What is a Posthole?

Postholes. National Park Service photograph from Badger House Community, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado, by Alden C. Hayes and James A. Lancaster, Publications in Archeology, no. 7E, National Park Service, Washington, D.C., 1975.

Example of postholes that have been excavated by archaeologists. These postholes (and others not shown) indicate where a Pueblo house once stood.

At an archaeological site, a posthole is a small, round, dark stain that formed when a wooden post or pole rotted or burned in the ground. Postholes arranged in a large circle, oval, or rectangle indicate where a house or other structure may have stood. Postholes arranged in a straight line might be the remains of a windbreak, sunscreen, drying rack, loom, or other small construction.

Archaeologists carefully document the locations, sizes, and patterns of postholes so they can reconstruct what a site or building looked like in the past.