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1-525: Leveling Archaeology
Archaeology, unlike most professions, doesn't become available until level 20, when you're finally able to pick it up from trainers in your faction's capital cities. However, the question of when and how to level archaeology can be difficult to answer. Archaeology doesn't offer any monetary benefits besides selling the vendor trash you make out of low level fragments, but it does give large experience rewards. It can be beneficial to do some archaeology as you level, if you're making a new character, but since most of the sites are spread out and you won't have a very fast mount, it might be a good idea to wait until 80-85 to really get into, especially since experience gains will be more significant then. Also, keep in mind that you will almost definitely see other players at the same sites as you, even players of the opposing faction. Be careful if you're on a PvP realm: you will get ganked.
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Archaeology Guide: The Fastest Way to Illustrious Grand Mastery
Archaeology is a little different from other professions because of the thought requires in gathering materials. When you first learn the profession, four dig sites will appear on your map - not your zone map, the continent map. These sites appear as little shovels. There will be four in Azeroth, four in Kalimdor, as well as four in Outland and Northrend if your level is high enough. Once you enter the zone where the dig sites are, you will see a red circle - inside the red circle is the only place you can survey. Surveying will place a tool on the ground which will point in a direction and have a colored indicator - red, yellow or green. Red will point you in the right direction, but means you are far away, yellow means you are closer, and flashing green means you are close, within 40 yards. After a little trial and error, you will find an artifact related to one of the major races. There are different categories of artifacts which will yield different rewards as you solve the pieces.
This archaeology guide highly recommends waiting to solve any pieces until after you reach archaeology level 100, when surveying ceases to give skill ups. After that, you should have a high quantity of unsolved fragments - each solve gives five skill ups, so you should make a great deal of progress. Unfortunately, after this, all you can do is gather and solve fragments. This is best accomplished while waiting in a dungeon or battleground queue to make the best use of your time.
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Archaeology Epics, Keystones and More
Though archaeology can seem frustrating, the rewards will be well worth your time. Eventually you will be able to solve your fragments into vanity pets, mounts and epics that are bind to account. These include a powerful caster staff from Dwarf fragments and an impressive two-handed sword from Troll fragments.
It should be noted that as you level, you will begin to find Keystones. These items can be used as you solve fragments to give you extra fragments and speed up your levelling - at this time, however, many of these keystones are highly sought after and can be sold for large amounts of gold. It is up to you what you do with them, since this will slow you down, but if you are in need of cash, consider this option.