Our planet has a long history, with no way of knowing every event that has unfolded across its surface. Luckily, there is a way to remove (some of) the mystery of your land: digging at test pit.
A test pit is a square trench dug into a property, typically about a yard on each side and a yard deep. It is a great way to determine how a property has been used previously, as you can see all of the different layers of soil, debris, former foundations, fossils, etc. Plus, it’s always fun to imagine that you might happen upon some buried treasure.
As with most projects, the first step is to pick a location. Check with your utility companies to make sure you won’t be hitting and electrical or plumbing elements. Also make sure it’s in an open space with room around it for your excavated soil.
Now the digging begins. This is a deliberate process, so it’s best to use hand tools so that you can main control and precision. Remember the goal here is to determine the use and history of your soil based on the composition of its layers, so it is recommended that you test in 4-inch increments. There are handy forms online to help you determine and record the composition of each layer, or spit.
Continue this process of digging out each spit, testing it, and recording your findings, until you hit a depth of one yard. You may not make it that far—obstacles like water, solid rock, or that treasure chest, might prevent you from hitting your goal depth.
Unless you happen to want a pit on your property, the final step of test pit digging is to reverse your hard work and backfill the hole. Now your property is whole again, but you have a much greater knowledge of its history, soil, and maybe even some hints at things that have happened centuries ago!