Archaeological Survey

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Archaeological Survey


the aggregate of methods of exploration and initial study of archaeological remains. The basic aim of the archaeological survey is to expose archaeological remains that are unknown to science and to verify information of those already discovered.

Preparation for an archaeological survey consists in the knowledge of the historical and archaeological literature as well as of the archival archaeological materials and of the region to be surveyed and in the selection of equipment. It is also necessary to obtain a special document permitting the survey, as for example, in the USSR, the so-called otkrytyi list (full authorization document). In searching for archaeological remains, scientists base themselves on regularities in the location of remains of different periods. For example, the ancient D’iakovo sites of fortified towns (gorodisheha) are usually located on promontories formed by rivers and ravines or brooks, and Neolithic campsites are located at the very edge of lakes or rivers. A characteristic sign of some archaeological sites is their topography: the banks of fortified town sites or the mounds of barrows. Scientists also search for the main sign of a settlement—the cultural level and the ancient objects it contains. The basic method for an archaeological search is a personal survey of the locality combined with the questioning of the population. Aerial surveys are also used—visual sightings or aerial photographs—during which the oblique solar illumination makes it possible to spot shadows of scarcely perceptible remains and to note differences in the trampling of the soil and the intensity of vegetation, which may indicate various ancient structures. Preliminary data on structures beneath the ground is obtained with the aid of electric surveying. The chemical method, through phosphate analysis, makes it possible to determine the boundaries of small settlements. Prior to excavating, test pits (surveying excavations of small areas) of settlements are sometimes made, in order to ascertain the nature of the cultural level; however, test pitting without subsequent excavation is not recommended as an independent method. Archaeological surveys known as underwater archaeology have become prominent since the 1940’s and 1950’s. Once it is found, an archaeological site is mapped and described, the necessary drawings and photographs are made, ancient artifacts are gathered from its surface, and its preliminary dating and association to one or another archaeological culture is determined. The conclusions obtained from archaeological surveys become the basis for selecting the sites of archaeological excavations.


Avdusin, D. A. Arkheologicheskie razvedki i raskopki. Moscow, 1959.
Blavatskii, V. D. Antichnaia polevaia arkheologiia. Moscow, 1967.
Atkinson, R. J. C. Field Archaeology. London, 1946.


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