Excavation is best known and most commonly used within the science of archaeology. In this sense it is the exposure, processing and recording of archaeological remains.
The term is also used for an example of the application of the technique to the study of a given site. In this sense, an excavation may sometimes be referred to as a “dig” by those who participate, this being a concise, if oversimplified description of the process. Such a site excavation concerns itself with a specific archaeological site or a connected series of sites, and may be conducted over as little as several weeks to over a number of years.
Within the practice of excavation, numerous specialized techniques are available for use, and each dig will have its particular features, which will determine the archaeologists’ approach. Resources and other practical issues do not allow archaeologists to carry out excavations whenever and wherever they choose. These constraints mean many known sites have been deliberately left unexcavated. This is with the intention of preserving them for future generations as well as recognising the role they serve in the communities that live near them. In some cases it is also hoped that improvements in technology will enable them to be re-examined at a later date, with more fruitful results. Excavation is the digging and recording of artifacts at an archaeological site.
The presence or absence of archaeological remains can often be suggested to a more or less high degree of probability, by remote sensing, such as ground-penetrating radar. Indeed, grosser information about the development of the site may be drawn from this work but the understanding of finer features usually requires excavation though appropriate use of augering.