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  • Date Submitted: 04/11/2012 12:30 AM
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Explain the importance of sampling in archaeological excavation and artifact analysis.

Questions often asked of archaeologists are, "How do you find a site?" or "How do you know where to dig?" Archaeologists use a variety of methods to find and test sites. Three basic strategies are often used, Systematic Sampling, Random Sampling, and Judgmental Sampling.
When archaeologists are working in areas which have not been previously explored, they must decide how best to determine if the area contains an artefact’s or sites. Usually, time and resources do not allow for the total excavation of a site, so archaeologists must develop a cost-effective strategy to allow for the maximum coverage. Sometimes there is evidence on the surface, such as in a plowed field or an arid environment with little vegetation or soil development. Surface finds often provide important clues regarding the presence of buried assemblages or features. Other times, especially in the wooded environments of eastern North America, there is no surface evidence.
    One of the most important tasks an archaeologist faces is discovering sites in the landscape. Unless a site is clearly visible, it is necessary to use various methods of subsurface testing, from simple test pits dug by hand to technologically advanced methods of remote sensing such as ground penetrating radar and magnetic surveying. However, because it is generally unfeasible to test an entire survey area, the archaeologist must decide on the sampling strategy that best suits his or her purposes.
Sampling strategies can be classified as either non-probabilistic or probabilistic. Non-probabilistic sampling is used when the archaeologist is most interested in already visible or suspected sites and does not need to sample elsewhere. Probabilistic sampling is used when it is necessary to have a representative sample of the sites in a region (the "sample universe"), but it is possible to sample only a small percentage of the whole. By...


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