Isotopes dating archaeological finds

You may think of shovels when you think of digging, but the most important piece of equipment in the archaeologist’s toolkit is actually the trowel.A trowel is used to carefully remove thin layers of soil from test units.It helps determine where you look for sites based on factors like distance from water, ground steepness, soil type, and other factors that influence where people settle or perform certain tasks.The methods used to find sites will depend upon the kind of research questions that the archaeologist is trying to answer.Archaeologists today collaborate with descendants of Native American peoples, and with African American communities who are only a few generations removed from the lives of their enslaved or free ancestors, to better understand the cultural traditions of their pasts.Archaeologists working on the 19th century Levi Jordan Plantation in Texas have interviewed descendants of both the plantation owners and the enslaved plantation workers as part of their research.The prehistoric burials at Low Hauxley on the coast of England were discovered by an observant beach walker who noticed a stone box sticking out of a sand dune after a storm.A burial ground with remains of more than 400 17th and 18th century Africans was discovered during building construction in New York City.

An archaeological predictive model is a tool that indicates the probability that an archaeological site will occur in a certain area.This research uncovers the written records associated with the study area.If the area was inhabited during historical times (in the past several hundred years in North America) the archaeologist will look for primary historical documents associated with the study area.Over the past 150 years archaeologists have developed many effective methods and techniques for studying the past.Archaeologists also rely upon methods from other fields such as history, botany, geology, and soil science.

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Open this History Toolkit to learn more about investigating the past with primary sources.

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