Alabama Archaeology: Excavation Steps

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Archaeological Excavation Steps: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Step 6.

Archaeology is a very destructive means to understand past events and people. As a result, archaeologists attempt to document all that they see in the field. Whenever archaeologists find a feature, or a particularly exciting artifact, such as a group (or cache) of artifacts or a diagnostic artifact, drawings, photographs, and/or maps showing the location of the find are usually taken.

Additional photographs and maps are taken to document the stratigraphy, with particular emphasis placed on the various colors of the soil which are identified and named based on a standard, the Munsell Soil Color Charts. This provides not only a visual documentation for other archaeologists, who were not in the field, to see what the conditions were like, it also provides a framework for future interpretations to be made.

Pay close attention to the drawing on the left and the photograph on the right. Do these two images look similar?

The drawing was made of the features that appear in the photograph. Now, see if you can find the North arrow in both images. Did you notice that in the drawing it is pointing up while in the photograph it is pointing down? Since the North arrow is pointing in oppsite directions in these two images, they may not appear to be of the same features. However, don't let that fool you!

Archaeologists try to always have a directional arrow (usually pointing to the North) in order to provide a frame of reference. They also always have a scale in their photographs and drawings.

Did you also notice that the photograph shows only one test unit while the drawing shows two, plus a small portion of the third test unit?

Finally, profile drawings are taken of features and test units to depict their size and shape.

These images were taken at Site 1Wa186, Lost Creek, and are provided courtesy of the Office of Archaeological Research, University of Alabama Museums.
Step 7