What does it all mean? Analysis and Interpretation

When brought from the field, artifacts are processed in the laboratory. To facilitate interpretation of the site and for long-term preservation, the artifacts are washed (left), labeled, and bagged according to where and at what level they were found on the site. The lab manager then prepares an inventory of all the artifacts recovered—for this project there were more than six thousand! The inventory database is a crucial tool that allows the archaeologist to discern general patterns and make interpretations about the site.Although the most visible part of archaeology happens in the field, archaeologists spend more than half their time in the laboratory. Here they analyze and interpret their findings, and assemble them in a technical report.

A data recovery dig like the one in Danville can yield thousands of artifacts. Identifying artifacts and inventorying them in a database provides one of the key interpretive tools for understanding a site. The database can be queried for information on different types of artifacts from the site as a whole, or from individual features or soil strata, for example. Field notes and drawings are also examined for interpretation of the site and comparisons with other similar sites—and ultimately to answer some of the broad questions of the research design.

Finally, the archaeologist assembles the information into a detailed descriptive and interpretive technical report aimed at other researchers. Ideally, the archaeologist will also make the information accessible to the public through other media like this website, booklets, brochures, or exhibits.