Very many people confuse these two professions because they seem to work on the same things. Or do they? While these two fields are quite similar, they are very different because they have different specialties.

The first step to differentiating an archeologist from a paleontologist is to know more about each profession. A paleontologist is to paleontology while an archeologist is to archeology.

dinosaur bones

Paleontology looks at life in the past geologic setting. That means that attention is given to plant and animal fossils that once called the earth, home. Therefore, paleontologists are the ones that study dinosaurs and related fossils in a closer manner. Paleontology is a subdivision of a bigger study; geology.

The fossils that paleontologists study could include bodily imprints, pollen, wood, shells, bone, and tracks. Through these fossils, paleontologists try to understand the kind of life that was on earth in those days. When paleontologists study these fossils, they help us to know more about the earth’s evolutionary and ecological history.

paleontologistStudying paleontology means that you are immersed in academic studies that involve fossil chemistry, fossilization, geology, sedimentation and evolutionary biology.

Paleontologists also reconstruct the earth’s climate history. That helps us to understand what the climate shall become in the future.

They also collect natural resources like natural gas, coal, and oil. These natural gifts are fossils, and they are found very deep in the earth. Therefore, their discovery means that someone must have knowledge about the minerals and rocks that contain these natural gifts. That is all covered in paleontology.

Paleontology is a broad field that is broken down into:

Paleobotonists –study plant fossils

Micropaleontologists study microscopic fossils

Invertebrate paleontologists – study invertebrate animal fossils, e.g. Snails, and ancient sea stars

Vertebrate paleontologists – study vertebrate animal fossils, e.g. Fish, birds, mammals

However, archeology looks more at the study of cultures and human remains from the past.

Archeology mainly looks at cultures. That is because it is a very particular sub-division of Anthropology; the study of several human cultures through all time. Therefore, archeology is the study of prehistoric lifestyles.

While paleontology deals with fossils, archeology does not. However, archeologists may sometimes come in contact with animal fossils that human communities might have taken advantage of in their day-to-day living. Artifacts that archeology looks at include: rudimentary stone tools, pottery, and bones.

All in all, archeology and paleontology have significantly contributed to the expansion of the historical database.

In summary,

  • Paleontologists engage more in the study of plant or animal fossils

  • Paleontologists are like biologists that study various plant and animal series from the past

  • Paleontologists have links to geology

  • Archeologists study past human lifestyles and cultures

  • Archeologists support the theory of human evolution

  • Archeologists also look into the past building styles of man

  • Archeologists have links to anthropology

While these two fields may seem one and the same, they are remarkably different. Hope the information above makes it clear.