Excavations, no matter whether carried out for rescue or research purposes, are the main source of archaeological evidence. If a site is suspected to contain archaeological structures, first of all it can be tested by field-walking or test trenching in order to find out what kind of ground monument lies hidden below the surface. In case any findings of any potential archaeological value are discovered, a full-scale excavation may be initiated.
Excavations are not only about the finds, but also about any anthropogenic features like pits, ditches, post holes or foundations that may emerge on the site. All these are measured and mapped on the site plan. In the end, this plan will illustrate how the settlement or cemetery has changed over the course of time while it was in use. Each feature is then either sectioned or excavated horizontally, i.e. one layer at a time, and documented by photograph, drawing and description in order to record its form, depth and stratification for archaeological analysis.
Whether for rescue or research, in the end every dig comes down to a methodical destruction of the ground monument, so diligent documentation is crucial. If a construction project is planned on a site with archaeological potential, the soil removal needs to be properly monitored to make sure that all archaeological features are preserved by record and any artifacts are retrieved in a professional manner. In the end, the findings are written up in a report which is then submitted to the responsible monument conservation office. These days, most cultural heritage authorities entrust these tasks to licenced archaeological consulting companies.
Terra Mare has several years of experience carrying out excavations in Germany and abroad.