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Archeologists are one of the harder roles, but can become powerful in the late game. They are often called Arcs for short and start the game with Speed and Stealth. 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 the Indiana Jones films.

Archeologists can be lawful (human or dwarf) or neutral (human or gnome).

Starting equipment


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


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.

Lawful archeologists suffer a -3 alignment penalty for digging up a headstone. However, chaotic archeologists get a +3 alignment bonus.


Early game


The early game must be played cautiously, like the Tourist and Healer. Archeologist is considered one of the most difficult roles, if not outright the most difficult. Its starting resources don't contribute as much to survival as many other roles, so the Archaeologist 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. 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.


The best early weapon is the pick-axe. In general, you want to seek out a dwarvish mattock (look for dwarves mining around in the Gnomish Mines), because they use pick-axe skill and do more damage than any other non-artifact weapon. Thus, it's best to use the pickaxe and enhance it when available, preparing for using a dwarvish mattock. However, if you start out with physical stats that assign penalties (i.e. 9 or lower Strength or Dexterity) you may need to use the whip at first for its +2 bonus.

The whip is decent at first because of the +2 bonus, but after a few levels it becomes less effective, and it doesn't train pick-axe skill. Don't forget that you can apply it towards a monster even while not wielding it, which will disarm the monster if your dexterity is 6 or higher. This can be a lifesaver when fighting some monsters, given your poor starting AC. It can also be a good way to deprive a dwarf of its mattock.

Archeologists suffer from a lack of good ranged weapon options. Boomerangs do 1d9 damage and can be advanced to expert, but they are quite rare and their flight pattern is unusual. Slings can be advanced to skilled, but they are weak and rocks are very heavy. However, with your starting touchstone you will identify numerous pieces of worthless glass which do the same damage as a rock but at 1/10 the weight. Darts and daggers are your other two plentiful options in the early game, both of which can be advanced to basic. Daggers are good because they will never break, but a large stack of darts with +2 or better enchantment is also worthwhile.

Mid game


Archeologists should have poison resistance before doing the quest, because the quest is full of poisonous snakes. Familiarize yourself with safe-to-eat monsters that give poison resistance, since Archeologists tend to have low constitution and HP. Your starting tinning kit is very helpful, allowing you to safely eat poisonous corpses for the chance of intrinsics.

The quest contains one guaranteed coaligned altar; this may be a good place to wait and sacrifice monsters if you haven't found an artifact weapon yet.

You should not rely on The Orb of Detection as a source of magic resistance; the Wizard of Yendor can easily steal it. Unless you wish for another quest artifact or use Magicbane, that essentially requires you to wear either gray dragon scale mail or a cloak of magic resistance.


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.


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

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.



In SLASH'EM, Archeologists may be doppelgangers, elves, or hobbits in addition to the vanilla roles. They can use the research technique at level 1. The starting equipment has also changed.

They 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 starting fedora has also changed in SLASH'EM and gives +1 charisma and acts as a luckstone when worn.


UnNetHack replaces the Orb of Detection with the Itlachiayaque, an artifact shield of reflection, that confers ESP, half spell damage and fire resistance. When invoked, it produces player targettable stinking cloud.

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 ]

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