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Archeology for Interpreters > 4. What Do Archeologists Do?

What happens to a site after it's discovered?

Excavation of a dwelling at Chaco Culture National Historical 
                Park. (NPS)

Excavation of a dwelling at Chaco Culture National Historical Park. (NPS)

Archeological resources within national park units are subject to several basic treatments, including data recovery, also referred to as excavation, or preferably in situ preservation. Public education and interpretation may be thought of as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.

The National Park Service does not undertake any treatment project unless it is supported by an approved proposal, plan, or report appropriate to the proposed action. The significance of the resource, its condition, its interpretive value, its research potential and the availability of data are all weighed to determine the appropriate treatment. The appearance and condition of the resource before treatment and changes made during treatment are appropriately documented.

Pending planning decisions, all archeological resources are left undisturbed unless removal of artifacts or their incorporation into other media is justified by protection, research, interpretive, or development requirements. They are preserved in a stable condition to prevent degradation and loss of research values or exhibit potential. Structures of archeological significance and recovered archeological objects are also subject to the treatment policies for structures and museum objects (NPS 1997:84).