In this paper we briefly describe the principles of atomic absorption spectrometry (AAS) and the basic hardware components necessary to make measurements of analyte concentrations. Then we discuss a variety of methods that have been developed for the introduction of analyte atoms into the light path of the spectrophotometer. This section deals with sample digestion, elimination of interferences, and optimum production of ground-state atoms, all critical considerations when choosing an AAS method. Other critical considerations are cost, speed, simplicity, precision, and applicability of the method to the wide range of materials sampled in geochemical exploration. We cannot attempt to review all of the AAS methods developed for geological materials but instead will restrict our discussion to some of those appropriate for geochemical exploration. Our background and familiarity are reflected in the methods we discuss, and we have no doubt overlooked many good methods. Our discussion should therefore be considered a starting point in finding the right method for the problem, rather than the end of the search. Finally, we discuss the future of AAS relative to other instrumental techniques and the promising new directions for AAS in geochemical exploration. ?? 1992.