Field Procedures


Directions: Read and fully consider each of the following procedures as they will constitute the required procedures for the archaeology field portion of the investigations here undertaken. When field procedures are not properly adhered to we face the prospect of losing valuable data and observations critical to the analytical and interpretive dimensions of the archaeological enterprise. Procedures that have been so compromised pose the risk of invalidating the prime objectives and purposes of archaeological study and interpretation. So, please consider and learn those procedures noted below so that your field excavation team will not be compromised at the stage of data recovery and documentation.

Excavation Procedures

We will undertake all excavation procedures on the basis of arbitrary levels of analysis. In other words, we will excavate by unit levels predefined on the basis of 10-centimeter increments or levels. All depth measures will be taken via the use of a line level strung to that corner of the unit most closely identified with the northwest, or northernmost, orientation of the unit. That corner of the unit will constitute the Unit Datum, or that point from which all unit “depth” measures should be taken or anchored. When preparing In Situ specimen or features measures, the West measure noted on the Specimen Catalog Card will require you to use the string line on the West side of the unit as the point from which to measure the specimen or feature under consideration. That portion of the specimen or feature nearest, or most directly oriented to the West balk wall profile, will be the point to which, or from which, the measure of the distance from the West wall is taken. Repeat this procedure for the north wall, taking into consideration that the north wall string line, and northernmost portion of the specimen or featured being mapped is the point to, or from which, measurements are taken. Again, depth is taken by way of line level anchored to the northwestern, or northernmost, unit stake or datum. The actual measure is taken by metric tape from the line level to the top of the specimen or feature being measured.

Where specific excavation procedures are concerned, you should take care in all instances to minimize damage to In Situ or intact specimens and features. You should at no time remove or disturb specimens that are observed In Situ. All diagnostic specimens should be pedestalled in place, and should remain so until such time that any related or underlying features and or specimens have in turn been pedestalled and mapped. A proper pedestal will permit the specimen or feature to remain intact without compromising or permitting the specimen to be dislodged. Excavation progress should permit specimen and feature pedestals to remain intact while progress is made in reaching the Unit’s objective level and or levels. Excavation, in this instance, will require the use of trowels for scraping and dislodging soils from the unit floor. Hand picks or mattocks may in turn be required for dislodging more compact soils, although the use of mattocks while working in close quarters with other students is discouraged as the likelihood of injuring your unit partner(s) is increased with such tools in close quarters.

Field Equipment

All participants are responsible for retrieving, and replacing, any and all field equipment used on any given day. When replacing tools and equipment please be sure that you have properly replaced said equipment in such a fashion that it remains organized and easy to locate. Students will be expected to return all equipment to the proper tool box or storage area at the end of each field day. The basic field tool kit is as follows:

Trowel (One per Participant)
Metric Tape Measure (One per Unit) Line Level (One per Unit)
Protective Gloves (One Pair per Participant) Lab & Field Journal (One per Participant) Permanent Marker (One per Unit)
Rapidograph or Automatic Pencil / Pen (One per Participant) Dust Pan (One per Unit)
Wisk Brooms (Two per Unit)
Buckets (Two Labeled Buckets per Unit) Hand Pick and or Mattock (Two per Unit) Shovel (One per Unit)

Unit Excavations

Unit excavations will be undertaken with all or a combination of the following tools depending on soil type and or consistency: shovel, trowel, pick, Wisk broom, dust pan, and a dental pick. It is important to maintain complete control of unit and specimen contexts while undertaking excavations. In order to maximize the proper contextual controls, you are required to maintain vertical (as opposed to sloped) sidewalls and or balk walls, and at the same time, carefully remove any and all soils in one level increments of 10-centimeters per arbitrary level strata. During the course of excavations please be aware of any changes in soil color, moisture, texture, consistency, and type. If you observe distinctive changes in soil color or pattern, please report these to the Project Archaeologist, or your assigned Crew Chief.

Excavate the unit in an orderly fashion beginning with tool layout. All un-necessary tools are stored away from the edge of the unit. Excavation tools being used are neatly lying within easy reach of the excavator(s). When not in use the line level string is curled over the datum nail (assuring it won’t get tripped over). Choose one corner of the unit to begin (roughly ¼ of the unit). Staying just inside the two guidelines begin digging in one corner with a trowel, whiskbroom and dustpan.

“In –situ” or in place exposure is a primary goal for excavators. Generally, if you encounter fist size or large rocks, bones, change in soil, etc. back away, move around it leveling the section as best as possible leaving a couple of centimeters sidewall clean for later. Move to the next section and repeat the same process. Once ½ the unit is excavated, trim the completely exposed sidewall so that it is vertical with the string line. This requires getting out of the unit and looking down at the string and unit, then scraping the wall from the top. Complete the process in the remaining section including all three sidewall trimming.

If there was an item/s encountered and avoided in the level now is the time to explore it. Carefully remove the soil above and around the item/s. Do not remove the soil below the item or items. This will act as a pedestal to support the items within the level. This will allow the level to be totally recorded and the decision to be made to either remove it or work the next level around it. If noticeable soil changes appear within your excavation unit please check with Dr Mendoza or crew chiefs for further consultation on procedure.

Crewmembers of each unit will take turns excavating and screening, making sure you have experience at all tasks. As you dig each unit, dirt will accumulate. Keep loose soil from obscuring your view of the unit floor. This is accomplished by sweeping the soil with a whiskbroom and dustpan. The soil is then placed into a labeled bucket and is ready to be dry screened through the 1/8” and ¼” screen.

Dry Screening

We are using a screen box of about 2’x3’ with extending handles. The screen box pivots on one vertical leg. The screener vigorously shakes the screen back and forth until all the loose soil has gone through the mesh. Sort through what remains in the screen. Throw away current vegetation and rootlets. Keep all materials either identifiable or unknown. These will be washed, sorted, weighed, and recorded the same day.

Excavated dirt is poured in the waist-high shaker screen while it is laying flat on the ground (unless someone volunteers to pour for you). Don’t fill the screen too full. Pour the majority toward the handle end of the screen. After the handle is lifted slightly place one foot behind one leg of the screen then pull back toward you.

Once all materials are collected, the screener will walk the materials over to the lab area and either proceed with processing or leave them with another group member for processing.



You should take care at all times to avoid striking your unit partner, or partners, with any tools or related equipment that you may be using for the excavation of the unit. Other safety considerations should include the following:

Turn the hoe or shovel’s point-side down at all times when not in use. Keep tools and other materials out of the traffic patterns
Look behind you before swinging a pick or shovel.
Watch out for other people’s hands when working in the tight corners of the unit.
Be as neat as possible with your belongings; don’t disperse them over the work area.

Dangling jewelry can tangle with equipment. Do not wear such jewelry while in the excavation units or screening areas.
We are a team with a common goal, please be as courteous as possible.
Always lift from the knees, and not the back. We will be lifting heavy materials, so please be careful and save your back.

Please keep in mind that we are guests of the Diocese of Monterey and the Carmel Mission and act accordingly. The Mission has an almost constant stream of tourists as well as fourth grade classes who may stop and ask you questions about what we are doing, please be courteous. Also there are times when services are being held at the Mission, including weddings and funerals. Please try and be aware of these things and act respectively.

Adapted from a document prepared by Michelle St. Clair under the supervision of Ruben G. Mendoza, Ph.D., Principal Investigator/Project
Archaeologist, CSUMB, February 14, 2003.