One of the great things about being in San Antonio is that they have 300+ years of history and a city archaeoligist. My years at Global Heritage Fund brought me into contact with a lot of archaeologists, just at a time in history when the field was being revolutionized by LIDAR, ground-penetrating radar and all sorts of other high-tech options that allowed us to evolve beyond simply digging things up, which is inherently destructive. Here is a blog about LIDAR from a little over a year ago. I also did a lecture at the Pacific Union Club a while back on the latest in archaeological technology, and another blog last year titled Heritage in the Age of Virtual Reconstruction.
It seems that the investigation of the Alamo Plaza to determine the 1836 battle boundaries is focusing on digging. There is one good reason for this – they are planning to engage the public in the discussion, and having actual pits will foster curiosity and engagement, as this recent article describes. There has been and will be use of ground-penetrating radar as well, and we can hope they use the full range of 21st century technology for such an important site. As George Skarmeas said in the article – it is like Athens in terms of the layers of history!
In fact, there is an excellent summary of the latest developments in archaeology – and historic interpretation – just up the river at the Witte, which has an excellent exhibit on the Maya.
Actually, the technique here is pre-digital. Those older blogs show examples of the kind of virtual reconstructions that have been available to visitors for decades. The excellent thing about this type of interpretation is it does the same thing as digging in terms of engaging the public. You do more than simply look at a single thing: you see the layers and allow your mind to reconstruct the historic view. This is, in fact, how your mind works.