The Research Design
Archaeology is a destructive process: in an attempt to reconstruct the past, archaeologists have to essentially deconstruct a site. Archaeology is also a science, and like other sciences, responsible and effective archaeological investigations begin with a research design. This provides the researcher with a platform to present the environmental and historical setting of the site, create a basic game plan for fieldwork, a theoretical framework for interpretation and analysis, and most importantly, the research questions that will guide excavations.
Hitting the Books
Before fieldwork, archaeologists often dig through the archives in search of maps, documents, or other literature pertaining to their study area. No matter the age of the archaeological site, historical documents can provide important clues about how a site was occupied and altered over time. In addition to historical documents, archaeologists also conduct a literature review of previous archaeological work within their study area in order to see what excavations have been done and what was found. All of this information helpd researchers determine where to go, what to look for, and how their project might contribute to ongoing research within the larger scientific field.