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Archaeology: Excavation

Excavation is a central element of the science of archaeology. In archaeological terms, excavation has a two-fold meaning. Firstly, it refers to the technique in which archaeological remains are located, uncovered and processed, as well as recorded. Secondly, it refers to the application of this archaeological technique to a specific archaeological site, a process that is referred to as a site excavation.

Archaeological excavation is a process that has greatly evolved since its inception in early times. Specialized techniques have been developed, including archaeological technology, which has facilitated the uncovering of artifacts and other archaeological findings. For example, remote sensing, which includes ground-penetrating radar tools, has enabled for an easier identification of potentially significant archaeological findings. Another development that has led to advancements in the field of archaeology is the development of the method of augering, which allows for the allocation of a more specific area of a site. DNA has had a groundbreaking impact on the science of archaeology, as it enables archaeologists and forensic experts to analyze and identify human remains found in archaeological digs.

Types of Excavation

There are two main types of archaeological excavations. These categories are:

  • Research excavations: In this type of archaeological excavation, archaeologists are given both an extensive area of land to research, as well as a generous timeframe in which to examine this geographical area. Academics and private research groups generally conduct this type of excavation. The director of such excavations also decide the size of the dig.
  • Development-led excavations: This form of archaeological excavation involves cases in which the area in question is vulnerable to imminent damage or, in some cases, destruction. This type of archaeology, known as salvage archaeology, is dictated by strict time and spatial constraints and aims to locate, excavate, analyze and record significant archaeological findings prior to the onset of construction and other such events that will deteriorate or destroy such findings.

Another important component of archaeological excavations is the recording and mapping of the findings. In this process, each unit level of the site is described, including the soil color and texture, as well as a detailed and thorough list of all items that are bagged during the dig, such as bones and artifacts. In addition, a plan map provides a detailed overview of where in the archaeological site specific artifacts and remains were located, while a profile map records the distinct composition of the soil at various levels of the specific unit. Furthermore, photographs are taken in order to provide a complete profile of the various levels and units of the excavation site.


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