Science

Difference Between Archaeologist and Paleontologist

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Main Difference

The main difference between Archaeologist and Paleontologist is that an Archaeologist is one who studies past lifestyle and artifacts, whereas Paleontologist is one who studies fossils of plants and animals.

Archaeologist vs. Paleontologist

An archaeologist is one who studies past lifestyle and artifacts, whereas paleontologist is one who studies fossils of plants and animals. Archaeologist’s scope of the study is closely related to anthropology; on the other hand, the paleontologist’s scope of the study is related to botany and zoology. An Archaeologist must know history and culture; conversely, a paleontologist must know life sciences.

Archaeologist focuses on the past culture and lifestyle, and opposingly paleontologist focuses on life in the past, i.e., fossils of plants and animals. The emphasis of an archaeologist is on artifacts and human fossils, whereas paleontologist is more interested in fossils of biological creatures. Archaeologists have no concern with fossils; on the flip side, paleontologists only study fossils.

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Archaeologist focus on the subfields like anthropology and sociology; on the contrary, paleontologist focuses on subfields like fossil chemistry, evolutionary biology, and geology. An archaeologist can also be called anthropologist, whereas the paleontologist can also be called biologist. Archaeologists study fossils only when there is any evidence that humans have touched or modified them; on the other hand, paleontologists have all the work with biological fossils.

As archaeologists study past cultures, so they also study architecture made by human in the past conversely paleontologist has no link with past architecture. Archaeologists also study past languages. On the contrary, paleontologists do not study languages.

Comparison Chart

ArchaeologistPaleontologist
An archaeologist is a person who studies past human cultures by analyzing artifacts, architecture, and cultural places.A paleontologist is a person who studies fossils of plants and animals.
Related Fields
AnthropologyBotany and Zoology
Historical Knowledge
An archaeologist must know the history.Paleontologist does not need to have historical knowledge.
Main Focus
Past life and cultureFossils
Sub Fields
Anthropology and SociologyFossil chemistry and Geology
Other Term
Also called as an anthropologist.Also called as a biologist.
Past Architecture
Study past architectureDo not study past architecture
Branches
Historical archaeology and Experimental archaeologyPaleontology and Biogeography
Past Languages
Study past languagesDo not study past languages
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What is an Archaeologist?

An archaeologist is a person who studies past human cultures by analyzing artifacts, architecture, and cultural places. In other words, one who studies archaeology is called an archaeologist. Archaeologists are concerned with past social life and ways, so archaeology is often viewed as anthropology and social science. Archaeologists study past architecture, tools, and instruments made by man. Any sort of bones that shows signs of human modification is also studied by archaeologists; otherwise, they do not study fossils.

Analysis, survey, excavation, and examination are the analytical techniques used by archaeologists to study past. Archaeology emerged in the 19th century in Europe and later was spread like a field throughout the world. Archaeologists also study many other subjects like geography, geology, fossil history, and sociology.

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Archaeology began in Europe when philosophers paid attention to Egyptian and Roman artifacts and culture. Archaeologists followed their path, and later new techniques were developed for this purpose. Stratigraphy was the first method introduced. It involved dating of artifacts found so that it provided evidence of past cultures as well as the objects near its date. Later new methods like field survey, remote sensing, etc. were introduced.

These modern techniques and tools detect the artifacts not only underground but also underwater. This caused a vast advancement in the field of archaeology. Archaeologists are not only limited to artifacts and architecture, but they also study past languages as language is a key to interpret any culture. Archaeologists do both laboratory work and fieldwork. Laboratory work includes a detailed analysis of things, whereas fieldwork includes traveling and exploring past cultures.

What is a Paleontologist?

A paleontologist is a person who studies fossils of plants and animals. Or in other words, a person who studies paleontology is called paleontologist. Paleontology is closely related to biology and life sciences. This field emerged in the 5th century BCE and was later developed and spread in the 18th century. It studies fossils and traces their relations with other organisms. It also determines the kind of environment n which those organisms existed.

Paleontologists also study subjects such as mathematics, biology, botany, and biochemistry. It ratifies them to study the evolutionary history of life on earth. Human, animal, and plant fossils of various ages show how the earth has undergone changes and how life fluctuated and modified.

With the advancement in this field, new techniques were also developed, including biostratigraphy and taxonomy. Biostratigraphy includes dividing the layers of earth from oldest to youngest hence tracing their evolutionary history. Taxonomy is the technique of making a ‘tree’ of organisms so that their family history can be traced. There is another method that traces the DNA and generic history of organisms.

Paleontologists mostly do fieldwork digging up sites where evidence of fossils can be found. The steps involve planning, directing, excavating, and then examining the fossils. They take specimens not only from land but oceans, sea, and even ice. After careful examination of advanced tools, the shreds of evidence are documented. There are many subfields of paleontology, including micropaleontology, paleobotany, vertebral paleontology, etc. every paleontologist studies a specific genre or discipline.

Key Differences

  1. An archaeologist is one who studies about past lifestyle and artifacts whereas paleontologist is one who studies fossils of plants and animals.
  2. Archaeologist’s scope of the study is closely related to anthropology; on the other hand, the paleontologist’s scope of the study is related to botany and zoology.
  3. An Archaeologist must know history and culture; conversely, a paleontologist must know life sciences.
  4. Archaeologist focuses on the past culture, and lifestyle opposingly paleontologist focuses on life in the past, i.e., fossils of plants and animals.
  5. The emphasis of an archaeologist is on artifacts and human fossils whereas paleontologist is more interested in fossils of biological creatures.
  6. Archaeologists have no concern with fossils on the flip side paleontologists only study fossils.
  7. Archaeologists focus on subfields like anthropology and sociology; on the contrary, paleontologists focus on subfields like fossil chemistry, evolutionary biology, and geology.
  8. An archaeologist can also be called as an anthropologist, whereas paleontologist can also be called as a biologist.
  9. Archaeologists study fossils only when there is any evidence that humans have touched or modified them; on the other hand, paleontologists have all the work with biological fossils.
  10. As archaeologists study past cultures, so they also study architecture made by humans in the past; conversely, paleontologists have no link with past architecture.
  11. The archaeologist also studies past languages on the contrary paleontologist does not study the language.

Conclusion

So, archaeologists and paleontologists belong to two different professions. Archaeologists study past cultures and life, whereas paleontologists study plant and animal fossils.

Harlon Moss

Harlon currently works as a quality moderator and content writer for Difference Wiki. He graduated from the University of California in 2010 with a degree in Computer Science. Follow him on Twitter @HarlonMoss

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