Science College, General Science Dept
Selecting an Excavation Site
by Razzmatazz Poisson
Before any digging can begin, the archaeologist needs to select a potential site. This is done with the help of maps and other documents about the region.
The next step is field walking. The site is divided into small sections. Each section is checked for any signs of artifacts, just to get a feel for the area.
Aerial photographs help in the process of finding a good site to excavate. These photos can reveal the hidden details of the area not visible from the ground.
Once all this research has been completed, the excavation can begin.
When archaeologists work at an excavation site they are looking for a variety of things that will help them understand how the people lived. There are several different types of items that can help them do this.
1. Features. These are evidence of things that people made or constructed that cannot be moved. Examples of these are houses, floors, and hearths.
2. Ecofacts. These are evidence about past environments. They are things that would naturally be found in the area. Some examples are seeds, animal bones and soil.
3. Artifacts. These are evidence of the tools and other items that people made. These items are small and can be moved from place to place. Examples would be arrowheads or pottery. These are the things that are taken from the excavation site and studied in the labs.
The important thing to know about artifacts is that once they are removed from a site, they can never be returned to that spot again. It is therefore very important that an archaeologist keeps accurate and detailed records. This includes recording the artifact's location, position, description, condition and what other artifacts and features were located next to it. This helps paint an accurate "picture" of the people who lived at the site, including what they did there and what was important to their way of life.
After the artifacts are excavated, they go to the laboratory where they are cleaned, glued back together if necessary, labeled, cataloged and stored. The information is then added to the database program. This preliminary work will help provide the archaeologist with an accurate, scientific analysis and interpretation.
The archaeologist prepares reports on the artifacts found and shares this information with other experts. Together with the features and ecofacts discovered at the site, a certain image is shaped of what life was like many years ago. This image or picture represents the unwritten record of what the site looked like, who lived or worked there, and how the people lived.
Importance of Archaeology
When people visit or work at an archaeological site, they must remember that they are touching history. The artifacts and features are the only links that we have to understanding prehistoric people who once lived there. Every artifact is like a piece of a puzzle. If just one piece is missing, the puzzle is not complete and we cannot fully understand this past culture of people and how they interacted with their surroundings.
The past human life, that an archaeologist studies, is the heritage that we all share. It is the story of our earliest ancestors. It is our responsibility to respect and preserve this heritage by reporting archaeological finds and not disturbing archaeological sites.
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