Archaeology study of the human past through its material remains. An artifact is anything made or used by people. An artifact can be anything from a 10,000 year old stone tool, to the pop can you recycled after yesterday's lunch.
|Just as you need a license to drive a car, Archaeologists have to get a license before they can dig (or excavate) a site. Each license is good for one site and one year. When she gets a license, an Archaeologist agrees to write a site report, telling the world what she found on the site.
|Once the Archaeologist has received the archaeological license, he or she is ready to survey the site. Surveying is a lot like taking a huge piece of graph paper and placing it down over the site. The graph is called a site grid. By digging on a site grid, you can be sure that all of the squares on the site are the same size.
|The next step is to remove the sod and topsoil, which is usually the modern grass level. Sod is removed with shovels by digging up the soil in narrow and shallow strips. Shovel shining is removing the topsoil by skimming the surface with the shovel blade, taking a thin layer of soil off the surface.
|Now the excavation is ready to begin. Sites are dug in
squares. The size of the square is 5 meters. Each square is separated
from its fellows by a 1 meter wall (called a baulk), so the excavated portion
of the square is 4x4 meters. Special attention is paid to layers and
Believe it or not, the ground is arranged in layers, kind of like a layer cake. When you
|find a layer in your unit, it will usually cover the whole floor of your
unit. You can tell when you've reached a new layer when the color of
the soil, or its make-up (texture) changes. Archaeologists dig with
trowels, exactly like those used by a bricklayer but smaller
(20 cm. or 9 inches long).
A feature is an artifact that is too large to move. A feature might be anything from a filled in pit to a foundation wall or floor.
|Dirt is sifted through a screen to make sure no artifacts were missed while digging. Artifacts found in each layer are bagged separately from the ones found in the layer(s) above and below it. Detailed notes, photos, and maybe even videos are taken about everything that is done or found on the site while digging.
|At the end of each day of excavation, you will have to draw a top (topographical) plan of it. A top plan is a drawing that gives you a bird's eye view of the square. It is drawn to scale, which means that it is measured as it is drawn, and shrunk down to fit on a piece of graph paper. A good scale for a top plan is for 10 cm on the ground to equal 1 cm (or one square) on the graph paper. The feature is then dug out separately from the layer(s) around it. Artifacts found inside the feature are kept in a separate bag from the
|ones found in the layer(s) around it. Once the feature has been dug out, you have to draw a cross section of it. A cross section is a drawing that looks as if you've cut the feature in half. It tells the Archaeologist what shape it was, and possibly, how it was created and destroyed. A cross section is also drawn to scale.
|A unit is usually dug until you find virgin soil or bedrock. Virgin soil is different in each area, but it is sterile, which means there are no artifacts in it.
|Once you find virgin soil in your unit and you are sure it is sterile, the unit is closed, and final topplan is drawn. In addition, section drawings (drawings of the walls of your square) show the layers (and features) you found as you were digging. This section drawing is also drawn to scale.
|Once the profiles have been drawn and photographed, you can either backfill the unit, or the square can be preserved for tourism.
|Artifacts and notes are taken back to the lab for
analysis. It is in the lab that the Archaeologist looks
at all of the information found in the field and tries to piece it all together.
Analyzing a site is like putting together thousands of small pieces
of a huge puzzle to see what it looks like. Once the puzzle has been
put together, the Archaeologist tells what she thinks it means in the site
Photograph supplied by Mima Kapches, ROM.