrace
- Italy: Capri, Cerveteri, Gela, Herculaneum, Ostia, Paestum, Pompeii, Rome/Colosseo, Syracuse
- United Kingdom: Stonehenge
- Egypt: Abydos, Abu Simbel, Amarna, Dendera, Edfu, Karnak, Kom Ombo, Giza, Saqqara, Philae, Valley of the Kings
- Turkey: Aphrodisias, Bergama, Bodrum, Bogazkale, Çatalhöyük, Çavdarhisar, Dalyan, Ephesus, Troy
- Iraq: Babylon
- Israel: Akko, Beer Sheva, Caesarea, Gezer, Hazor, Masada, Megiddo
- Jordan: Petra
- Palestinian Territories: Jericho
- Saudi Arabia: Madain Saleh
- Egypt: Abydos, Abu Simbel, Amarna, Dendera, Edfu, Kom Ombo, Giza, Saqqara, Philae
- Libya: Leptis Magna
- Morocco: Volubilis
- Tunisia: Carthage, Dougga, El Jem, Kerkouane, Sufetula
- Zimbabwe: Great Zimbabwe
- Cambodia: Angkor Wat
- China: caves outside Dunhuang, Anyang, Great Wall of China, Xian
- India: Fatehpur Sikri, Hampi, Nalanda, Pataliputra
- Indonesia: Borobudur, Prambanan
- Myanmar: Bagan, Mrauk U
- Pakistan: Harappa, Mohenjo-daro, Taxila
- Thailand: Ayutthaya, Sukhothai
- Vietnam: My Son
See also Sacred sites of the Indian sub-continent.
- Belize: Xunantunich
- Bolivia: Isla del Sol, Tiwanaku
- Brazil: Serra da Capivara National Park
- Canada: Viking settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows, Red Bay Whaling Station (Newfoundland)
- Colombia: Ciudad Perdida de Teyuna
- Guatemala: Tikal, Piedras Negras, El Mirador
- Honduras: Copan Ruinas
- Mexico: Chichen Itza, Cacaxtla, Coba, Monte Alban, Palenque, El Tajin, Templo Mayor, Plaza de Tres Culturas (Tlatelolco), Teotihuacan, Tula, Tulum, Uxmal, Xcaret
- Nicaragua: ruins of old León, Huellas de Acahualinca (pre-historic footprints in Managua)
- Peru: Choquequirao, Machu Picchu, Nazca, Ollantaytambo, Pisac
- United States: Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, La Brea Tar Pits at Hancock Park inside Los Angeles, Moundsville, Ohio prehistoric sites, Taos Pueblos.