Archaeology Terms

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Screening – Water

Water Screening Archaeologists often screen dry soil through 1/4-inch hardware mesh on excavations, but water screening has been used as well. In this process, the field crew would pour running water from a hose or bucket over the soil in the screen, clearing away finer soil particles. Then they would look through the material left behind and separate any artifacts from non-cultural material like rocks or modern rootlets. Water screening could incorporate stacked screens, as seen here during fieldwork in 1986 at the Sand Lake Archaeological District in Onalaska, Wisconsin. The mesh size of the stacked screens decreased from the top to the bottom--for example, from 1/4 inch to 1/8 inch to 1/16 inch. Using stacked screens separated the material by size and made it easier to sort the artifacts and recover smaller items.