How To Tell an Archaeologist From a Palaeontologist

Actually By Mark Carnall

Editor’s Warning: The author uses the superfluous “a” throughout this post in words such as archeology and paleontology.

This post is something of a PSA to address a pet peeve of mine, the general confusion in the media about the difference between scientists working in biology and archaeology. Here’s a recent example of ‘archaeologists’ puzzling over Paleocene mammal remains. Puzzle they may because they’re literally 50 million years out of their depth. I doubt this post will really change anything and archaeologists will be digging up dinosaurs in press releases and science articles for many years to come particularly seeing as others have already covered this annoying and lazy habit that journalists, presumably covering the science desk vacation period, can’t seem to shake.

So, as you might expect a joke to go, what is the difference between an archaeologist and palaeontologist?

Well, down here after the jump I’m happy to concede that the reason why there may be confusion is because the guilds of archaeologists, palaeontologists, palaeobiologists and zoologists never got together and agreed who does what. Partly because these guilds are fictitious and partly because at times archaeologists have to be zoologists and sometimes palaeontologists have to be archaeologists. If only there was a nice venn diagram to clear it up….

..there isn’t. Well not here anyway. So instead we’ll go for a discipline by discipline breakdown…

Click here to read the rest of this post at the University College London’s Museums & Collections Blog.

About T.H. Gray

T.H. Gray is the self-appointed court jester and Dr. Demento for the history museum field. A lifelong museum professional and reenactor, he is a graduate of the prestigious Peale-Barnum Public History Museum Studies Program. Until 2011, when the AHS hired him away, he was on staff at the Benjamin Dover Memorial Museum & Swimming Pool ("Our History is All Wet!"). He remembers when museums were still about history, science, and art. BTW, all of these posts say they are by T.H. Gray because he can't turn off the byline. Credit, when due, is given. View all posts by T.H. Gray

One response to “How To Tell an Archaeologist From a Palaeontologist

  • mtngrl74

    “The superfluous a”…yeah, those rotten pal’e’ontologists trying to copy arch’ae’ologists! What’s up with that?

    My comment on the previous Peabody’s Lamet ‘a’ vs. ‘ae’ post stands. 😉

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