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The poles with the white flags mark the corners of a 1 meter by 1 meter square unit.

Poles are placed precisely and distances carefully measured.

I update my field journal at least three times a day. My journal will become part of the official archaeological record for the site.


Before we could begin to excavate the Montoya site, it was important for us to have a lesson on record keeping. We learned that the site is divided into a grid of 1 meter by 1 meter square, which helps to keep track of where artifacts are found. Each of the units we are working in is identified by two coordinates that indicate how many meters to the north and to the east they are from a set point on the site. You might have learned this coordinate system as ordered pairs. The unit I started working in, for example, is 553N 1022E.

Record keeping is critical! When you do a research project for your teacher, you need to take notes and keep track of where you got your information. Archaeologists must do this too.

Before anything is removed from the unit, measurements are taken in each corner, a sketch of the unit is drawn, and a field note journal is started. Our fieldwork journals include information about where we are working, who we are working with, what we are doing, and even what the weather is like. Our journals will stay behind when we leave Monticello Canyon and will become part of the official archaeological record for the site.

The artifacts we find are placed in paper bags, which are carefully marked with all the information necessary to tell where the artifacts were found. Our field journals and other record sheets we fill out in the field make it possible for Karl, the archaeologist, to double-check information by checking one source against another.

Long after our team of Earthwatch volunteers has returned home, Karl will be able to use the data we recorded in the field and the artifacts we found to help answer questions about the history of the site and the people who lived here.

Credits: Courtesy of Shayne Russell