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When archaeologists
excavate a site they
might do a sample of
small units placed
across the site, or they
might open several long
trenches or a large block
of land. Each technique
has its advantages and
Unit Excavations
Initial testing of a site
might include
excavation of a 2 x 2
meter unit, dug in 5 or
10 cm levels, with all
soil screened. Units are
useful for examining
the different layers or
strata in the site
because the units can
examine many levels of
the site fairly quickly.
Several units might be
placed next to each
other to follow out on
interesting features or
get a bigger picture of
the site. However,
digging a large and deep
site is very time-
consuming and
Block Excavation
Excavating several units
as a continuous area or
block gives us a clearer
view of the overall plan
of the site. Block
excavations allow us to
see how different parts
of the site are related,
or to find large
structures such as
house plans. Large block
excavations work best
when a site has a single
component and does
not require deep
excavation of multiple
layers of occupation.

Salvage Excavations
With salvage projects, it
is often not be possible
to excavate the whole
site because of time or
expense, but a sample
of the site is examined.
It may be necessary to
use heavy equipment to
strip the topsoil. This
exposes stains, or
features, and makes it
easier for
archaeologists to
recover information
before a site is
destroyed through
construction or
The Pammel Creek site
in La Crosse was
excavated in 1989 prior
to construction of a
flood control system.

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