Scuba divers examining a shipwreck underwater.
Virtual Fieldtrip
Come learn about archaeology, Maryland's history and some sites at the Park.

One of the most important steps

recording.jpgExcavation is a destructive process that archaeologists use to uncover the relationships between remains within sites. What that means is that as archaeologists excavate, they change the existing layout of the site.  Because of this, archaeologists take lots and lots of notes and photographs.  Before any excavation begins, everything is mapped and recorded.  Some archaeologists consider their pencil and camera to be their most important tools.

So before they excavate, divers will map the site – a painstaking process on a terrestrial site but one that is ten times harder underwater, when you have to deal with issues such as air supplies, visibility, buoyancy, currents, and the general difficulty of moving around and communicating underwater.

triangulation.jpgMeasurements are recorded using special paper and pens designed to work underwater. Structural elements, like wood planks, and all artifacts are precisely recorded before any excavation begins.

Underwater sites are often dynamic, meaning they change over time, sometimes significantly.  Water can move sands and sediments, covering all or parts of sites. Storms and hurricanes can move wrecks from previous locations. Archaeologists need to keep track of these changes in their notes and maps.


Mapping continues to take place throughout the process of excavating a site. 
As soil and artifacts are removed, new information is revealed in the underlying soil, and all of that information is written down in the notes.

Previous page - Remote Sensing Next page - Excavation