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The main objective in writing this text was to provide an introduction to the broad and fascinating world of archaeology from the scientific perspective. Like all researchers, I have a bias in my approach to the study of the past. I view and interpret the past from the viewpoint of empirical science. Although some archaeologists believe that there are many pasts, I believe that there is only one empirical past. I agree that different people in the past had varying beliefs, views, and agendas, and I believe that each of these perspectives was real. This makes the past very complex but still empirical. I acknowledge and value the perspectives of other approaches and believe that they, too, can be incorporated into the empirical science of archaeology.
This fifth edition incorporates a number of changes. Perhaps most importantly, the chapter on Bioarchaeology was completely rewritten. A new opening story for Chapter 6 was added. Nine of the highlights were dropped but two new ones were added. These new highlights are a discussion about an ancient boat (the "Jesus" Boat) and an examination of some exciting work on hunting by very early hominins. Finally, sections were updated and errors corrected. The input of the reviewers, generally users of the book, were instrumental in these changes.