Site Review Locate, Survey Site Test Excavations
Grid Layout Excavate, Level by Level Screening
What Do We Find? Lab Process, Report Writing Site Preservation


The interpretation of what's excavated at a site is actually done on an ongoing basis, both during and after the dig activities.

Similar interpretive care also holds true for any skeletal remains, and for burial artifacts found with the deceased. Care is always taken to treat burial remains with dignity and respect. It may also entail a re-burial at the end of the dig and an alteration of the original plans of the site; e.g., those involving a highway or housing development.

In most cases, though, artifacts uncovered are more mundane: things such as broken pieces of pottery ("potsherds"), buttons, bottles, clay pipes, and projectile points.

Care is also taken, though, to notice changes in coloration of the soil uncovered. For example, patterns of such changes may indicate features such as postholes, which would in turn suggest the presence of shelters, stockades, or other constructs.

Similarly, the patterns engraved on potsherds, and the shapes of projectile points can indicate the presence of contacts with other nearby peoples and, indeed, the age of the site and the cultural heritage of those who lived there.

Animal bones and, especially, trash heaps ("midden heaps") will provide strong clues to how prosperous the peoples living in the area were, what they ate, what animals and fish were abundant in the area, and so forth. Radiocarbon dating can determine with considerable accuracy the age of the artifact; while identifying the type of animal can determine whether it was wild or domesticated.

As a result, very little can be taken for granted during a dig, as far as knowing what is or isn't important: To the trained eye, even a little artifact can tell a big story about what went on at a site.