Archaeology is a new secondary profession available to anyone with a Cataclysm account. This means that, like Fishing, Cooking and First Aid, it is available to every character alongside their two primary professions.

Often I see the question asked, "How do I do archaeology?". The first thing, however, is to understand what archaeology IS. First and foremost - it is travel. You will spend a lot of time traveling, and many people would say that it's best to wait until you can fly in Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms to do it. However, you're able to learn Archaeology at level 5 along with any other profession, and level it as you quest through the old world if you like.

Secondly, archaeologists gather fragments of long-lost relics to reassemble, creating powerful weapons, valuable treasures and yes, even a tiny baby raptor skeleton. From flavor items to actual equipment, archaeology is in its simplest essence a rather unique, if sometimes bizarre, crafting skill.

I. Where Do I Dig?

Hold on a second. There are some things to do first. Namely, learn Archaeology. You can learn this profession in any major city, but if you're Alliance you'll want to go to the one and only Harrison Jones, at the library in Stormwind keep. He is Harrison Jones, after all!

Once you've learned archaeology, you'll be given the Survey ability. Both of these are accessed in your profession panel in your skillbook, and I highly recommend placing both Archaeology and Survey on an action bar. You'll be using them both a lot.

Let's take a look at the Archaeology book first. Open it up, like you would any profession. Instead of a crafting menu, however, you'll see an intro page with some details on how the profession works and, to the right, a blue and a purple tab. You can take a minute to read this intro page, but I'll explain everything it has to say in the next section.

The blue tab will show you your current projects. Each race has one project at a time, and you can work on any race's project so long as you are able to dig up fragments for that race. To start, you can dig up Night Elf and Fossil fragments in Kalimdor, with the very uncommon Dwarf or Troll (In the Barrens and Tanaris only, respectively), and Troll, Dwarf and Fossil fragments in the Eastern Kingdoms. You can dig in Outland when you reach 300 skill, and will get Orc and Draenei fragments there. At 375, you can dig in Northrend, and you will find Vrykul and Nerubian fragments, as well as a decent number of Troll and the occasional Night Elf. And at 450, you can finally dig up Tol'vir fragments in Uldum.

II. So, Really... Where Do I Dig?

First, you'll need to open your World map, showing the continent you're currently on. If you look around a bit, you'll spot four shovel icons on your map. These indicate your dig sites. Each continent has four dig sites at a time, and a new one will spawn when an old one is completed. Each dig site has three digs in it. Where these sites spawn is completely random, so if you're working on one race's artifact and there are no sites up, you'll just have to dig through the sites that are available first.

Once you've located a shovel, click on the zone that it is in. On the zone map, you'll see a highlighted red area. This is your dig site. You can dig anywhere inside of it by using the Survey ability. It doesn't require any extra tools, so as soon as you learn Archaeology, you're free to start digging.

III. What Are These Tripod Things?

When you dig by using the provided Survey ability, unless you're very lucky and dig up your fragments, you'll place down a tripod.

There are three colors of lights that can appear: A dull red light, a yellow light, and a flashing green light. Each means something different. Green and yellow are relatively straightforward: They point in the direction of your dig, and green means you are within 40 yards of it while yellow means you are between 41 and 100 yards.

Red, on the other hand, is much more complicated. A red light does NOT necessarily point you toward your dig site. However, it at least will get you halfway there.

Red lights mean that you're more than 100 yards from your dig spot. The tricky is figuring out what direction to do; the dig site can be anywhere up to 90 degrees to the left OR to the right of the direction the tripod is facing. That means that your site might be directly ahead, or it could go straight off to the left and be 100 yards away. You'll have to get a feel for how to work through red light tripods to dig more efficiently, but to begin with if you go the direction the tripod is facing you WILL eventually find your way to the dig site nonetheless. I'll give some tips on how to dig more efficiently at the end of the guide.

IV. Digging Up The Past

So now you've finally dug up a fragment or two. Don't worry... you'll dig up more fragments as your skill increases, eventually digging up 3 to 6 per find. These fragments are treated like currency, and are separate for each race. That means if you collect 20 dwarf fragments and 20 troll fragments, you can't combine them to have 40 fragments for a project. Only the fragments for any individual race will work for their own projects.

You can see how many fragments you've collected and how many are needed for your project by opening your Current Projects tab in your Archaeology journal, and then clicking on that race in the menu. Once you've collected enough fragments, you can Solve the artifact, which will spend the appropriate amount of fragments and place the completed artifact in your inventory.

Don't be discouraged by the common artifacts; you will make a LOT of those on your way to the top, and they're not worth much beyond a few silver unless you're interested in their lore. Then again.... why take archaeology if you're not the least bit interested? You can see the story behind any relic by opening your Completed Projects tab (The purple one) and mousing over it. You can click on completed rare projects for even more details.

V. Skilling Up

So now you've dug up a site, collected some fragments, seen the journal and so forth. So what do you do to skill up? At first, you just dig -- you can reach up to 100 Archaeology skill by digging alone. After 100, however, you can only skill up by completing projects. A common project will award 5 skill, while a rare project will award 15 skill. If you decide to finish projects before 100 skill, don't worry that they're all common - you won't see a rare project until around 150, at the earliest.

VI. What Is This Item I Dug Up?

Sometimes when you dig up fragments, you'll dig up an uncommon item, which will stack in your inventory. This is called a Keystone. The short version is that they're worth 12 fragments each. Here's the long version. As you complete projects, you'll open up the ability to use Keystones to hurry a project. If you're able to use one for your current project, a hexagonal socket will appear at the bottom of the project's page. Click on it to place a keystone there, and your current fragments count will increase by 12 to reflect it. If a keystone gives you more than enough relics to solve an artifact, the Solve button will light up.

Solving an artifact using a keystone will consume the keystone; however, if the amount of fragments takes you OVER the required amount, you'll get to keep the excess. For instance, if the project requires 35 and you have 25, then dig up 3 and a keystone, you can apply the keystone to the now 28 fragments for a total of 40. If you complete the project, the keystone will be consumed and you will be left with 5 fragments.

Some projects can accept two or even three keystones at a time. Like the fragments themselves, you can only use a keystone for its own race's projects. There are no keystones for Fossils. Also note that keystones aren't bound at all; unlike fragments which are a currency, you can freely trade, sell and buy keystones, even place them on the auction house.

VII. Rare Projects

There are a number of different types of rare projects. There are flavor items, like the Wisp Amulet or Yogg-Saron's Puzzle Box; there are mounts, like the Fossilized Raptor, and there's even bind-to-account gear, like the Ring of the Boy Emperor which is a 359E caster ring.

Rare projects are, as their name describes them, rare. They're also a lot more difficult: A normal project might take 30 or 35 fragments, while a rare project could take 150. However, rare project almost always allow the use of 3 keystones to speed them up.

There's one upside to rare projects. When working on projects, you can't get a repeat project until you've completed all the available projects at least once. This means that, if you solve enough artifacts for a race, you're eventually guaranteed to get to the one you're after even if you're somewhat unlucky. All of the gear created by a rare project is bind-to-account, while things like pets and mounts are usually bind-on-pickup.

VIII. Tips, Tricks and Advice

The first word of advice: Be prepared to travel! I can't stress enough how much of archaeology is traveling.

The second word of advice: Dig until you've got 100 skill before assembling anything. You'll save yourself a LOT of time in the long run, because at low skill all you can get are common projects anyway. Digging in Kalimdor will skill you up faster than digging in Eastern Kingdoms, because 80% of Kalimdor is Night Elf, 15% is Fossil and the last 5% are Dwarf and Troll, whereas Eastern Kingdoms is roughly split between Fossils, Trolls and Dwarves (The more of the continent is a single race, the faster you will complete projects).

The third piece of advice: Move on to Outland when you hit 300. It's much smaller than either continent, and has a tendancy to spawn new dig sites relatively close together and has only two races to split its digs between. You'll noticeably speed up your skill gains once you hit Outland. Northrend can be a refreshing new area to dig in, but with 4 races on the continent it might be a little slower overall than staying in Outland to reach 450.

Once you hit 450, don't worry about skill anymore. Not only are the Tol'vir available to you, but all the possible projects are too, including the rares. At 450, dig where you want to get items from, not from what will get you skill the fastest. Unfortunately, Tol'vir sites in Uldum are tied to Kalimdor, so you may have to dig a lot of NE sites, including ones in the northern zones, to get Uldum sites to pop up.

As for Tips on Digging:

#1: Visualize it. When you place a red tripod, visualize a line cutting the section of the dig site out from behind that tripod entirely. Move somewhere else and dig again, and visualize it once more, cutting down the size of the dig site further. This can help you narrow down where to go when you get a few scattered red tripods in a row. Also, if you dig in two areas and get tripods pointing at each other that are red, the odds are that the dig site isn't between them. Try going perpendicular to the line between your last two digs and head a ways before digging there.

#2: When you place a green tripod, there's a more efficient way to find the dig than to move in tiny increments and dig over and over. Instead, go a few yards foward in the direction your tripod is facing, then do a 90 degree turn and go a few yards out. Remember where you previous tripod was and where it's facing, and survey again. If you follow the direction your new tripod is facing and go to where it would have intersected your previous tripod's aiming angle, your dig will be there. This can save a lot of time when you're moving in 2-3 yard spurts and your dig was actually 35 yards away from your first green tripod.

#3: This one's a bit tricky... The tripods don't actually point to where the find appears when you dig in the right spot. Instead, each dig has a sort of "hit box" around it. The tripods will actually point at the nearest corner of that box. This can be especially annoying if you're very close to it and get two green tripods that don't seem to be pointing at the same thing. It means that each tripod is closer to a different corner of that hit box for the same dig spot.

#4: Sometimes, you'll get a broken dig. Your tripods will aim you at an area that's outside of your dig site, and even at the very edge, as close to it as you can go, they'll still say you're not there yet. You can't dig this artifact up. But fortunately, you won't need to wait for a GM to fix it for you -- archaeology stores the location of one dig at a time, so if you head to a different site entirely and dig there, your broken site will be reset when you return to it later on.

#5: Don't try to "stack" digs, especially in Uldum. When an old site is completed, a new one spawns. However, the more digs there are in a zone, the less available sites there are to be chosen -- this means that if you dig until you have 3-4 digs in Uldum, none of those digs are likely to spawn a new dig in Uldum when finished, because there's no room. It also means that you might get 2 or even 3 digs there, and spend an hour or more trying to get the last to show up there too -- again, there's not much room left for it to be there. You're better off heading down when you've got 2 digs there if you're on that side of the continent already.