Think of a Number

Archaeologists and sums don’t always get along particularly well. This is a pity because a lot of the analysis we do depends on counting or measuring things. Fortunately, the level of mathematical expertise required for most of this analysis is about what you need during a game of darts. I have been looking at the results of lots of counting and measuring this week. Specifically, as I start to write the interim report for this summer’s excavations,which finds came from which parts of trench H.


This is the first part of the process, Vanessa and Nikki measuring finds on site with the total station in the balmy heat of a typical Lancashire July day. All of this data then needed to be downloaded from the machine, tidied up into a format that will open as an Excel spreadsheet and then checked for problems and inconsistencies. Vanessa did that bit as part of her fieldwork report and, thanks to all her careful work on site, found very few problems.

NL13 Trench H everything

There is lots we can do with this data, this is one of the most straightforward things. This plot shows the outline of trench H with the position in plan view of all the finds from this year’s excavation. When I get further on with writing the interim report I will use this data overlaid on the cleaned up site plans to show how the variation in finds density relates to the position of the features we discovered.

NL13 Trench H by class

It also makes sense to think about distributions of different kinds of finds. This plot shows where the cremated bone (blue crosses), charcoal (black triangles) and worked stone (green circles) was found. The big concentration of bone and charcoal towards the bottom left corner all comes from within the large postholes of the timber circle. This is more support for the idea that there used to be cremation burials at the foot of these posts which were disturbed when the posts were removed. 

In contrast to this, the worked stone is much more evenly distributed throughout all the features we excavated this year. This is probably because the worked stone was put here during lots of repeated visits to the site, rather than a single event like a burial. We should also probably split the worked stone down further and plot out where all the different kinds of tools and waste came from, as we did last year, but I’m going to wait until the pieces have been looked at by someone who knows more about stone tools than I do before I try that.


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