Final Archaeology Guide (BETA)

Yes, yes I'm aware that the pre-Cataclysm patch is going to drop today. I don't think you guys need me to tell you what to do. Sell 'em if you got 'em, otherwise have fun playing with your hosed up characters ;)

I know you guys will be bored during the downtime and have nothing to read, so I'm posting my Archaeology Guide today instead. Naturally there may be changes that impact this information, but otherwise it should be pretty comprehensive. I'll make it nice and pretty when I add it to our web site, there's nothing fancy here for now. Enjoy!

So you want to be an Archaeologist?

The first thing you should understand is that Archaeology isn’t a money-making profession, it’s purely a fun activity. If you try it and you’re not having fun, you’re not required to keep doing it. All of the perks associated with Archaeology are personal to you. It won’t make you more powerful or help you in raids. The items you collect will mostly be oriented to teaching you the lore of the game. Occasionally you’ll find an artifact that’s a novelty piece, such as a pet or mount. Just be sure you’re expectations are appropriate going into it -- this activity is meant to be fun!

An important thing to bear in mind is that you cannot power level Archaeology. This isn't a tradeskill where it’s possible to purchase all the required components on the Auction House and blast your way to the skill cap in a few hours. There is a massive amount of traveling involved and there’s no shortcut to completion. The upside is that you get experience by looting artifacts, so it’s a nice alternative to questing and other combat-oriented activities.

Companion Skills

This is a secondary profession, so there are no companion skills. There are some aids you can get from other professions, but none that will make a huge difference for you. Anything that enables you to travel more easily will be helpful. Mages who can portal to major cities will have a modest advantage, although they still have to get to the dig sites the long way. Dwarves now have a racial that gives them a +15 bonus to Archaeology and allows their survey ability to work faster. Scribes have teleport scrolls that allow them to hearth home more frequently, Druids have their Teleport spell for easy access to northern Kalimdor, the vendor rings that port you to Dalaran are handy for Northrend dig sites. There are a number of small bonuses that players can use to get around, so don’t be shy if you have access to one or more of these. Bear in mind that the portals in Shattrath City and Dalaran will be removed in Cataclysm, so you cannot rely on them as an easy way to access major cities.

Starting Your Adventure

The first thing you should do is visit an Archaeology trainer. The most obvious mentor to select is Harrison Jones in the Stormwind Library. If you’re not sure where that is, ask a city guard to mark it on your mini-map. Horde players can train with Belloc Brightblade, a snappy-dressing blood elf inside Grommash Hold in Orgrimmar. Or if you happen to be in Dalaran you can visit Dariness the Learned in the Legerdemain Lounge.

There are no special tools for Archaeology, you’ll get the abilities you need from your trainer. The main ability you’ll be using is Survey. To get started you’ll need to consult your continent map. This is the map that shows the whole continent you’re currently on, you’ll need to click the “Zoom Out” button once after hitting the “M” button to bring up the map. Once you have the continent map loaded, you should see a few small shovel icons on it. There are always four dig sites on each continent. Decide which dig site you want to visit and take a flight path to it. You can also fly there with your flying mount if you prefer, but that takes more attention on your part.

Once you arrive at your chosen zone, consult your continent map to figure out what area the dig site is in. If you put your mouse pointer over the shovel on the map, you should be able to see the name of the dig site. This can be tricky if the dig site is next to or on top of another map object. Just do your best. Dig sites are generally named after the area they’re found in, for example the Andorhal dig site is near the Andorhal section of Western Plaguelands. Familiarity with the various locations in each zone will be very helpful when tracking down dig sites. The zone map should have a red "cloud" over the dig site area, but if you can't see it just try to get as close to the target area as you can before you start surveying. Another option is to log your character out and back in to regenerate the map display. If you’re outside of the dig site area you’ll get an error when trying to survey. You can also use your mini-map to identify your location, the name at the top of the mini-map is the “sub-zone” for your current location. If it matches the name of the dig site, you’re in business.

Now it’s time to start surveying for ancient artifacts! You have a new ability called “Survey” in your spellbook. Drag this spell to a spot on your hotbar so you can access it more easily, you’ll be using it a lot. Clicking the spell will place a survey tool on the ground near you, which looks like a telescope on a tripod. The survey tool has an indicator light on it, which glows in one of three colors depending on your proximity to the artifact you are tracking. Red means you’re pretty far away, but the large end of the scope is pointing you in the direction of the object. Yellow means you’re getting closer, but probably at least 50 yards away. Green means the object is very close, within 40 yards of you. This part is a bit like hide-and-seek, so just be patient. When you’re close enough to click on the missing object, it will spawn near you. These objects are called “finds” since they are just fragments of an artifact. Most often they look like an urn or a tablet. Each object will contain 2-6 fragments, which are added to your Archaeology journal.

After you’ve located your first fragment object you can start surveying again for the next fragment object. Each dig site has three hidden fragment objects. Once you find them all the site will be exhausted and you’ll need to pick a new dig site from your continent map. Emptying one dig site will always spawn a new dig site somewhere else on the current continent. The locations are random - sometimes it will be in the same zone and sometimes it will be clear across the continent. Also, dig sites are unique to your character. You may see other players surveying in the same place you are, but only you can loot the artifacts you track.

The Archaeology Journal

Artifact fragments are automatically added to your Archaeology journal. You access your journal by clicking the brownish icon in the Archaeology section of your Professions window. There are ten different races you can collect artifacts for and each race has it’s own section in the journal for tracking artifact fragments. When you have enough fragments from a particular race to complete an artifact, a “Solve” button is activated. Click the button to solve the current artifact and unlock a new one!

Here is a list of the races you’ll be learning about in Archaeology:

300: Eastern Kingdoms/Kalimdor - Night Elf | Troll | Dwarf | Fossil
375: Outland: Draenei | Orc
450: Northrend: Vrykul | Nerubian
525: Cataclysm Zones: Tol’vir

There are two types of artifacts: Common and Rare. A common artifact will typically require 25-45 fragments to solve. Rare artifacts often require 100-150 fragments to solve. Common artifacts have no use and just provide a bit of lore and a small amount of coin when you sell them to a vendor. Rare artifacts are actually rare or epic items that can be used by you or sometimes other characters on your account. If an artifact is a piece of gear, it will typically be bound to your account so you can mail it to a more appropriate character. Rare items are usually soulbound, meaning the character who solves the artifact is the only one that can use it. These items tend to be more novelty-oriented, so this shouldn’t be a problem for you.

Bonus Items

The number of fragments required for each artifact can vary from 25 to 150. Luckily there is currently a type of bonus available and these are lootable items called keystones. Occasionally when you’re looting fragments you’ll get a keystone as well. Each race has a different keystone, which can only be used to complete artifacts for that race. To use a keystone, open your journal and select one of the artifacts you’re working on. Under the progress bar there will be a hexagonal opening if you can use a keystone on that artifact. Not all artifacts will allow you to use keystones, but rare artifacts will often let you use two or three at once. Click on the open spot to insert your keystone into the slot. The keystone will increase your fragment count by 12, acting as a wildcard of sorts. Using keystones will let you solve artifacts more quickly. Personally I save my keystones for rare artifacts, this eases the pain of collecting 100+ fragments for one item.

At this time keystones are not soulbound and can be traded or sold. This is the only potential revenue source for Archaeology, it remains to be seen whether it will be a lucrative one.

Optimizing travel time

Archaeology involves a lot of traveling from zone to zone and between continents as well. There are a variety of ways to optimize this, using whatever travel shortcuts you have available to you is one way. Another is to prioritize your dig sites. If you have two dig sites north of Ironforge and one in Booty Bay, head north first. By doing that you can ensure you get two dig sites with less travel in between them. Plus you increase the odds that a new dig site will spawn closer to Booty Bay. If you travel south first, you only have a 25% chance that a new dig site will spawn to the south after you clear the Booty Bay site. Exhausting the two sites to the north gives you a 50% chance that a new dig site will pop up in the southern portion of the continent. In this scenario I would stay in the northern end of the continent until all the spawns were south of my location, then start working my way south.

Unlocking New Races

When you first start Archaeology you can only solve four types of artifacts: Night Elf, Troll, Dwarf and Fossil. Other races become available as your Archaeology skill goes up. This means you’ll spend the bulk of your time in the “vanilla” zones, which are in Kalimdor or the Eastern Kingdoms. While you can go to other continents and collect artifacts, you can’t solve those artifacts until your skill is high enough. You need an Archaeology skill of 300 to activate a new set of races, this is the Draenei and the Orcs. Dig sites for these two races always spawn in Outland. You will occasionally find dig sites for other races there as well, but there’s no real reason to survey in Outland before reaching 300 skill.

Once you get to 375 skill you can unlock the Vrykul and Nerubian races in Northrend. The Outland and Northrend artifacts require more fragments than the previous races, so you may prefer to stay in the lower zones where the fragment requirements are lower. You do tend to get more fragments from looting in these higher zones, but I don’t think it completely makes up for the increased fragment requirements. Each race has it’s own set of rare items, so if your priority is on discovering rare items you may welcome the opportunity to start working on a new race. The last race you’ll unlock will be the Tol’vir, this is only available to you at 450 Archaeology skill. Currently Tol’vir dig sites only spawn in Uldum, a level 83+ zone.

The Leveling Process

Initially you’ll be getting skill points in Archaeology for looting fragment objects. This is a short-lived scenario and eventually those easy skill points will dry up. At that point the only way to get skill points is by solving artifacts. Each time you solve an artifact, you’ll get 5 skill points. As you may imagine, this is a pretty slow way to level a profession. Based on my timed sessions I've estimated that it takes an average of 20 minutes to solve one artifact. This can vary depending on how far apart the dig sites spawn for you, but over longer play sessions it balances out to around 20 minutes per artifact. The total time investment to get from 1 to 525 Archaeology skill will likely be around 30 hours.

Looting Artifacts

1-25 ------- Orange
26-75 ----- Yellow
76-100 --- Green
100+ ------ Gray

To optimize your leveling process, I recommend not solving artifacts until you reach 75 skill. The skill points you get from looting fragments drops off quite a bit at 75, but you may as well milk looting as long as you can. Technically you can go all the way to 100 skill before the fragments actually turn gray (zero chance of a skill point) but some folks may not have the patience to wait that long. Bear in mind that you’ll be collecting fragments all the way to 525 skill, so there’s no legitimate reason to start solving fragments before 100 skill. There’s also no penalty for collecting more fragments than the current artifact requires to be solved. Fragments continue to accrue no matter how many you collect. I personally have gone over 150 fragments for one artifact and I have a guildmate who had over 300 (the artifact was bugged). However, I understand that some folks will be unable to resist the temptation to start solving artifacts, so I encourage you to wait until at least 75 skill.

Another option for leveling efficiently is to stay in Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms while you work on Archaeology. You get skill points for any artifact you solve, no matter which race it’s for. The Night Elf, Troll, Dwarf and Fossil artifacts tend to have lower fragment requirements. This helps you increase skill points more quickly by reducing the amount of collection that goes into each artifact. The only reason to survey Outland and Northrend zones is to discover the artifacts specific to those races. If that’s not your primary objective, you should progress more quickly in the lower zones. Thanks to the additional flight paths that have been added to the lower zones, you can also travel a bit more quickly too.

I hope this guide helps you on your path to great discoveries! Please leave any questions you may have in the Comments.


  1. Excellent write up, thanks!

  2. Thanks for this guide! While Archaeology is not going to be one of the very first things I do upon logging into Cataclysm, I am still looking forward to having some fun with it! My hunter will probably be my first character to 85, and will probably be the first character I level Archaeology on. It's a gnomish engineer, so I'll have the Wormhole Generator for Northrend and the teleporting items for Toshley's Station in Outland, and Gadgetzan in Tanaris. Another useful profession for reducing travel times!

  3. my hunter will most likely be the toon that i level arch on first, but sadly he is skin/lw so no fast travel abilites for him :(

    great write-up kaliope, and thanks for giving us something to read during this eternity (ok ok 12 hrs) that we have to wait to play with our new talents. (the worst thing is i have college classes until 2 hrs AFTER the servers are due to re-start)

  4. Thanks for the great write-up! I'm curious, are you going to aim for the realm first maxed archeaologist? Good luck if so! :)

  5. Thanks for the kind comments guys :)

    To my hunters out there, don't forget that you have Cheetah/Pack aspect which helps you move faster. I use that quite regularly when I'm on the ground surveying. There are some survey spots that are quite large, such as the whole river bank south of Tarren Mill. In areas like this, putting Cheetah up will help you move up and down the hot zone quicker.

    And no, I'm not going for a Realm First of any profession this time around. Instead I'm going to try and max all professions as quickly as I can -- but without actually sleep depriving myself =)

  6. Awesome read! I always like finding new ways to level professions more efficiently, and you did the leg work for us. :)

    Great site btw.

  7. Have 1 question.
    If u dig a lets say orc fragment while u re still at below 300, do u get to keep the artifact for when u can actually unlock the skill lvl or do they get lost or smth?
    Thx :)

  8. 1 more question is, lets say i dig for zinrok and have like 200 unused troll fragments. Now when I get to 450 and start solving them, can the unused fragments count towards the zinrok? That is of course as long as I get the discovery for it.

  9. Anon: Yes, if you find yourself collecting fragments that are above your current level they will remain locked until you are higher up. Once you reach the proper level (300 for Orc) all the fragments you previously collected will be included in your fragment count.

    For Zin'rokh, if you happened to unlock it when you had a large number of fragments then they would indeed count towards that item. However, the odds of you making it to 450 skill with 200 unused fragments are quite low. Until you reach 525 you'll need to solve artifacts in order to get skill points. So it's improbable that you would just avoid using those fragments in the hope of unlocking Zin'rokh as your first Troll item. It would also be quite unusual that out of dozens of random troll items you'd unlock Zin'rokh as the first one. More likely is that you might save up 200 Troll fragments and end up getting several trash artifacts as your first few discoveries. In the course of solving those artifacts, you'd eat up most or all of your stash of fragments.

    The good news is that Troll dig sites are quite common, you won't be hurting for Troll fragments. In fact, IMO Troll and Night Elf are the two most frequent dig site spawns I've gotten. Dwarf and Fossil are much harder to collect, which sucks if you're after the Raptor mount :)

  10. oh well thanks for your answers, I'd thought myself the same. But one thing is that i play a horde tune so i dig in kalimdor, I have found a little of troll sites up until now in 200+

    Well I am guessing u speak of alliance and eastern kingdoms so maybe the difference in sites/fragments are in the areas and their correspondants.

    The most I dig in kalimdor is by a big proportion of NE and then comes fossil followed by a handfull of dwarf and troll ones.

  11. I can't say for sure that Horde has different sites than Alliance, but I assume not since I frequently see Hordies surveying the same areas that I do. I would say your lack of Troll sites is probably more of a Kalimdor problem than a Horde problem. I also find that Kalimdor has mostly NE ruins. However if you switch to EK you'll find troll ruins in EPL, Hinterlands and STV. North and South STV is constantly popping up on my maps, seems like I always have at least one dig site there.

    My strategy is to hang out on the continent that I need fragments for. If I'm trying to complete a rare Dwarf artifact, I stay in EK. If I'm working a Night Elf rare I hang out in Kalimdor. Get thee to Undercity, I say!

  12. Is Arch like a profession or a rep grind? I.e., is it like mining you could do 30 minutes each day for the rest of the expansion to get a bit more every day. Or is it like grinding Timbermaw rep that when you reach the max you will probably stop?

  13. Well I think different players may view it in different ways. It does have the feel of a rep grind in the sense that you put in a lot of time with small gains in progress. However I think most people will play it more like a gathering profession where you put free time when you can.

    Leveling all the way to 525 doesn't even come close to unlocking all the various rares and epics. If that's your goal, you'll be doing this for a good while after hitting the cap. Kaliope only solved about eight of the 2 dozen or so collectible items by the time she hit 525, if that gives you any idea of the time frames involved. To get them all you'd be looking at roughly 90 hours of collecting fragments.

  14. I was under the impression that, providing you have the apropriate skill level, you wouldn't get the same artifact twice untill you've been through them all. Is this perhaps only true for the rare/epic artifacts but not for the regular ones? Is this even true at all?

    I'm asking because I had thought of picking up archeology but my motivation was the novelty items like the qiraji mount and the bone pet and all that. But if it is all based purely on luck (like farming a rare pet or mount, some ppl get it off their first kill, others spend months without it ever dropping) then I won't bother.

  15. I think the duplicate artifact policy only applies to rares. I've gotten common items multiple times while leveling up. This is especially true for Night Elf artifacts, you'll be finding NE dig sites on almost every continent. There just aren't that many unique NE artifacts to discover, so the commons get recycled.

    There is a certain random element, but I think the rares have their own rules. I was unlocking rare artifacts about 10% of the time, meaning every 9-10 artifacts I unlocked was rare. So despite the recycling that goes on I think your chances of getting those rare items stays the same whether you get repeats of common artifacts or not.

    Another factor that's under your control is which dig sites you choose. If you stay on Kalimdor the whole time, you're guaranteed to get dupes for NE artifacts. If you make a point to visit all continents equally, you should end up with less redundancy. Unfortunately by making a point to diversify you'll be increasing your travel time. This is why many people will choose to stay on one continent instead of switching back and forth.

    If I were you'd I'd try it out before you write it off. It's rather hard to convey how it works in writing, because the dig site selection process is a big variable. Suffice it to say I think you have the ability to exert some influence over how much diversity you achieve.

  16. How much bag space does this take up. Do artifacts stack?

  17. Sadly, the artifacts do not stack. You will likely end up deleting the common ones, otherwise your bags will get quite overloaded. My druid collected almost 90 fragments to go from 1-525 Archaeology. That doesn't include any duplicate items.

  18. Another question for you - will you get digsites in zones above your level. Like could a twilight highlands digsite pop for me at the very start even though I am only level 80 or will that wait until I am correct level.

    Also are there digsites on the new island of Deepholm or underwater in Vashj'ir?

    Thanks! Your blog is great

  19. Ali: Unfortunately my experience was that you DO get digsites higher than your level. I know Blizzard said you won't, but I frequently did. I spent lots of time in Twilight Highlands and Uldum trying to dodge mobs that were red to me. I hope they fix that before launch, but be prepared to brave rough areas. From what I read on the beta forums, lowbies were having similar problems.

    I never got a digsite in Deepholm, but I got them regularly in Vashj'ir. For a long time we couldn't even survey in Vashj'ir because of the water issue. I think they finally fixed it to where you can survey underwater, but it's still more annoying than in land-based zones.

  20. Might want to add to your guide that GatherMate2 is the only addon I am aware of that will track where you looted relics similar to looting an herb/mineral so you can perhaps survey faster when you get sent back to the same digsite.

  21. If you solve a common artifact and happen to get it again to solve do you still get 5 skill points for that second time around solve?

  22. Yes, you get 5 skill points for every artifact you solve, whether you've seen it before or not. I think you get the points for the act of solving, not the item that's created. That's just a guess of course :)

  23. A tip I have is to start surveying in the MIDDLE of the archaeology blob on your map. This will ensure the quickest overall travel-time from artifact to artifact.
    A second tip is to use tom-tom and gathermate2. When you receive a new dig-site, map it out in tom-tom, and set tom-tom not to clear way-points. Eventually, you'll get all the digsites mapped out. Pop open your map when you clear one, look for the next, and set your waypoint. SO QUICK!. Thanks for the spawn tips, Kaliope.

  24. Thanks for the dig site tips! Add-ons were pretty messed up in Beta so I didn't try to use them. It's nice to know that some of them are supporting Archaeology and making things easier :)

  25. there is an extra slot that is grayed out in the arch tab any idea what it is?

  26. Nope, I don't have a clue about that. I assumed that we would get a new race along with the Tol'vir, but that hasn't happened yet. Perhaps they're saving it for a content patch?

  27. You know, I've looked at that grayed out thing a bit and I'm wondering if it is something to do with Harrison Jones that they will add later. He had such a large part to do with the quests in this xpac plus if you look at the graphic it looks like a fedora hat with a whip coiled up below it and then of course the shovel and pick. Considering he is an archeologist, I wonder if it might have something to do with him.

  28. That's an interesting thought and not something I would have come up with. Considering the prominence he has in the Uldum storyline, it's very possible that they could use him for Archaeology in some capacity. I for one am curious to see what happens with that last spot :)

  29. Question how come when there are 10 races available, but only 9 u can make artifacts races you can collect now? dwarf,draenei, fossil, night elf, orc, tol vir, troll, vrykul, and nerubian. Then there is one phased out. Anyone know?

  30. No word has been mentioned on the tenth race. It's a reasonable guess that it will be introduced in an upcoming patch.

  31. Do you know of any date on how "common" the different rares are? The 6 Tol'vir are all epic but it looks like everyone gets the ring and the scarab storm toy really fast. Are they more common then the other 4?

    I assume that every rare has an x% chance of being your next discovery but that x differes for different rares. Would be interesting to know the x. :)

  32. Without any data mining to support that type of analysis, I don't think we have any way to tell outside of anecdotal evidence. Currently Wowhead doesn't have any statistics on artifact generation and I assume they don't plan to. They would be the ones to tackle it though, since they have the mod that tracks drop rates, etc, which feeds into their database.

    The only thing I can say for certain is that the drop rate has been reduced since Beta. I was getting around 10% rare/epic artifacts in Beta and I've gotten less than half that number on Live. Both times just through the leveling process from 1-525. I didn't keep going on Beta and I haven't unlocked a new rare since I capped on Live.

  33. This comment has been removed by the author.

  34. I don't know if this theory is true but it would be a possible and would explain why you haven't gotten a rare in a long time.

  35. Thanks for the link Kring, it's certainly an interesting theory. Although Blizzard is nerfing the ability to save artifacts, which will make quantifying this more difficult. I will noodle with this on an alt and see what I think. I have more peeps to level up anyways, may as well try this out and see what happens :)

  36. hey im just wondering, like big question here thats been bothering me forever. is it possible to get two "rare artifacts" that are the same on "just" one character on your account.
    i heard that you cant get two of the same "rare artifacts" until u have cycled through all the rare artifacts for that certain race and gotten them all. is that true?

  37. can anyone answer the question above?

  38. I'm sorry Anon but I don't think anyone can give you confirmation on that except Blizzard. It's hard to confirm a negative (no repeats) especially for a profession like Arch that requires up to 100 hours just to reach the cap. Plus all the additional hours it would take to discover every artifact in the game is huge. I believe Blizzard stated during the Beta that we would get no repeats on rares until all were discovered. That could have changed since then, Arch could also be buggy on that front. There's just no way to guarantee you will never get a dupe, I've seen mixed reports on the forums. I think the best we can say is that you aren't supposed to get dupes on rares and you're unlikely to get dupes until all rares have been disovered at least once.