card
218

excavation

OLogy Series
anthropology
card
218

excavation

OLogy Series
anthropology

Archaeologists learn about how people lived in the past from the remains they left behind. Over time, architectural ruins and artifacts are often buried, so archaeologists must dig to find them. This dig is called an "excavation," and it's one of the most important steps in archaeology. An excavation is a slow, carefully planned, and well-organized process. When archaeologists uncover new artifacts, they’re uncovering pieces of history.

Tools of the Trade
Archaeologists use many different kinds of tools when they excavate a site. One kind of tool is a grid, which is made out of string and nails and is used to divide the site into sections. As they dig, the grid helps them keep track of the exact location of everything they find. Other kinds of tools include trowels to help remove soil, brushes to gently sweep away loose dirt, and screens to filter away dirt so archaeologists can see any small objects. But tools that help archaeologists keep accurate records are just as important. Archaeologists use notebooks, drawings, and photographs to carefully map and record where artifacts are found. When they take the objects back to the lab for analysis, this information helps them reconstruct exactly where they found things in the field.

As we excavate an ancient site, we are, in a sense, taking it apart. So we have to record everything we do with great care.

Items made with precious materials and gemstones, like jewelry, are the most important artifacts found during an excavation.

Fact
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Fiction
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Fiction

Today, archaeologists collect almost everything they find because everyday objects like pottery and simple tools can teach us a lot about ancient life.

The artifacts and ruins uncovered during an excavation can help change the way we think about written history.

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Fiction
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Fact

Written records don't always completely describe the past. Archaeological artifacts can often help prove or disprove events recorded in history books.

When archaeologists are excavating an under water site, they often mark the site with a grid just like they do on land.

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Fact

Marine archaeologists use poles instead of nails and string to set up grids, and draw pictures with crayons on plastic sheets. They also use special waterproof cameras.

Definition: the process of digging up remains and artifacts from a past time
Common tools: trowels, brushes, tape measures, buckets
Where: everywhere around the world, even underwater
Name for the location of an excavation: “site”
Most common find: pottery shards (fragments) and stone objects, which preserve well over long periods of time
Purpose: to understand how people lived in the past

Image credits: courtesy of Charles Spencer; Chuck Spencer: courtesy of AMNH.