Also known as shovel tests and STUs, shovel test units are a form of basic archaeological sub-surface testing designed to provide a quick method for sampling over a large area. These are excavated by a shovel bum during Phase I, or identification phase, of a cultural resource management project.

The typical shovel test:

During a project, shovel tests can be spaced as close together as 5 meters and as far apart as 45 meters, perhaps more. This all depends upon the probability of finding an archaeological site and the environmental conditions. The main purpose of shovel testing is to locate cultural materials. Larger excavations, conducted later, reveal greater information.

Generally, shovel testing is hard grueling work, hated by the average shovel bum except for the advantage of being stuck in one place so the mosquitoes can find you, as can happen with excavation. Repeated shovel testing is considered the archaeological equivalent of chain-gang labor.