Hydro Excavation and its Potential for Archaeology

Hydro excavation is a non-destructive form of digging, so it’s potential for archaeological dig sites is huge. Traditional excavation used by archaeologists is destructive and time-consuming in nature. It usually involves deep penetration of soil, and once a site is excavated, it is gone forever.

Most of the time, the artifacts and soil cannot be put back in place nor can the site be reconstructed. Often, artifacts end up being destroyed, which is a big loss for archaeology as well as our general knowledge.

What is Hydro Excavation?

Hydro excavation offers a completely new possibility for archaeologists. It boasts a non-mechanical, non-destructive process which is also quite fast. It can reach fragile and critical underground structures without destroying them through its non-destructive digging method (NDD).

What Does this Mean for Archaeology?

Hydro excavation allows archaeology to be practised in a much more efficient and effective way with minimal loss or destruction to sites. New Zealand has a rich archaeological heritage, with both its Maori and Colonial past. Just in Auckland alone, there are 9000 recorded Maori sites and there are more than 60,000 sites across the country.

Hydro excavation could help to preserve this history, aiding education, cultural tourism and the pursuit of human knowledge.

Top 5 Reasons Archaeologists Need Hydro Excavation

  1. Less Invasive and Less Damaging

Traditional excavation is the most invasive and destructive technique that archaeologists use. By digging up a site, archaeologists destroy what they are learning. Artifacts, structures and human remains have all been damaged this way. This is without mentioning features like sewer lines and electric cables, which are often present onsite.

Hydro excavation is the only proven method of exposing existing surfaces with zero damage, thanks to its advanced technology.

  1. Higher Precision – Less Disposal & Mixing up

In traditional excavation, materials like artifacts, structures and bones are often disrupted. This mixes up the stratigraphy of the site, making it hard to establish the context behind archaeological discoveries.
Context is crucial in archaeology as it helps to establish dating as well as the cultural period that something came from.  One site can often contain different cultural discoveries from the civilisations that have inhabited it over time. Hydro excavation reduces the amount of materials that are disposed of or mixed up on site, leading to more accurate discoveries.

  1. Higher Precision – Less Restoration

Because it causes less damage, hydro excavation allows for minimal restoration of a site. This means that archaeologists don’t need to spend painstaking hours restoring a site to how it was. This can take months, if not years of work depending on the size of the site as well its fragility. As a result, archaeologists can focus on other aspects of a site.

  1. Less Labour

Hydro excavation professionals use high-pressure water with a tank or truck to excavate a site. Conventional excavation often employs 80-100 people along with two to three large excavators. Using hydro excavators leads to less labour as well as reduced financial costs for the dig. This is money that archaeologists can reinvest elsewhere.

  1. Minimal Disruption to the Public

As hydro excavation is less invasive and less damaging, there tends to be minimal disruption to the public. This means no damage to power or electrical lines and no disruption to traffic. This is in stark contrast to traditional archaeological excavation, which often causes damage and disruptions in cities as big as Rome and London.

Hydro Excavation is the only proven method of exposing existing surfaces without damage. To find out more about all the benefits of this type of excavation and how it can help you, contact the experts at Hydro Vac today.