Practical Archaeological Excavation Techniques, day six

November 25th, 2008
post #136   history / prehistory »

Thursday November 6th, 1130 - 1700. Mild for the time of year, sunny then overcast (arguably the ideal weather for it)

Having now covered excavation, identification, the recording system for trenches, finds, contexts, photographs, basic observations and interpretation, today I set about my first graphic site recordings.

I was given a new section to examine in Trench XVIA that had yet to be recorded visually. After giving the section a clean with a trowel and removing an overhang from an upper soil layer I began to set up the section for recording under the supervisor’s guidance.

Two nails are driven into the section, and string is drawn between them. The line is wound tight and levelled using a hanging spirit-level. This provides a baseline from which measurements down to the current excavation level and up to the top of the section can be taken.

Section drawings are made using a hard (6H) pencil on tracing paper over squared paper with 1mm intervals. Sections are recorded at a 1:10 ratio. The section to record was 2.30 metres South-North and up to .3 metres deep.

Taking measurements every 5cm, points are recorded on the sketch sheet to assist in accurately representing the features when drawn, such as how the section’s top and base rise and fall along its length and details of large inclusions and breaks. The same is done for features and known contexts within it, providing a visual record of the position of features, in this case a number of apparent cuts, fills and iron-panning contexts are seen to begin West and continue East of this section.

Later in the day I switched to plan recording and was instructed to record similarly. Plan drawings are at 1:20 ratio and the recorder can benefit from a 1m by 1m grid comprising 20cm divisions. The grid was checked for its accurate positioning using a 30 metre tape before I began drawing the positions of large and small stones, existing tree roots, clay and sand contexts and their boundaries. I was adding the final Southern most features to the existing plan drawing for the rest of the trench to the North.

As with the other recording methods used, section drawings are logged in registers. As many section drawings are added to a single sheet the section numbers need to be logged against their sheets with the date, name of the recorder, scale and coordinates of the section. Plan drawings are similarly logged.

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