Document researchers and dating
This research uncovers the written records associated with the study area.
If the area was inhabited during historical times (in the past several hundred years in North America) the archaeologist will look for primary historical documents associated with the study area.
These reports will describe what was found in this area during any previous archaeological investigations and will help guide the new research.
This archival research may take the archaeologist to public or university libraries, the local historical society or courthouse—or even into people’s homes!
Primary historical documents that archaeologists may consult before beginning their field research include: maps and/or photographs of the area, newspapers, land and tax records, and diaries and letters.
Over the past 150 years archaeologists have developed many effective methods and techniques for studying the past.
Archaeologists also rely upon methods from other fields such as history, botany, geology, and soil science.
It will also outline where artifacts recovered from the project will be stored, and how the research will be reported and shared with the public.
In this section of Methods of Gathering Data you will learn how archaeologists gather and analyze information by utilizing historical research techniques, field methods for data recovery, and laboratory analyses.
Back to top Every archaeology project begins with a research design –a plan that describes why the archaeology is being done, what research questions it hopes to answer, and the methods and techniques that will be used to gather and analyze the artifacts and other archaeological materials.
Open this History Toolkit to learn more about investigating the past with primary sources.
In addition to primary historical documents, archaeologists will look for site reports that have been prepared by other archaeologists who have studied this area.
The methods used by archaeologists to gather data can be applied to any time period, including the very recent past. This “garbology” project proved that even recent artifacts can reveal a lot about the people who used and discarded them.
has become known for his study of the garbage discarded by the people of Tuscon, Arizona in the 1970s!