Thinking about all the new technologies and techniques that are available to archaeologists now compared to even 50 years ago, it occurred to me that there might be considerable benefit to leaving parts of a site untouched so that future archaeologists can use what you discover, plus new T&T to discover even more. This is the flip side of contaminating samples and disturbing sites, in a way, but it's as much an extension of the "dig, think, then think some more before digging" approach.

Against that I can see how "publish or perish" and similar pressures create incentives to grab as much as possible as quickly as possible. Not everyone can afford the time and money to focus years on the first thing they find on a site.

Do archaeologists deliberately leave things untouched for later?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ history.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/archaeology would be the right place to ask questions about archeology. The archeology tag on this forum might be used in case there is a question about e.g. geophysical methods used by archeologists. $\endgroup$
    – user2821
    May 4, 2017 at 2:05
  • $\begingroup$ The short answer is yes. Given limited resources, archaeological sites that risk disappearing (e.g. flooding, building) are given priority. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Doggen
    May 4, 2017 at 8:23

1 Answer 1



From this article in National Geographic:

The last step before digging is to divide the site into a grid to keep track of the location of each find. Then archaeologists choose sample squares from the grid to dig. This allows the archaeological team to form a complete study of the area. They also leave some plots on the grid untouched. Archaeologists like to preserve portions of their dig sites for future scientists to study—scientists who may have better tools and techniques than are available today.

(emphasis mine)


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