ATH 242-01

Archaeological methods: excavation

    Controlled surface collection: a grid is superimposed on the site and surface finds are referenced within that grid

  • sampling strategies:
    1. simple random sampling
    2. systematic interval sampling
    3. stratified random sampling
    4. non-probabilistic sampling
  • matrix: physical medium that surrounds, holds, supports archaeological material
  • provenience: the 3-d location of archaeological data within or on the matrix at the time of discovery
  • association: two or more archaeological items occurring together
  • context: the interpretation of the significance of an artifact’s deposition
  • Excavation standards

  • all have 4 things in common:
    1. investigations are conducted within clearly defined units for artifact location, recording, collecting
    2. natural units have precedence over arbitrary ones (horiz. or vert.)
    3. the locations of artifacts are recorded as closely as possible
      • not all may be recorded at the same level of precision – diagnostics/tools/ornaments have priority
    4. the matrix is recorded
  • Grids can be imaginary physical constructs

  • grids are composed of squares or units
  • grids have a datum point (000 point)
  • grid square size
    • in the past, 5′ or 10′
    • today, 1m or 2m used
    • all pro work now metric
    • why dig square holes?
  • Grid square labeling usually alphanumeric
  • earthwall separating units/cells: balk/baulk, left for stratigraphy
  • earthwall w/o cell on other side: profile
  • (trans)formation processes

  • cultural: plowing, looting, reoccupation
  • natural: decay, bioturbation, cryoturbation, floral turbation, aqua turbation, solifluction
  • preservation is usually best in:
    1. arid environment
    2. alkaline env
    3. cold env
    4. anaerobic env
  • Pompeii premise: sites are rarely snapshots in time
  • Typical preservation

  • levels refer to the vertical dimension or depth of grid system
  • two types:
    1. natural level: each stratigraphic level is used as a unit of reference. each level may be numbered or lettered
    2. arbitrary levels: digging my measuring down from some known elevation
  • natural levels are preferable to most archaeologists, but not always possible
  • Mapping a unit

  • ideally diagnostic artifacts are found and left in situ
  • in situ artifacts have their coordinates recorded and mapped
  • other artifacts may be found in the screen or as the soil is being collected

  • artifacts not i.s. can be assigned a provenience by unit and level
  • measuring artifact position

  • usually done with tape measure, plumb bob and line level
  • 2 ways: triangulation and coordinate recording
  • triangulation

  • Munsell color system
  • Archaeological context

  • acquisition, manufacture, usage, discard
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