Archaeology is a brand new secondary profession introduced in Cataclysm. Similarly to the other secondary professions - Cooking, First Aid, and Fishing - it can be trained regardless of how many of the rest you have. As the name suggests, this new profession involves a lot of riding/flying around, digging, and searching for long-lost artifacts unearthed by Deathwing's reemergence. Here is how it works:
When you first train Archaeology, you are given the spell Survey. You also gain the ability to track dig sites on your world map - make a note here, not the minimap. Each one of the 4 continents will have 4 dig sites (marked with a little digging shovel icon) at any one time - and those sites will be randomly generated for every player, which should mitigate competition for resources and ganking to a minimum. In addition to that, every player can only dig in the dig sites marked for him or her - and the only way to get a new dig site to spawn is to exhaust an old one by unearthing all 3 fragments in it.
When you get to a dig site (zone maps also display those, by the way - as pretty visible red circular shapes), you need to start Survey-ing it. Every time you cast Survey, surveying equipment will spawn next to you - it consists of a spyglass-looking part, and a light. The (front lens of the) spyglass indicates the direction the closest fragment is to you, and the light indicates how close you are to it. Green means very close - within 30-40 yards of it; yellow is medium distance, and red is far away. If you cast Survey within about 10 yards of a fragment's location, you will unearth it and loot a few fragments of an artifact of one of the 10 races - determined by the type of dig site you are researching.
You need fragments to "Solve" artifacts. The first time you pick a fragment of a certain race, you are randomly assigned an artifact of appropriate level/tier from that race's "collection". Every artifact requires a different number of fragments, but the starting ones are around 30. When you get to that number, you can click the "Solve" button in your Archaeology window and turn the fragments into the artifact, which then appears in your inventory. Any leftover fragments are reassigned to the next artifact of that race.
There are two types of artifacts - common and rare. Common is the kind of stuff you will be getting almost all the time - relatively easy to solve, and rewarding only a gray item you can sell. Rare artifacts are the ones that actually give your character something - a pet, a mount, a weapon, and so on. Something worth mentioning about the weapons - they seem to be Bound to Account, but not in the way Heirlooms are. You will still be able to trade those between characters on your account, but they won't scale with level. So if you create some weapon for your 85 raiding character, and you no longer need it, your alts will be able to receive that item in the mail but won't be able to use it until they meet the level requirement for it.
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