But before archaeologists there were art collectors. Some wealthy 16th-century Italians, including nobles, popes, and cardinals, took their interest in antiquities one step further by sponsoring excavations to find more. Across the Atlantic, Thomas Jefferson was carefully digging up American Indian mounds in Virginia as early as 1784.
What began more or less as a hobby evolved into a more serious pursuit in the 18th century with excavations of the volcano-ravaged Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Researchers began applying scientific methods and publishing their findings, and by the late 19th century archaeology had been born.
Nineteenth-century finds in what is now Iraq revealed secrets of ancient Mesopotamian civilizations. During the 1930s artifacts left by Central Americas earliest major cultureThe Olmec of Mexicorevealed much about the Asiatic peoples who first inhabited the New World. And at the turn of the 21st century new technologies promise ever greater revelations about the human past.