Running a Dig
An excavation needs a person in charge (the site director or project manager) to make day-to-day decisions on the
course of the excavation. The director is also in charge of the overall interpretation of what is being uncovered,
preferably having taken into account the opinions of other archaeologists working on the site. Ideally this person
should have been involved in the initial planning of the excavation to have a full overview of the project, and
should also run the post-excavation programme. For practical reasons however, this is not always possible.
On large excavations, area supervisors are responsible for different parts of the site and decide on the order in
which features are investigated and how to record them most effectively. A finds supervisor may be responsible for
ensuring that finds are collected and looked after properly. For smaller sites, the director may carry out these
roles as well. A wide variety of specialists (such as people who have excavated similar sites in the past, or those
who study pottery, bone or environmental deposits) may be invited to visit the site so that the director can gain
from their expertise.
Individual site assistants or excavators (often known colloquially as 'diggers') carry out the director's and
supervisor's instructions - and do most of the hard physical work of excavation. However, diggers take continual
decisions too. They may not get to decide on the overall strategy of the excavation, but by digging, they work out
how deep features such as pits and post-holes are, they define layers and structures, and describe them, either
verbally or by writing on-site records. In their own way, these decisions are every bit as important to the outcome
of the excavation as the ones taken by people in more senior positions.
Learn more about How to Dig, Where to Dig, Why Dig or
return to Excavation.