Archaeologists study the material record, bits of things that have been either intentionally or unintentionally modified by human beings to become artifacts. In a word, stuff. Practitioners are expected to become familiar with a vast range of stuff and the characteristics thereof: from the flowing ripple marks left on a fragment of stone after it has been hammered off of a larger piece to produce a flake, to the peculiar, stretched cross-section that indicates a square nail has been machine-cut rather than hand-forged. One particularly important subset of stuff is the archival record which, besides consisting itself of artifacts of paper and ink, conveys a great deal of information relating to much of the rest of the stuff in the world.



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