Stages and Procedures of Archaeological Research

Archaeology studies historical human cultures. This is achieved through recovery, documentation, analysis and interpretation of material remains of these historical culture. A lot can be learned thanks to archaeological research. This research has three basic stages, specifically, the survey, excavation and analysis.


Archaeological research often starts with survey. There are two types of survey, regional survey and site survey. Purpose of regional survey is to locate new, previously unknown, sites within given region. On the other hand, purpose of site survey is to locate something within the already known site. There are several types of survey. The simplest one is surface survey. However, it is not always the most effective. Aerial survey uses flying objects, such as airplanes or balloons, with cameras attached to them. However, it is geophysical survey that is usually the most effective; at least when archaeologists are looking for remains hidden beneath the ground.


Excavation is the source of majority of information gained during the archaeological research. However, it is also often the source of ethical concerns. This is because it is a destructive process. Excavation is also the most expensive stage of archaeological research. Precise location and position of findings is noted in order to serve later during the analysis. Also their associations and relationship with neighboring objects is noted for the same purpose as their position. This is very important, as the site could have been occupied by several different cultures throughout the ages. Position then tells archaeologists to which culture did object being analyzed belong.


Excavated objects have to be studied properly. Otherwise there would be no reason to excavate them. Analysis is also the stage of archaeological research that takes the longest time to complete. It often takes up to several years to complete. Excavated items are cleaned, catalogued and compared to items from other, already published, collections. Comparing is done in order to find whether they belong to some already known culture. By doing this, items can be dated without using any other, more expensive methods. However, dating of these artifacts can also be done by other methods of archaeological science.

Now that you know the stages of archaeological research, it is time to mention some procedures and methods.

Dating methods

There are two types of dating methods. Absolute methods rely on using the object or sample of it to calculate its age. For example, radiocarbon dating, dendrochronology and numismatics fall into this category. Relative methods are indirect. They use already gained knowledge that is associated with artifacts being studied.

Other archaeological procedures and methods are used for different purposes.