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The Archeologist is one of the roles in NetHack. They are often called Arcs for short and start the game with speed and stealth. Archeologists can be of lawful or neutral alignment, and can be human, dwarf, or gnome.

Due to having low average starting physical attributes and starting equipment that is less useful in combat than that of most other roles, Archeologists are often considered one of the harder roles in NetHack. However, they can become powerful in the late game.

According to the guidebook:

Archeologists understand dungeons pretty well; this
enables them to move quickly and sneak up on the local nasties.
They start equipped with the tools for a proper scientific expedition.

The Archeologist role, especially its starting equipment, is influenced by 1954's Secret of the Incas where Harry Steele (Charlton Heston) is a dashing explorer of ancient ruins with leather jacket and fedora. Raiders of the Lost Ark's Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) was inspired by Secret of the Incas and added—in 1981—the army bag (sack) and bullwhip that this role carries to the iconic archeologist image.

Starting equipment

The following information pertains to an upcoming version (NetHack 3.7.0). If this version is now released, please verify that it is still accurate, then update the page to incorporate this information.

As of commit 9d910773, Archeologists have a 13.5% chance of starting with a magic marker (19–23 charges).


Archeologists gain the following abilities upon reaching the specified experience level:

The following information pertains to an upcoming version (NetHack 3.7.0). If this version is now released, please verify that it is still accurate, then update the page to incorporate this information.

Archeologists now start with searching but not stealth and speed. Stealth is gained at XL 5, speed at XL 10, since commit 075c2832


Archeologist skills
Max Skills

Archeologists start with Basic skill in the categories Whip and Pick-axe.

Special rules

Archeologists can use uncursed touchstones as if they were blessed, formally identifying the type of any gem.

Archeologists suffer a −1 alignment penalty for breaking a historic statue.

Non-chaotic archeologists suffer a −3 alignment penalty for digging up a headstone; chaotic archeologists get a +3 alignment bonus.


Character creation

An Archeologist is likely to want to enter the Gnomish Mines early for gems and better gear; this is risky for a human due to their lack of infravision and predominance of hostile inhabitants. A dwarven Archeologist's HP bonus makes their poor starting armor more bearable; conversely, a gnome's poor HP makes them more prone to death in the early game. However, a dwarf's energy growth penalty can make spellcasting difficult or impossible in the late game.

Archaeologists are restricted in most of the strong one-handed weapon skills, so the deterministic nature of lawful sacrifice gifts can be an advantage. Your first gift will be either Grayswandir or an artifact long sword; in the latter case, your long sword skill is unrestricted, and you can dip another long sword for Excalibur. In either case, you're guaranteed a strong artifact weapon that can carry you through the game. Neutral sacrifice gifts are less reliable, and each has a disadvantage.

The following information pertains to an upcoming version (NetHack 3.7.0). If this version is now released, please verify that it is still accurate, then update the page to incorporate this information.

Demonbane is now a mace so your first sacrifice is not guaranteed to unrestrict the long sword skill.

Early game


The early game must be played cautiously, like the Tourist and Healer. Archeologist is considered one of the more difficult roles, as its starting resources don't contribute as much to survival as those of most other roles, so the Archeologist is more reliant on items they find.

Your starting touchstone can make the first few floors of the Mines very profitable. Your starting pick-axe can also be used to dig out gold, gems, and vaults in the early levels, and dig down through floors. Thus, you can accumulate a lot of wealth in just the first few floors of the dungeon and mines. Your sack can then help multiply it via credit cloning. This makes buying protection from Minetown doable, even if you gain a few levels on the way. If you do make it to Minetown at level 1, you should be able to buy protection several times.

The advantages of the Mines mean that it should be pursued before Sokoban. Continuing to Mines' End is very risky; although the luckstone and random tools can be useful to you, monster generation is difficult enough that you're not likely to survive as you are. Make sure to complete it eventually, though.

Sokoban can be a good choice afterward, because you can use your starting pickaxe to break boulders if need be, and your sack can store the food and items that are plentiful there. It's also good for exercising your low starting strength.

Luck is very important early in the game, so save at least one cheap gem to throw to a co-aligned unicorn. Because throwing an identified precious gem gives a +5 boost to Luck, consider doing it even before you find a luckstone.

Since you start with intrinsic speed, invisibility is a highly desirable quality for avoiding monsters. A fast, invisible, opponent is hard to chase down. Stealth is also helpful for clearing out treasure zoos and throne rooms, as it leaves enemies sleeping.


Your starting bullwhip and pick-axe are about equally poor weapons, but only the latter allows you to gain skill in preparation for wielding a dwarvish mattock later, making it the preferable choice. If you want to use the bullwhip for its +2 enchantment bonus, be aware of which monsters are thick-skinned; the bullwhip is impotent against them. The bullwhip can be used to disarm weapon-wielding monsters, although it's generally faster just to kill them outright.

Archeologists suffer from a lack of good ranged weapon options; boomerangs are rare and have an unwieldy flight path, rocks are heavy and very weak even with a sling, and daggers and darts are limited to Basic skill, so you can't multishot them. The aklys is probably the best early-game option; you can pick one up easily in the Mines, advance its skill to Skilled for a substantial to-hit bonus, and it usually returns to your hand, so you only need to carry one or two rather than a heavy stack of rocks or daggers.

Mid game


Archeologists should have poison resistance by the time they attempt the Quest, which is full of poisonous snakes. The starting tinning kit is very helpful, allowing you to safely eat poisonous corpses for the chance of the intrinsic.

The locate level of the contains three altars, one of each alignment; this guarantees a co-aligned altar may be a good place to wait and sacrifice monsters if you haven't found an artifact weapon yet.

Archeologists planning to use The Orb of Detection as a source of magic resistance should have a reliable backup source, such as Magicbane, gray dragon scale mail or a cloak of magic resistance, in case the Wizard of Yendor steals it or else the player decides to stash it to prevent theft.


Because you start with low physical stats and melee penalties, acquiring an artifact weapon is a central concern. It's not a bad idea to camp on an altar you find and sacrifice for a gift. Archeologists have good artifact weapon possibilities, such as Grayswandir, Mjollnir, Vorpal Blade, and Magicbane. Lawful players can also dip for Excalibur if they find a long sword (though it will not be unrestricted unless you have had another long sword gifted to you).

Dwarvish mattocks and silver sabers are good non-artifact weapons, and one or the other should be trained to Expert. If you are planning to get Grayswandir or at least two-weapon with a silver saber, you should begin training saber skill as soon as you find one. The watch captain in Minetown often carries one, so consider getting a pet to kill him for it. If you disarm him with your whip, it will anger him but not the other guards. Remember that if you only plan to use a saber while dual-wielding, you don't need to advance the saber skill past Basic, as Skilled two-weapon combat is unreachable for Archeologists.


As you progress through the game and level up, spellcasting becomes more of an option. Your high starting intelligence makes you good at reading spellbooks without needing to bless them. You can become proficient in several spell schools, meaning that you can become competent at casting many low-level spells. However, armor usually remains more important than spells through the early and mid game. Don't ditch good metal armor in favor of spellcasting until you're confident you can survive without it.

Late game


For Archeologists, the best strategy is to find a good artifact weapon, enchant it up, and stick with it through the rest of the game. Two-weaponing is reliable because your experience level and Luck at this point completely cancel out the the −7 to-hit penalty.

The best artifact weapon for you is Grayswandir, which does double damage and silver damage. It is one of the few artifact weapons you can advance to Expert. The neutral artifact weapons for Archeologists are quite good as well, but Grayswandir is so excellent that you might want to consider wishing for it even if you're neutral.


In the mid-game and beyond, you may want to advance divination spells to Skilled for casting magic mapping, which is your special spell and can be greatly useful in Gehennom. Detect treasure and detect unseen are also nice to have, and identify is always useful. Don't advance them to Expert unless you really need your failure rates to be lower.

Since most of your useful spells are utility spells, it isn't necessary to avoid metal armor. However, if you're otherwise lacking in ranged attacks, being able to cast magic missile reliably may be more important than a few AC points.

Rank titles

The status line shows you to be one of the following ranks when you reach the specified experience level:

  • XL 1–2: Digger
  • XL 3–5: Field Worker
  • XL 6–9: Investigator
  • XL 10–13: Exhumer
  • XL 14–17: Excavator
  • XL 18–21: Spelunker
  • XL 22–25: Speleologist
  • XL 26–29: Collector
  • XL 30: Curator


Main article: Archeologist quest

The Archeologist quest artifact is the Orb of Detection, a crystal ball. When carried, it confers magic resistance, telepathy and half damage when attacked by spells. When #invoked, it toggles invisibility on/off.



Main article: Itlachiayaque

In UnNetHack, dNetHack, NetHack Fourk, SlashTHEM, and xNetHack, the Orb of Detection is replaced as the quest artifact by Itlachiayaque, an artifact shield of reflection. Itlachiayaque confers fire resistance when carried and can be invoked to produce a poison cloud (similar to a scroll of stinking cloud. In xNetHack, it also confers warning, and the player can additionally choose to use it as a crystal ball when invoking it. In the other variants, it confers telepathy and half spell damage when carried.


In SLASH'EM, Archeologists may be doppelgangers, elves, or hobbits in addition to the vanilla combinations. All Archeologists can use the research technique at level 1.

The starting equipment has also changed: Archeologists begin with a spellbook, one of detect food, detect monsters, light, knock, or wizard lock, 2 random scrolls, a 25% chance of a blindfold, a 25% chance of a towel if they did not get a blindfold, 25% chance of a leash, a 25% chance of a tin opener or a 25% chance of either an oil lamp or a torch if they did not get the tin opener, and a 12.5% chance of a magic marker. The fedora gives +1 charisma and acts as a luckstone for Archeologists when worn.


UnNetHack allows Archeologists to safely enchant a fedora past +5 up to +7, and they gain a +2 bonus to Luck when wearing one.


In FIQHack, archeologists get a +10 bonus to the base searching rate.[1]

Encyclopedia entry

Archeology is the search for fact, not truth. [...] So forget any ideas you've got about lost cities, exotic travel, and digging up the world. We do not follow maps to buried treasure, and X never, ever, marks the spot.

[ Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade ]


This page is based on a spoiler by Dylan O'Donnell. The original license is:

Redistribution, copying, and editing of these spoilers, with or without modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions are met:

  1. The original contributors to any spoiler must continue to be credited.
  2. Any modifications to the spoiler must be acknowledged and credited.

This page may need to be updated for the current version of NetHack.

It may contain text specific to NetHack 3.6.1. Information on this page may be out of date.

Editors: After reviewing this page and making necessary edits, please change the {{nethack-361}} tag to the current version's tag or {{noversion}} as appropriate.