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Finding a Site
Survey and Excavation
September 9, 2014
Anth 130
Discovering sites!
Ground Reconnaissance
Ariel Survey
Subsurface Investigation
Ground-Based Remote Sensing
Documentary Sources
• Looking at historical documents for clues as to
where ancient archaeological sites maybe
• Schliemann's belief in the historical accuracy
of Homer led to the finding of ancient Troy
• Excavated at the ancient site of Troy in 1872
Biblical Archaeology
• When looking for sites in the Near East Biblical
archaeology looks to the old and new
testament for clues as to sites locations
• Example: Megiddo, Israel
Old Maps and Place Names
• Help to work out plans of historic towns and
• Helps archaeologist know where it would be
best to start survey and excavation
• Earliest method was to look for the most
prominent remains in a landscape: walls,
buildings, burial mounds
• Archaeologists have realized that people left faint scatters of artifacts
throughout the landscape
• Not necessarily a site but still represents human activity
• Work is done by systamtic survey and sampling procedures
• Survey is very important when studying settlement patterns
• Used to be used as a preliminary stage of fieldwork but has become its
own type of inquiry
It is not enough to locate a site and
simply study it!
You must study it in relation to other sites and
the landscape around it
• Sometimes excavation does not need to take
place after survey
• Produces a type of regional data that digging
does not
• Also used to test natural and mineral
Survey in Practice
• First must establish a boundary
• Must understand the natural and cultural
processes working in an area
• Need to asses your resources
Unsystematic Survey
Walking across an area
Scanning, recording artifacts
Recording any artifacts in relation to features
Results can be biased or misleading…why?
Systematic Survey
• Employs a grid or a series of equal spaces that
travers each other
• Area is divided into sections which are walked
• Easier to know the exact location of a find
• Repeated looking can make sure nothing is
Aerial Survey
• Survey using air born (or space born)
• Two parts: data collecting and data analysis
• They are a means to an end
• Google Earth
• Geographic Information Systems
• Collection of computer hardware and
software and geographical data,designed to
obtain, manage, store, analyze and display
spacial information
• Has the ability to perform statistical analysis of
site or artifact distribution
Subsurface investigation
• Probes: probing the soil with a rod or auger
and noting positions where they strike solids
or hallows
Test Pits
• Small pits dug into the ground at consistent
distances…normally one meter squares but
sometimes small round holes
• Often used in areas with poor surface visabilty
Ground-Based Remote Sensing
• Non-destructive techniques to learn more
before actually excavation
• Geophysical sensing devices that can either
pass energy through soil and measure or
response to “read” what lies beneth or they
measure physical properties without the need
to pass energy
Seismic and Acoustic Methods
Detection of graviational anomalies to detect caves
Seismic methods to find foundations of buildings
Very useful in underwater archaeology
Electromagnetic Methods
• Ground penetrating radar
• Uses radio pluses to map what is under the
• Used to create “time-slice” maps
Earth Resistance Survey
• Based on the idea that the damper the soil the
more easily it will conduct electricity
• Silted ditches retain more mostiure than
• Works very well to find pits in chalk or gravel
or masonry in clay
• Will not fully function if the soil is too hard or
Magnetic Survey
• Buried features (such as hearths or pottery
kilns) produce slight distortions in the earth’s
magnetic field
• This is because of the presence of magnetic
Other Things Archaeologists do to find
and analyze a site before digging
• Use a metal detector
• Map the vegetation
• Geochemical analysis
Now we have site….
• What’s next?