Archaeology 101

Anyone who wants a speedy intro to Archaeology should read the following article from the Guardian.

“Archaeology on television can seem like an activity for geeks in white coats and blokes in over-sized jumpers. But its range of activities is so wide – from laboratory to museum, from excavation to historic building – almost anyone can find a welcome somewhere. Master our quick guide, and you will soon sound like a proper digger.

Key concepts

Site: A place where something happened in the past that could be or is the subject of excavation.

Evaluation: Research, including the digging of narrow “trial trenches” (often with machines), to establish the quality of preservation at a site and its significance (Time Team digs are often described as evaluations).

Excavation: The real McCoy, from a few days digging in a farmyard, to years investigating 75 hectares (185 acres) by 80 field archaeologists, with a laboratory and 27 computers on site, prior to the opening of Heathrow Terminal 5.

Fill: Disturbed earth, rubble, etc, found beneath the surface, indicative of human activity.

Natural: Undisturbed geological strata at the bottom of the site.

Spoil: Excavated dirt that supposedly contains no finds (it ends up being dumped on the spoilheap).

Find: Any item worthy of individual attention, such as a coin, piece of pottery or animal bone.

Feature: Anything such as a pit, ditch or stain in the ground, typically with an origin and purpose that is not immediately obvious.

Structure: A former building or erection of any kind, indicated by post holes, wall foundations, etc.

Layer: Deposit of material that seems to have been made during one particular time.

Context: Perhaps the most important concept. Something distinct in the ground, such as a layer or feature that represents a definable unit of time, is known as a context; a grave, for example, might have a context number for the grave pit that was dug, another for the coffin and body placed there, and a third for the fill (the backfilling of the grave). Relationships between contexts (for example, that between one grave and another it was dug through) are recorded in a matrix, which on large urban sites can be extremely complex.

Stratigraphy: the science of unravelling how everything on the site got there and in what order (sequence), through study of finds, structures and contexts.”

See the rest here: Beginner’s guide to archaeology

Thanks to J. Lauer for this one.

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