Archaeological Excavations

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Archaeological Excavations


excavations carried out in the interests of historical studies of archaeological remains, primarily of ancient burials or settlements.

In the USSR, archaeological excavations are organized by special archaeological institutions, for example, by scientific research institutes, university archaeological subdepart-ments, museums, and other establishments. Archaeological excavations can only be conducted by archaeological specialists with a full authorization document (the so-called otkrytyi list) issued by the Academy of Sciences of the USSR and the academies of sciences of the Union republics giving the right to conduct excavations.

Archaeological science has developed a whole system of scientific methods of excavation. Excavations of settlements are conducted over rather large areas in order to accommodate the exposed structures; in strata (within the stratum, in layers of specified thickness); and in squares (for convenient fixation) down to the base of the cultural level. Clear documentation of excavations—written, graphic, and photographic—is obligatory. During excavations, cultural levels (and in burials—the mounds of barrows and the fillings of burial pits), structures, various finds, human and animal remains, plant remains, grains, and other objects are studied.

The study of earth stratification and mounds makes up archaeological stratigraphy. Stratigraphic observations make it possible to solve problems of the order and interrelations of strata and structures, of their relative dating, and of the time and scope of encountered rediggings or grave robberies. In the case of barrows, the mounds are excavated completely; where the burial has no mound, excavation frequently proceeds in areas, as in the excavation of settlements. During excavations, necessary measures are taken to preserve the excavated objects and the remaining uninvestigated structures. In many cases, samples are taken for paleobotanical, dendrochronological, radiocarbon, paleomagnetic, chemical, and other analyses. Archaeological expeditions often include soil scientists, geologists, zoologists, and physicists. Excavations are carried out with the aid of different instruments, among them shovels, picks, knives, lancets, and brushes. It is sometimes possible to excavate barrows with excavating machines. Carriers, hoists, and bulldozers are used to remove the earth that has been examined and separated from the finds. The complete uncovering of the settlement under investigation provides the material to reconstruct its past life, and the study of burials makes it possible to solve questions of anthropological makeup, ethnogenesis, economy, ideology, and social structure. The discoveries of archaeologists make it possible to reconstruct the historical picture of the lives of many peoples in the periods of primitive communal, slave-owning, and feudal societies.


Avdusin, D. A. Arkheologicheskie razvedki i raskopki. Moscow, 1959. (Bibliography.)
Blavatskii, V. D. Antichnaia polevaia arkheologiia. Moscow, 1967. (Bibliography.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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