The purpose of archaeology is to explore the cultural development of mankind. Unlike history, which is based on the study of written documents, archaeology focuses on the material remains of past societies, from the first stone tools to early modern times.
Comparing newly found artifacts and structures with reliably dated and well-researched ones, and also drawing on scientific methods, often allows for determining their age as well as their provenance and function. Artifacts are mostly found in old settlements and cemeteries. Some come from so-called hoards which have been buried as a sacrificial offering or a secret stash.
Some objects can provide clues on the social status of their former owner, others are evidence of religious customs of prehistoric societies, while yet others can shed some light on their eating and drinking habits. That way, archaeologists try to build a comprehensive picture of life in past eras.