Last night I finally got to the 525 cap in Archaeology. I made a point to track my time over the last 55 points in order to further quantify the time commitment. From 470 to 500 I spent 1 hour and 40 minutes collecting fragments and completed six artifacts. Between 500 and 525 I spend 2 hours and 13 minutes collecting fragments and completed another six artifacts. The total time taken to go from 470 to 525 was 3 hours and 53 minutes and average time spent per artifact was 19.4 minutes. The first 25 points went faster because I already had some partial artifacts when I started the timed segments.
If we use 20 minutes per fragment as an average time requirement, the leveling process looks something like this:
1 - 75 points from looting fragments
75 - 525 points from solving artifacts, 90 @ 5 points each
90 artifacts x 20 minutes = 30 hours to reach max skill.
For those looking to optimize their leveling, solving artifacts should not be done until skill points from looting fragments are exhausted. Skill points are regular from 1-75 and sporadic from 76-100. It's up to you whether you want to hold off until 100 but my calculations are assuming you wait until 75. Bear in mind that you will continue looting fragments all the way to 525. There's no particular reason to start solving at 75 unless you just can't bear to wait any longer. Functionally speaking, the fragments continue to accumulate no matter how many you get. Ok, it's possible but I'm unaware of a cap. I personally went over 150 and had a guildmate who went over 300 fragments. This was because a particular artifact was bugged and she couldn't solve it, but had to keep collecting fragment in order to spawn new dig sites.
As of right now there is no way to wipe or refresh dig sites. I hope such a feature is implemented at some point, but this shouldn't be necessary if all the bugs are ironed out before launch. If they aren't, you should be aware that you need to clear a dig site before you can get a new one. The dig site you have a problem with will not disappear until you exhaust it. Right now it's very likely that you'll end up in Uldum or Twilight Highlands at some point. These zones have significant aggro if you're still level 80 -- you'll just have to deal with it.
I mentioned in my tweets that I unlocked two rare artifacts just as I was nearing 525. I didn't actually complete them before I capped, but I worked on them anyway just to check out the items. One was the Fossilized Raptor and the other is called an "Innkeeper's Daughter". I haven't managed to finish the portable wench, not enough Dwarf spawns today to fill up my 150 count bar. But I did get the raptor done, so here's a screenshot of me on my new mount:
If you guys have any questions about Archaeology feel free to post them. I plan to continue some smaller tests with this profession in order to compile a leveling guide, but I probably won't do another full run-thru until Cataclysm goes live.