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Addon Spotlight: Digging up some Archaeology addons


Archaeology has been subject to some considerable improvements in Mists of Pandaria. For starters, you now get six digs at any one dig site, meaning artifacts complete faster, and leveling the profession is therefore faster. I've also heard of various other improvements that have been applied to Archaeology in Pandaria, but, alas, I have no Archaeologist characters with a sufficient level to do any Archaeology in the new continent.

A lot of players have messaged me asking about Archaeology addons, thanks for your emails as ever. Chief among the addon requests are the following:
  • A way to track dig sites and suggest progress between them
  • A way to track progress on artifacts by race
  • A way to track each artifact's fragments
  • A way to see if artifacts can be completed with keystones
  • A way to see which artifacts are still out there, undiscovered or incomplete
  • An addon to replace Biasha's Archaeology Helper
I'm going to do my best to deal with all those queries in this week's column.

Archaeology Assistant

The first addon I'm going to tell you about makes a pretty darn reasonable stab at almost all those things. Archaeology Assistant, downloadable from WoWAce, is a fantastically powerful addon for Archaeology.

Addon Spotlight Digging up some Archaeology Addons

As can be seen from the screenshot above, Archaeology Assistant provides helpful on-screen dialog boxes to clearly display what you're working on, separated by race, and the number of fragments required to complete an artifact. As an addon nerd, I love that these windows are pretty much completely customizable to fit in with my UI, so the text, the background, the borders, everything can be adapted to work for your own personal taste. The boxes are also completely moveable, and can be locked from the minimap button.

The boxes are also toggle-able from the minimap button, from which you can also open your archaeology panel and Archy's options. You can see from the left-hand panel in the screenshot above that I've been working on two Dwarf dig sites lately, but I haven't completed either, I've done five digs in one, and only three in the other! Hopeless. So with these two screens, I can see the closest dig sites to me. If I take a portal over to Kalimdor, or, at this level (which can also be seen above) Outland, the left-hand box will update to show me the nearest dig sites on the continent where I'm based.

Archaeology Assistant also offers integration with the fantastically popular and simple navigation addon, TomTom. If you fire up Archaeology Assistant with TomTom active, it will prompt you to switch on integration, however, if, like me, you keep forgetting to switch TomTom on, you can activate the integration manually through the Archaeology Assistant configuration. When TomTom is running in tandem with Archaeology Assistant, the TomTom arrow is also hidden by hiding the Archaeology Assistant panels.

TomTom will point you towards the closest dig site, which will be the one at the top of your list in the left-hand panel, but if you don't want to go to that one, you can simply right-click the lists above the one you want to go to to remove them temporarily from your route. This also plays a sound when you're overhead of your target dig site, so, if you're alt-tabbed writing a column, for example, you don't overfly your destination and die of fatigue!

Addon Spotlight Digging up some Archaeology Addons

In the image above, I have blacklisted Thoradin's Wall, Aerie Peak and Jintha'Alor by rightclicking them, because I want to go to Andorhal. If you look to the left of the panel, you can see that the TomTom arrow is now pointing me towards the Fossil Bank. It will replace the three dots at the bottom with a time-to-destination when I start flying. If I change my mind and want to un-blacklist the three red sites, it's simply a case of right-clicking them again.

Archaeology Assistant also brings up a Solve button when you're able to solve an artifact. A sound also plays, and you have the option to solve with a keystone, or to solve without by left or right clicking the on-screen solve button. One really nice feature I noticed was that when I tried to solve an artifact while at a point (275) where I needed to train to progress, Archaeology Assistant brought up a dialog box to warn me of my foolishness!

Archaeology Helper also allows you to blacklist entire races, shows dig site boundaries, allows you to localize it to whatever continent you're on, records your past digs and much more. The only feature from our list above that it seems to lack is the ability to see which artifacts you've completed and which you are yet to complete or discover.

Minimal Archaeology

And that's where Minimal Archaeology comes in.
Addon Spotlight Digging up some Archaeology Addons
Minimal Archaeology, which is downloadable from Curse, has a very similar, if more minimal, layout to the main Archaeology Assistant panel. It shows progress on artifacts, your level, and the quality of the artifact you're creating. If you click on the little D, it brings up the panel to the right, which shows all the active dig sites on your current continent, in this case, Eastern Kingdoms. I can't quite work out what's meant to be where it says Unknown, so if you know, do comment.

Addon Spotlight Digging up some Archaeology AddonsClicking the little A brings up the standard Archaeology window, but it's clicking on the little H where things get exciting.

As you can see to the left, this brings up a complete list of every artifact available in the game, race by race. Before you ask, yes it does include Mists of Pandaria ones!

You can see from the list that it shows which have been completed, and which are in progress, just as you can see from your archaeology screen, but it also shows which are incomplete.

Other than that, it lives up to its claims of minimal behavior!

You could also use an addon like Rarity if you were interested in specifically tracking the rare items and your luck in finding or completing them. Rarity tracks every rare item in the game that can be got by chance, your attempts at locating it, and therefore calculates your luck. However, Minimal Archaeology is far more, well, minimal!

Archaeology Helper

Archaeology Helper by Biasha, downloadable from Curse, is the addon pictured in the header image, and by far the most asked-about Archaeology addon from this week's selection. It's an addon I've used consistently for Archaeology ever since I found out about it, and for this week's Addon Spotlight I did a little experiment.

Keen Archaeologists will be aware that the different lights on your survey apparatus mean different things. A red light means it's a way away, and gives quite a wide field of potential dig areas, a yellow light means you're honing in, and a green flashing light means you're nearby. All three lights imply that you should head in the direction the telescope is pointing in.

My experiment was as follows: complete one dig site, i.e. six fragments, without Archaeology Helper, and one, on similar terrain, with it. My aim was to see how many times I cast survey with and without Archaeology Helper, to see if it genuinely helped or not. My results were telling, I actually decided to do another two dig sites with, and two without, for a greater sample size, because I was unsure if my choices had somehow skewed the result. But, after 36 digs it all seemed pretty consistent. My average number of surveys with Archaeology Helper was around 3 to find a fragment, without it was around 5. There is a possibility that, as someone who's not an enormously experienced Archaeologist, I was being stupid, or I was lucky/unlucky but still, it's quite a bit faster!

How does Archaeology Helper work? It provides you with a HUD of your surveyed areas, allowing you to see where you should dig. For example, if you start with a red light, spin your character on the spot so you're facing where the scope is, click the red dot to add a red area, run into it and cast Survey again. Hopefully you'll get a yellow light, so add that to your HUD, go into that area and try again. Green? Add that in, and the overlapping area where all three sit atop one another is where you should dig. You can see an example in the screenshot below.
Addon Spotlight Digging up some Archaeology Addons
So here, I started with a red area, then went a little way into it, added a yellow area, and deliberately overflew my yellow area to get another one, then went and got a green area. Where all four areas overlap is where you should dig. You can see how the cones indicate distance and direction, and you can hopefully also make out the cursor that indicates your position on the HUD. The HUD can be toggled on and off by right-clicking the trowel, and left-clicking the trowel casts survey.

Archaeology Helper also supports Gathermate2 integration, so if you have Gathermate2 and the Gathermate2 Database, it will add the locations of previous fragment finds to your HUD.

On its site, Archaeology Helper hasn't been updated since 2011. Many people have alerted me to this, and asked for replacements, but from all my testing, it works perfectly. I have had no errors, no bugs, no problems whatsoever. If you can't get it working, switch everything else off and try again. There's no reason why it should work for me and not for you! Do let me know how you get on, and as ever, suggest your own Archaeology addons in the comments!

Addons are what we do on Addon Spotlight. If you're new to mods, Addons 101 will walk you through the basics; see what other players are doing at Reader UI of the Week. If there's a mod you think Addon Spotlight should take a look at, email

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