Science & research

Why do we dig?

An archaeological dig is the most important way of using the fragmented, material remains of history to discover the specific information and data used to reconstruct prehistoric and ancient historic lifestyles and societies. Digging always means destruction too. It does not matter how big or small the excavated part of a find spot, after the completion of the excavation work nobody can repeat the examination of the discoveries that appear. This means it is particularly important to precisely and carefully document the results of a dig, all finds and discoveries.

Where do we dig?

Most of the excavations in Lower Austria are done because of a so-called emergency situation. Building projects, extensive farming and, in this connection, the erosion of the soil are increasingly endangering archaeological find spots. Before complete destruction, excavations therefore have to be carried out to save what can still be saved. In addition, scientifically motivated digs are also carried out, however.
Modern methods and devices are very often used in order to record find spots, for example aerial archaeology. Alongside aerial archaeology, geophysical prospection is also becoming increasingly important. As well as ground radar and resistance measurement, this also includes geomagnetic prospection which is used to record archaeological structures in homogeneous soils.

What do we look for with a dig?

Contrary to popular opinion, we are not looking for “treasures” even though we are of course happy to discover such special finds. The focus is not on the “sensational” but rather the everyday life of simple people, their food and clothing, their customs and conventions, their tools and articles of daily use, their houses and graves. We simply want to create pictures of lifestyles, well aware of how thin the ice is on which we are moving. Material culture alone, often discovered only in fragmented form, cannot cover all areas of life, the spiritual beliefs and intellectual ideas and associated rites and rituals will probably have to remain hidden forever in many cases.
The main task of archaeology is to document the find spot as precisely as possible. State-of-the-art tools and methods are used here to ensure the find is protected as well as possible. Analysis of the soil mass and using flotation to recover carbonised plant remains are also among the activities of modern archaeology, similarly modern research can no longer be imagined without archaeozoology and anthropology.  

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