Archaeological methods
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Archaeological Methods. REL 101 Dr. Victor H. Matthews. Archaeology Defined. Archaeology is the study of ancient artifacts, whether they be material remains (e.g., ceramics) or textual (e.g., the Bible).

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Archaeological Methods

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Archaeological methods

Archaeological Methods

REL 101Dr. Victor H. Matthews


Archaeology defined

Archaeology Defined

  • Archaeology is the study of ancient artifacts, whether they be material remains (e.g., ceramics) or textual (e.g., the Bible).

  • Archaeology has very real limitations, chief of which is the destructive nature of time, the elements, and successive inhabitants of the region who systematically reused building materials and dug pits through ancient occupation layers.


Ancient near east

Ancient Near East


Archaeology and interpretation

Archaeology and Interpretation

  • Once an excavation has begun the findings may not accord with what we consider to be logical and may require continual reinterpretation. Remember that only the ancients truly understand the logic of their material remains (emic perspective).

  • It is inappropriate to assign a function or meaning to an artifact or site just because we think it is likely or stands to reason (etic perspective).


Interpreting artifacts

Interpreting Artifacts


Interpreting data

Interpreting Data

  • Since archaeology is a destructive science and non-repeatable, we must accept the limitations inherent to our current scientific methods and our own record keeping.


Archaeology and interpretation1

Archaeology and Interpretation

  • As we excavate we communicate with the material remains of ancient people. There is a continuous dialogue in which we interact, starting with a plan and a set of questions, but changing it and them to meet the realities of what is actually discovered. If we only seek to find what we expect, then that is all that we will find.


Archaeology interpretation

Archaeology & Interpretation

  • Archaeologists lay out excavation grids and dig square holes in order to determine stratigraphy and control the flow of data. By design and due to the realities of financing fieldwork, no site is completely excavated and in most cases only about 10-15% is ever uncovered and analyzed.


Archaeology and interpretation2

Archaeology and Interpretation

  • It is inappropriate to try to force the biblical narrative to conform to an archaeological model, and it is equally inappropriate to limit archaeological investigation so that it is forced to conform to the biblical narrative.


Interpreting text and artifact

Interpreting Text and Artifact


Interpreting data1

Interpreting Data


Before you dig conduct a survey of the si te

Before You DigConduct a Survey of the Site


Put together the team

Put Together the Team


Excavation team

Excavation Team

  • Includes the director, area supervisors, square supervisors, and volunteers

  • It is seldom operates as a democracy.

  • Obtain the services of an architect and various scientific experts and if possible have them visit the site and examine the material remains.

  • Place a person in charge of cleaning, sorting, preparing, and recording the daily finds.


Preparing the site

Preparing the Site

  • Once the excavation plan has been prepared by the Director and senior staff, the first step is to clear the site of the vegetation that has grown since the last season. This procedure facilitates photography, makes surface features stand out, and gets the team used to working together in a sometimes difficult climate.


Excavation methods

Excavation Methods

  • Ten or fifteen meter squares are laid out with string and sand bags and initial levels are taken so that the supervisors will know starting and ending points for each day’s work and they can determine the exact depth at which significant finds are made.


Excavation methods1

Excavation Methods

  • Excavation begins by breaking the soil with shovels and picks, but this may quickly turn to finer work using brushes, ice picks, and trowels when an artifact is discovered or a floor is found signaling the emergence of a change in stratigraphy.


Excavation methods2

Excavation Methods

  • When an important feature or artifact is discovered, a level is taken to determine exact location within the square.


Excavation methods3

Excavation Methods

  • Excavated soil is screened to uncover bones, carbonized organic matter, small pieces of pottery, or other objects that might otherwise be missed.

  • Organic remains are later tested using C14 dating methods.


Excavation methods4

Excavation Methods

  • Unusual finds are also photographed in situ to establish a clear provenance and provide as much data as possible for later interpretation.


Excavation methods5

Excavation Methods

  • All tagged buckets and boxes are taken to the collection supervisor for washing or cleaning with an eye out for inscriptions (ostraca) or for diagnostic examples that will help establish a ceramic chronology of the site, indicate possible trading activity, and in the case of coins a clear date for a particular stratum or building.


Restoration methods

Restoration Methods

  • Untreated Coin

  • Restored Coin


Recording data

Recording Data

  • All pottery and other artifacts areplaced in tagged buckets or boxes for later examination. The tags indicate which square and at what level they were found. The recording process in the field will be systematized in later field reports by the square and area supervisors.


Analyzing data

Analyzing Data

  • At the end of the excavation season, the entire staff completes and submits their field notebooks and the senior staff spends the next several months analyzing this data while the artifacts are sent to laboratories for scientific tests and classification.


Excavation methods6

Excavation Methods

  • Publication and Presentation of the season’s findings should follow as quickly as possible.

  • A final report of the excavation of the site over a series of seasons should appear in a timely manner for the benefit of the scholarly community.

  • Senior staff should publish articles and present papers on the findings.


Dissemination of data

Dissemination of Data


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