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Searching for the Past
Science is based on observation and inference. Any event being studied must first be observed. Do you know the difference between observation and inference? If you visited an archaeological site, would you just observe the facts or would you make decisions about the clues you found? Find out more about how to evaluate clues from the past, and then take a quiz to test your new skills.

Words used

  • Hypothesis: a proposed explanation accounting for a set of facts that can be tested by further investigation.
  • Inference: a conclusion derived from observations.
  • Observation: recognizing or noting a fact or occurrence.
How Archaeologists Learn
Archaeologists use observation and inference to learn the story of past people. By making observations about objects (artifacts and sites) they infer the behavior of the people who used the objects. When archaeologists find the remains of a large settlement (observation), they can infer that the people were hunters. To test that inference (hypothesis), they look for evidence of hunting such as weapons (like flints or spear shafts) and food remains from animals (bones). If they find these things, their hypothesis is verified. Archaeologists construct careful hypotheses when making inferences from archaeological data.

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Searching for the Past
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