Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology

2014 Edition
| Editors: Claire Smith

Excavation Methods in Archaeology

Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-0465-2_1494

Introduction and Definition

Archaeological excavation is the procedure by which archaeologists define, retrieve, and record cultural and biological remains found in the ground. Past activities leave traces in the form of house foundations, graves, artifacts, bones, seeds, and numerous other traces indicative of human experience. These strata survive vary variously, depending on the type of location and geology (hilly, lowland, wet, dry, acid, etc., known as the terrain). Survival and visibility also depend on how far the remains of the past have already decayed or been disturbed by later activities, such as cultivation or building. These site formation processes give a site its modern character, and this has a strong influence on the excavation method that is used.

Excavation usually (but not always, see below) requires the removal and permanent dispersal of strata so they can never be reexamined. So the method is also influenced by the need to conserve cultural strata as far as...

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ArchaeologyUniversity of YorkYorkUK