Archaeology is a secondary profession that was released with the Cataclysm expansion. One of the first things you should know is that many items from Archaeology are vanity-related, most of the artifacts you can obtain have no in-game power like companion pets and mounts. There are some level 85 Weapons and Armor with high-end Archaeology. Most of the armors and weapons you can get are also bind to account so you can equip those alts or even obtain something on your alt for a main character.
This profession is an ultimate grind/time killer which is meant to be fun and not necessarily for character end-game progression. As a secondary profession, you don’t need to have Archaeology it’s optional like Fishing but much different still. Also remember to not confuse bind to account items with Heirlooms items. The Archaeology BoAs will not scale with your character level.
Below is some info to get you started on your Archaeological journey. Be sure to check out the FAQ section for more answers about Archaeology!
Visit an Archaeology Trainer
Talk to a City Guard in a capital city for directions to a Trainer.
For the Alliance in Stormwind go to the Royal Library.
For the Horde in Orgrimmar look in The Valley Of Strength.
Once trained, open your world map and be sure to check the Dig Sites box at the bottom of the Map. Then go to your Professions tab and find the new ability called Survey. Place Survey on your action-bar and go to one of the locations that has a small shovel (on your world map). These locations are called Dig Sites and they are where you use the Survey ability to find fragments, to complete artifacts.
Note: Most players recommend saving all Artifact Fragments until you reach skill 50. At still 50 you will only gain skill-ups from completing projects (and not from Survey anymore). Up until 50 you can skill-up from simply Surveying.
Patch 4.0.6 Update: Fragments now have a hard-cap of 200 so be sure to solve before reaching 200 on a certain race.
Note: Dig Sites have no competition as you are phased out from others (as far as Surveying goes) and you’ll be able to find three things before the Dig Site is empty.
Upon reaching a dig site, you’ll need to use your Survey skill. When you do, the Survey tool will spawn and it points in the general direction of a artifact fragments at your current dig site.
You must remain inside the boundaries (outlined on your World Map) in order to survey the dig site.
There is a light that will indicate/show the distance you are from the artifact. Like Below:
Red has a wide range, anywhere in like a 45 degree angle on either side of the way it points. Yellow has a smaller range and green will point almost exactly at the target. Green is also within 40 yards, yellow is probably like 80 or so I guess, and red is more.
The type of Artifact you will find and can use is based off your skill (there are four usable races below skill 300). Depending on the location you’re at, you will see one of the following types of Artifact fragments appear on the ground after Surveying properly. You can’t use a race until you get your skill is high enough. Night Elf, Dwarf, Troll, Fossil are all acceptable races to survey when you first start.
Orc and Draenei become available at 300 in Outlands.
In Northrend, Vrykul and Nerubian requires skill 375 or higher.
The last available race, Tol’vir requires skill 450 and is find in Kalimdor.
You can max out Archaeology by completing any projects from any race. You will obtain more skill from solving rares instead of common artifacts. It’s personal preference when it comes to where you want to focus surveying. If you are looking for a certain artifact then going to the best zone to farm those fragments is recommended. However, RNG decides which projects you work towards.
Enjoy the profession and have fun!