Alabama Archaeology: Excavation Steps


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Archaeological Excavation Steps: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Step 2.

Once a site has been identified, then a site form must be fill out. A completed site file form contains the following data:

  • a map showing the location of the site
  • the geographic location of the site, i.e. if the site is located on the bank of a river, on top of a hill, underwater, etc.
  • the artifacts that were recovered
  • the possible period which the site was occupied, i.e. Archaic, Mississippian, Historic, etc.
  • if the site should be preserved

It may seem odd that archaeologists would question whether or not a site should be preserved. However, keep in mind that not all sites are worth preserving. Some may have eroded or washed away and just a few traces of what was once there remain. Other sites may only contain a handful of artifacts, perhaps representing a short term visit, with a minimal amount of impact at the site. Some sites have been damaged by people collecting artifacts. Archaeologists must decide if the site they have found has potential to further their knowledge of the culture that left their trace.

After a site form has been completed, the site is then issued a number by the site file administer. Site numbers consist of three parts, an initial number, followed by two letters, followed by a final number. These three parts of a site name each represent something different.

Let's break apart the designation of Site 1Ma10.

The 1 represents the state in which the site is located, in this case the state of Alabama. Each state was issued a number decades ago based on alphabetical order. Thus, Alabama was number 1, Georgia was issued 9 and Mississippi was assigned 22. There was one snag that followed, Alaska and Hawaii became states after these number were assigned, so their numbers are not based on alphabetical order, instead they are in the order they were admitted to the Union, Alaska is 49 and Hawaii is 50.

For a list of numbers that were assigned to the states follow this link.

The Ma represents the county in which that site is located. In this case, Ma stands for Madison County, the county where Huntsville is located. Each county in Alabama has a different two letter code.

To find out what your county's two letter designation is follow this link.

Finally, the 10 indicates that this was the tenth recorded site within Madison County, Alabama. Some counties, such as Madison have over 1,200 sites recorded, while other counties, such as Bullock have less than 50 recorded sites.

Anyone who has found a site may submit a site file form, in fact it is encouraged so that future archaeologists will know where sites have been found.

On to Step 3

State Abbreviations
Alabama County Abbreviations