to dig in the ground in order to find things from the past
a. to dig a large hole in the ground
Origin and usage
The word excavate comes from the Latin word ‘excavare’, with ‘ex-‘ meaning ‘out’ and ‘cavus’ meaning ‘cave’. In English, excavate first appeared in the 1590s meaning ‘make hollow by scooping or digging’.
Excavate is a word that refers to digging in the ground to find important items and materials from the past. Scientists excavate historic sites all over the world in order to learn more about people, cultures, places and events of long ago.
Archaeology is the study of the past, and archaeologists often excavate to look for important clues about the past.
Some of the most significant discoveries that have been uncovered by scientists who excavate in the field include:
• The ruins of Pompeii in Italy
• The tomb of King Tutankhamun in Egypt
• The ancient Rosetta Stone
• The Terracotta Army of Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huang
• The site of the grave of King Richard III
• Fossil remains at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania
• Prehistoric paintings found in the Cave of Altamira in Spain
• The Moai statues on Easter Island
• The gold and silver metalwork of the Staffordshire Hoard
When researchers excavate these sites, they dig very carefully through soil and rock with specialized tools in order to preserve historic evidence. They may find ancient tools, ruins of buildings, animal remains, fossils, decorative objects like pottery or handmade baskets, jewellery and more. Many times, items uncovered when scientists excavate are sent to laboratories or museums for further study or display.
“To excavate a pyramid is the dream of every archaeologist.”
dig out, dig up, dig
View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.