The recording process which takes place during excavation aims at dividing the archaeological stratification into its components, the units of stratification. This is done by removing single deposits in the reverse order to which they were formed. Any unit of stratification has to be destroyed as the excavation proceeds to the next one. It is therefore absolutely necessary to document each unit by recording its physical and spatial properties and its stratigraphic relations , while collecting finds and samples in relation to it as accurately as possible.
The standardised process of recording is divided into subsequent steps to be repeated for any excavated unit of stratification forming a documentation algorithm. Every single unit – surface or deposit – is given a unique number and documented by its boundary polygon, as well as its topography. The topographical model of the surfaces of single deposits and of feature interfaces, and the according associated texture derived from digital photographs are the primary raw data for further mapping and analysis in a Geographic Information System (GIS) . Surfaces, the immaterial aspect of stratification, can therefore be captured in their entirety.
By their nature, the material aspects of deposits can only be captured by sampling. For the stratigraphic record , each deposit, represented by its top and bottom surface is reduced to a unique number in the stratigraphic sequence. It imparts this number to all of the portable finds and samples found within its volume. Their 3D position can be easily defined upon discovery or extraction. The finds and samples are recorded in 3D space as three dimensional points or small volumes. All further data derived from the finds can be stored in a database, photographs and finds drawings.