With little exception I have spent the majority of my time since the Cataclysm release flying to every corner of Azeroth, and a few others places on top of that, digging up fragments and relics and ancient keystones no matter where they might be. I have spent no less than fifteen hours this past weekend flying from Winterspring to Tanaris to Feralas to Azshara, stopping everywhere in between collecting fragments of Night Elf culture, relics of the lost Troll empires, and ancient fossils that are still very much alive. I have spent so much time surveying and digging in the past week that I can generally guess within twenty yards where a fragment is going to be unearthed given the location of a dig site. You read that right. I have literally memorized where artifacts spawn in at least a dozen different dig sites in Kalimdor alone.
My RealID is littered with references to Indiana Jones and Rick O’Connell, and where some people profess an undying hatred for the monotony and pointlessness of Archaeology, I can safely say that it is one of my most favorite activities in the game, but a self-proclaimed lore expert falling in love with the distribution of lore is not exactly hard to believe, is it? I have looked at the clock on occasion and realized that more than just a few hours have passed since I started out to dig up just a few sites before doing something else, but other than that, the only real negative experience I have had digging is in the realization that dig sites in Uldum share spawns with the rest of Kalimdor, and that there are Worgen in every zone that must be Exorcised!
Archaeology has been a lot of fun, but I can see how it can get boring very quickly. The process is literally to fly into a lit up area on the map, land, click, move, click, move, click, loot, repeat twice, find a new lit up area on the map and do it again. If you do this all enough times, you can restore a random artifact based on the race you recovered your fragments from. I confess that I get bored with the process myself really quickly, but the underlying elements are what keep me entertained and interested. A lot of what you find is literally pointless—a few flavor items that are barely worth hauling all the way to a vendor that have some simple notes on how they relate to the culture you pulled them from.
In addition to what you can create, it allows you to read glyphs, bones, and ancient scripture in the new dungeons and raids that provide a buff and benefit to everyone in your party, but what really pulls me in are the stories that can be pieced together by restoring artifacts and tiering the stories they tell in the right order. The orc artifacts, for example, tell the story of the Chieftan Hargal who bronzed a live scorpion in honor of a failed assassination attempt on his life, but where normally that would be the end of a great orc tale, it is only the beginning. From the bronzed scorpion we move on to a grey candle stud and learn that it is one of twenty-nine candles that were lit in a ritual to summon the Dreadlord, Azagrim, to Draenor, presumably in another attempt to assassinate Hargal. The Dreadlord slaughtered twenty-eight orcs before Hargal was able to kill him.
From the candle stud we move on to a simple maul that we learn was once the property of Stone Guard Mur’og, slain by Hargal in the Battle of the Black Teeth. The battle itself is inconsequential, but based on the trophy and where it falls in the line, we are left to assume that Mur’og is the perpetrator of the attempts on Hargal’s life, of which there have been enough to commemorate their failure—attempts that culminated in the communion with a demon lord. And that still failed? Hargal kept Mur’og’s maul as a memento of his death, but the story does not end there. Like any good tale it ends in treachery, betrayal, and tragedy. The last of the artifacts in this story is a rusted steak knife, still caked with dried blood from when it was wielded by Narim, a consort in a rage of jealousy who slew a chieftan when a treacherous orc and a Dreadlord could not.
Archaeology presents a new and interesting look at the lore. We get the stories of individuals who are no more important to the history of the world than our nameless characters. They are not Thrall or Varian Wrynn or Velen or Ner’zhul, they are the people who lived and died long before us with stories of their own. They create a sense of realism and humanity in races that we characterize entirely by ruthlessness and war. They are betrayed chieftans and disappointed fathers and star crossed lovers and righteous, forgotten heroes. My only hope is that Archaeology does not end with the handful of artifacts I have left to uncover before I have dug them all from the ground. This is something I can only hope will be added to in the future, and something that has more stories to tell than what we see now.
The good thing about Archaeology is that the possibilities are endless. For any number of reasons new relics and artifacts can be unearthed and new stories can be old. Truly engaging.