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Practical Archaeological Excavation Techniques, day four

November 5th, 2008
post #133   history / prehistory »

Day Four, afternoon of 31st October 2008.

Recording of a trench section on context recording sheets, and some interpretation.

This was an afternoon stint from around 13:30 to 16:40. From where I’d left off on day three, I tidied up the face of the section I was to record by gently removing weathered and loose earth from the surface. This is to ensure that a smooth section is visible so that differences in light fall across the section are minimised.

Care needs to be taken to ensure the feature itself - which may be very thin - is not destroyed as a result. As the weather had prevented previous recording of the section on the previous attempt, more of the stone/gravel feature had become apparent with subsequent cleaning, but no features had been harmed or lost.

I had some instruction in following the matrix identification flowchart. This guides the examination of the colour, texture and consistency of to determine how the earth sample should be defined. A small sample of soil is harvested from the matrix in a moist state on the end of a trowel. It is then tested by rolling it between the fingers to determine how gritty it is, and how easily it will lose its shape to arrive at a distinct definition. In my case, the fine gritty consistency and inability to forma ball when rolled defines the matrix as sand, this is consistent with much of the site.

The main stone/gravel feature, and the iron-rich soil beneath it had been given context numbers already, that had been used on the section drawings. The supervisor’s latest examination of the cleaned section suggested to him that another area ought to the given a new context number as it differed from the rest of the fill. The context numbers assigned are:(Trench XVI) Fill [2917] (Stone/Gravel sub-circular feature),Fill [2918] (Iron-rich red sand below cut [2947]).

As the ‘cut’ of the possible drain was visibly defined by the fill areas, this is given it’s own context number. The additional fill area got it’s number too.

Cut [2947],Fill [2948] (grey brown sand with small gravel area). The numbers are recorded on the context sheet as before.

There are different sections to fill in on the context sheet depending on whether a fill or a cut is being recorded. Most parts of the sheet require specific terminology, but interpretation and observations are of high importance and a reminder that information recorded can be discarded after interpretation,  while information not recorded can never be interpreted.

The small scale plan and section drawings required also bear some of these observations, noting the fact that the iron-rich fill ‘2918′ is not a fill in the sense of matter thay occupies an area previously opened or cut through, but defines a discoloration of the soil as a result of water passing through the probable drain depositing iron. The other fills are bounded by the cut, so are fills in the usual sense.

By the end of the day I had roughly completed a single context sheet, and decided to take it home to copy out anew having made further notes of dimensions and locations.


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