Ethnography can provide insights of value to archaeologists into how people in the past may have lived, especially with regard to their social structures, religious beliefs and other aspects of their culture. However, it is still unclear how to relate most of the insights generated by this anthropological research to archaeological investigations. This is due to the lack of emphasis by anthropologists on the material remains created and discarded by societies and on how these material remains vary with differences in how a society is organised.
This general problem has led archaeologists (for example, London ) to argue that anthropological work is not adequate for answering archaeological problems, and that archaeologists should therefore undertake ethnoarchaeological work to answer these problems. These studies have focused far more on the manufacture, use and discard of tools and other artifacts and have sought to answer such questions as what kinds of objects used in a living settlement are deposited in middens or other places where they may be preserved, and how likely an object is to be discarded near to the place where it was used.
One good example of ethnoarchaeology is that of Brian Hayden (1987), whose team examined the manufacture of Mesoamerican quern-stones, providing valuable insights into the manufacture of prehistoric quern-stones.