Stage 1: This is the initial assessment that includes historical research, a review of land-use history and the present condition of the study area, checking the Ministry of Culture database and in some cases interviewing local residents to obtain relevant information.
Stage 2: Fieldwalking/test-pitting is a more hands-on assessment of the study area to determine if further work is necessary. For fieldwalking, the site must be weathered sufficiently to allow maximum visibility. More specifically, this means the site must be recently ploughed and have had one heavy rainfall or a few light rainfalls to expose any artifacts. Where the ground is under cultivation or pasture, test pitting is employed. This means a pit is dig at regular intervals (typically 5 metres). The pit fill is then screened through mesh to reveal the presence of artifacts. If none are found, the process stops, but if a significant quantity is found, further test pitting becomes necessary, and may require a stage 3 assessment.
Stage 3: Site documentation is intended to obtain information on the site's dimensions, artifact frequency and cultural affiliation(s). This data will then be used to determine the appropriate mitigation strategy. A stage three is completed by digging metre square pits to reveal the limits of the site. If nothing substantial or significant is discovered, the process stops here. If however, a high volume of artifacts is excavated, a stage four is usually necessary.
Stage 4: Full site excavation involves digging of all metre squares within the site limits, retrieval of all artifacts and subsequent analysis, excavation of subsurface features, if any. A full report is provided to the client and to the Ministry, who then grants clearance of development to proceed, and this ends the archaeological work.