Test pitting

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Test-pitting is a minimally intrusive early phase of investigation, often used to either test for the presence of sub-surface archaeological remains, or gain a record of the below ground stratigraphic sequence. The phase of work can often be used in conjunction with other evaluation techniques such as trial trenching.
 
The pits are often excavated by mechanical excavators under the close supervision of experienced field archaeologists, but smaller ones (generally 1m square) can be dug by hand. In areas of greater archaeological potential, the spoil excavated can be sieved to aid the recovery of artefacts.
 
Test-pitting can be an extremely informative evaluation technique. When excavated in layers or ‘spits’, the information can provide a great deal of information as to the geomorphological structure of the ground surface as well as identify archaeological features or artefacts. Using GIS, artefact densities across a site can also highlight areas of greater archaeological potential.
 
The results of the test-pitting may lead to further archaeological mitigation, such as watching brief, trial trenching, excavation or strip, map and sample.