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Archaeological sites

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Archeology in a metro station

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:

Sometimes even local groups have volunteer opportunities. For example in the Ottawa area, the NCC (National Capital Commission) runs an annual archaeology month, usually in August.

See also:

  • Past Horizons. An index of archaeological projects worldwide that need volunteers

Famous archaeological sites[edit]


See also: Prehistoric Europe, Ancient Greece, Roman Empire, Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
Restoration work at the Acropolis

Middle East[edit]



Angkor Wat

See also Sacred sites of the Indian sub-continent.


See also[edit]

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