Survey (archeology)

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In archeology , a survey is the inspection or exploration of the terrain to gain an overview of the settlement history . It is a ground inspection of the area and its mapping .

The inspection does not necessarily have to lead to an excavation , but can also (for the time being) be the only step in exploring an area. It is the simplest archaeological prospecting method and takes place almost non-destructively. Today it is mostly combined with the geophysical methods of prospecting ( see geophysical prospecting ).

A field inspection in Lower Saxony with white markings


Inspections often take place as field inspections, in which the surface of the earth is systematically searched for archaeological finds on arable land without technical aids. Inspections can also be carried out with technical aids such as metal detectors .

The area to be investigated is usually divided into grid squares and measured , today GPS is also increasingly used. Then the area is systematically walked, whereby the soil surface is examined for conspicuous terrain and soil features, and finds are measured and picked up. All finds and findings are documented and mapped. A frequent occurrence of finds can point to sites or ground monuments that come to light through soil erosion or plowing. With the collected data, the experienced archaeologist can estimate whether and what kind of monuments might be in the ground. With the help of geographic information systems , the finds can be linked to the topography and other features such as soil quality, land use and the like.


Inspections can have the following objectives:

Old sites

Inspections of known sites serve to precisely record and map them. In the past, many sites were discovered by field walkers, often in the person of local teachers or pastors. Today, finds can be precisely recorded at these points by means of a GPS measurement. Concentrations of finds can also be determined, which provide indications of earlier areas of use.

New sources

Since many areas are still unexplored and no sites are known, inspections can complete the find picture of a region.

Targeted search

The targeted search can be used to find a missing area for a known location. For example, a burial site can be known, but the associated settlement has not yet been discovered.

Research project

Inspections can supplement excavations, form the basis for further prospecting measures or for the reconstruction of a cultural landscape.

Construction planning

Before planned construction work, inspections can serve to assess the potential for archaeological statements on the area and, if necessary, to prepare explorations or excavations.

Found material

Frequently found material is:

Legal situation in Germany

The legal situation in the German federal states is regulated by monument protection laws. After that, all historical and archaeological finds from inspections (in some federal states also include relics from both world wars) must be reported to the monument authorities. Inspections by probe users with metal detectors are subject to approval by the responsible monument protection authority.


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Lehmann, Gunnar. Bibliography of archaeological sites and surveys in Syria and Lebanon. Leidorf, 2002.