Archaeological Excavation to Explore Heritage: A Few Steps And Process of the Excavation

Archaeological Excavation, Bharat Bhayna, Jashore; image source: DOA, Bangladesh

Archaeological excavation is an important method to explore ancient heritage. We all know that the excavation means the digging of the earth. The earth is excavated for the purpose of exploring the ancient movable and immovable objects of hundreds or thousands years ago. This task of excavating the earth is accomplished in some steps and in the process by following certain methods of archaeology. But archaeological excavation is started only if archaeological survey or exploration is ensured potential having historic objects in a place, especially in the high or low mound of the earth. In this article, the procedure followed for the purpose of completing an archaeological excavation, some steps and process of the work are presented. For the benefit of the description, from the beginning to the end of the archaeological excavation, it is divided into three steps:

1. Preparatory Works before Excavation
2. Works during Excavation and
3. Works after Excavation.

1. Preparatory Works before Excavation: The works that needed to be done before starting the archaeological excavation are:

1.1. Government Approval: A state institution, Department of Archaeology, serves as the recognized institution of archaeological excavation. Besides, other organizations or individuals have to take official approval from government for the execution of archaeological excavation.

1.2. Land Owners Approval or Land Acquisition: If the land assigned for excavation is owned by a person, then it is necessary to conduct the excavation work in that land by taking permission of the land owner or accepting ownership by paying money.
1.3. Collection of Necessary Equipment: For the purpose of archaeological excavation work, small-large spade, shovel, trowel, basket, paper, graphs, pen, level machine, scale, computer, measuring tape, yarn, rod, bag, grip seal bag, plastic paper, Plumb-bob, field table, GPS machine, camera, soil color charts, compass etc. are required to be collected.

image: collected from different sources

1.4. Manpower Recruitment: Department of Archaeology or any other approved organization employs a few skilled members to conduct archaeological excavation. Besides, more necessary manpower is also recruited from the excavation area on temporary basis.
1.5. Required Funding: The archaeological excavation team needs to provide the necessary funds to complete the excavation work. With this money, the required expenditure is executed during the excavation.

1.6. Time Schedule: Appropriate time is required to complete archaeological excavation. But winter is the most suitable time for the excavation. In the context of Bangladesh, the best time to conduct the excavation work is taken from November to March. Also a duration budget for the excavation work is determined before the excavation.
1.7. Necessary Planning and Layout on the Excavation Land: Land preparation for excavation, excavation trench layout arrangement according to archaeological excavation method etc. are properly done according to the plan.
1.8. Site Selection for Accommodation and Objects Management: Accommodation for the members employing archaeological excavation is arranged. However, the accommodation is selected near the excavation site. Besides, a place is selected to keep all the objects found from the excavation trench safe after the necessary cleaning and making inventory list.

2. Works during Excavation: The works that needed to be done during archaeological excavation are:

2.1. Excavating the Earth: The archaeological excavation team runs the excavation work in a particular time every day. Some workers work under one or more field directors. During the excavation of the earth, it is very careful to use the equipment in the excavation trench. So that no finding objects is destroyed and there is no missing any information about stratification of the excavated earth.

Archaeological Excavation, Bagerhat; image source: DOA, Bangladesh

2.2. Data Entry in the diary and Specific Form: During the excavation, the field director keeps records of important information about the earth and the earth strata found in the excavation trench in the diary and specific form. In order to prepare the stratigraphy of the excavated trench & finding objects, necessary analysis and the presentation of excavation report, the field director starts an excavation using a recognized method. Based on this recognized method, the field director keeps writing about excavation samples, finding objects and strata in his diary and the form. It is especially noted that the archaeological excavation methods recognized by Archaeologist Sir Robert Eric Mortimer Wheeler and Dr. Edward C. Harris are adopted at present.

2.3. Photo Capture: From the beginning to the end of the excavation work, the subjects related to the land, excavated trench, finding objects, earth strata, excavation work etc. are captured in Camera. One or more photographers work for full-time photography. Apart from this, the excavation work related films are also included.

Archaeological Excavation, Bharat Bhayna, Jashore; image source: DOA, Bangladesh

2.4. Necessary Drawing: The design of the excavation trench layout, finding immovable objects in the trench, such as walls, floors, etc. and strata of the trench sections are drawn. Apart from this, designs of small and large movable objects such as pottery, ceramic pots, metal objects etc. are also drawn. One or more designers complete the necessary drawing work during the archaeological excavation.

Archaeological Excavation, Bharat Bhayna, Jashore; image source: DOA, Bangladesh

2.5. Sample Collection: During the excavation, samples from various strata of the excavation trench, such as charcoal, earth etc. are collected. The field director keeps the samples in the foil paper and arranges the preservation of them with the required numbers and information labeled in Grip seal bags.

2.6. Finding Objects Collection: Objects such as pottery, ceramic pots, metal objects, etc. are collected from various strata of the excavation trenches. Collecting these objects, the tag with different number, stratum number, name and date for each object is given in the trench. The collected objects are carefully transported to the objects keeping yard from the trench.

Archaeological Excavation, Bagerhat; image source: DOA, Bangladesh

2.7. Cleaning the Objects: Finding objects are carefully washed with water in the object keeping yard. Then the objects by air drying under the shadow is prepared for documenting.
2.8. Objects Inventory: At this stage the objects are recorded in a specific register book. At the time, the accession number, name, brief descriptions and photograph of each object are kept. Apart from this, the label of the accession number is written down on the object. A Marksman usually cooperates to write labels on the objects.
2.9. Measurement: Measurement of excavation field, excavation trench, the objects, altitude from the mean sea level of the finding objects and excavation field etc. are taken as appropriate during excavation.

Archaeological Excavation, Bagerhat; image source: DOA, Bangladesh

3. Works after excavation: The following works are done after archaeological excavation:

3.1. Checking Written Information, Photographs and Designs: To make sure the data and information recorded in the diary and the form, photographs captured in the camera and the design of the excavation field, trench, section, strata etc. as appropriate during excavation, these are checked by being kept side by side. At this time, by being present, the liable members who done the work complete the check of the related work themselves.
3.2. Checking Finding Objects and Inventory: To make sure finding objects and inventory as appropriate, finding objects and inventory are checked by keeping side by side.
3.3. Necessary Conservation of the Relics Found in the Trench: With the available financial budget, the necessary conservation for the relics found in the excavation trench is completed. This conservation work is done after following the archaeological method.
3.4. Filling of the Trench if not Conserved: Excavation trenches are filled with earth if there is no necessary budget for conservation. So that people or other animals can not destroy the relics found. Before completing the filling, the necessary design and photography work required for the trench are completed.
3.5. Handover the Objects to Specific Authorities: The finding objects in the excavation controlled by Department of Archaeology are stored in the designated store of the Directorate. At the end of archaeological excavation, the excavation team is handed over the objects with the inventory to the designated custodian or director. After the excavation of any other approved institution, their finding objects have to be handed over to Department of Archaeology, a government department.
3.6. Reporting: After the analysis of archaeological excavation documents, a report with necessary design and photograph is prepared. The printed copy of this report and a soft copy are presented to the Department of Archaeology.

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Author: Md. Shahin Alam

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