Digs are complex and expensive to organize, indeed the cost will be measured in hundreds of thousands of dollars! There are a number of stages to a well organized exploration of a site.
Before any digging can begin a wider investigation of the area will be made noting such things as, water sources and potential availability of food, what other settlements are (or are known to have been) nearby, and what roads passed through or near the site. Then a grid will be prepared, aligned to the national scheme with standardized 5 meter squares.
Only after this can digging begin, and only a representative sample of the site will be dug. This keeps open the possibility of redigging a site with newer techniques, since today's archaeologists regret how much potential information their predecessors destroyed! A site is excavated stratum by stratum, but when pits are found they are included with the layer in which they began. All the while supervisors watch and record...
Careful record must be kept covering all the kinds of information which may be needed in the future as well as what is needed now. Soil samples are taken, loci - that is to say any abnormal or special features are separately identified and recorded (even changes in color of soil). Photographs and hand drawn plans of the walls as well as the floor of the pit are regularly made (especially at the end of each day).
Since Archaeology is only organized destruction, recording is of the greatest importance!
All of life involves interpretation and inference, but the sparse nature of the context and information unearthed by Archaeology means that the role of interpretation in this field is especially marked. Dates are not known, the purpose or function of objects is not certain or obvious, whether things found together are related or not, and relationships of cause and effect between what is found - all must be inferred.
The conclusions of Archaeology are the result of interpretation and false analyses can distort the whole enterprise. Therefore the preparation of data and analysis for dissemination is a necessary step so that information is shared and interpretations tested by debate.
First publication of results from a dig is the jealously guarded right of the team leaders, but often there will be conflicting interpretations, and debate will ensue.
This page is part of the Hypertext Bible Commentary - Amos,
© Tim Bulkeley, 1996-2005, Tim Bulkeley. All rights reserved.