Archaeology is a secondary profession that was released in the the Cataclysm expansion. This Archaeology guide will try to teach you the basics about this profession. You won't gain any real end-game benefits from Archaeology, most of the items you can get have no in-game power like pets, toys and mounts. This profession is mostly for fun, you don't need to have it, it's optional.
However, most of the armors and weapons you can get are bind to account, which is really cool. Just imagine your alt hitting level 85 and you can equip [Zin'rokh, Destroyer of Worlds] right away (keep in mind, these are not Heirlooms, these will not scale with your character level). It's definitely a good idea to level up Archaeology with at least one character.
Table of contents
Once you train Archaeology, you will be able to see dig sites on your World Map, they look like little shovels. There are always 4 dig sites per continent, and it won't change on logout, server restart or anything. You have to dig one out to get a new dig site.(The five continents are: Eastern Kingdoms, Kalimdor, Outland, Northrend, and Pandaria.)
The number of zones and continents you can find dig sites depends on your Archaeology skill and your character level. A level 77 player will be able to see 16 dig sites 4 each continent (if his Archaeology skill is high enough). But a level 32 player can only see 8 maximum, 4 in Kalimdor and 4 in Eastern Kingdoms and in zones which are between level 25-35.
These dig sites and the objects you dig out are player-specific, you don't have to worry about competition. Nobody can see your nodes besides you.
Survey and Fragments
You will also get a new ability called [Survey]. You can only use this ability when you are inside of a dig site. The Survey tool will spawn and point in the approximate direction of a fragment, there is a light that will indicate the distance you are from a fragment.
So how does this work in action? You just go to a dig site, use your [Survey] ability and then a little tripod will spawn with red, yellow or green light. First you check which direction it points to and you just move that way, if it's red you should mount up and run for a while and then use Survey again, when it's yellow you shouldn't move that much and if it's green it's probably within 40 yards. Just keep going to the direction the Survey tool points to, with practice you will find most of the artifacts within 3-4 Survey use.
When you discover your find, you'll get fragments specific to a particular race, there are 10 races, it depends on the zone and your Archaeology skill which one you will find. Each dig site can be searched 6 times before it despawns and a new site spawns.
Here is a list of the races you’ll be learning about in Archaeology:
- 1-300 - Eastern Kingdoms/Kalimdor - Fossil, Night Elf, Troll, Dwarf
- 300 - Outland: Draenei, Orc
- 375 - Northrend: Nerubian, Vrykul
- 450 - Uldum: Tol’vir
- 525 - Pandaria: Mogu, Pandaren, Mantid
When you loot your first fragment, you will start a research project. The number of fragments required for each artifact can vary from 25 to 150. When you have enough fragments, you can click the little Solve button to complete that Artifact. If you have excess fragments, it won't go to waste, they will start a new project. Unfortunately, you cannot control which research projects you get, it's random but obviously it's based on your Archaeology skill level.
So you might have to complete all of the research projects with a particular race until you get the one you wanted to in the first place. Not to mention, when you need Troll fragments for example and you get zero Troll dig sites for like an hour, it can be annoying.
Sometimes you can get [Troll Tablet], [Highborne Scroll], [Dwarf Rune Stone], etc. when you loot a fragment at a dig site. You can use these to speed up your research a little bit. There is a slot that appears on some of the artifacts that you will be able to place one of these in, not every artifact but rare artifacts will often let you use two or three at once. The keystone will increase your fragment count by 12, or 20 for keystones from Pandarian digsites.
I strongly recommend to install Archaeology Helper. You will level your profession a lot faster if you use it. There is a short explanation how to use the addon if you click on the link above.
You will get skill points for surveying dig sites all the way up to 600. You will also get 5 skill points for any artifact you solve (15 for rare ones), no matter which race it’s for.
If you have an epic flying mount, then it takes about 5 hours to level up Archaeology to 600 with Archaeology Helper.