Repetitive Tasks

You need to be comfortable with routines to be an archaeologist. After two seasons, regular blog readers are probably starting to get a feel for which jobs have to be done when in order to make sense of the evidence we dig up. After we took the turf off trenches M and N on Monday, both of them went through exactly the same stages in the same order.

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First we needed to (relatively) carefully remove the rest of the topsoil with mattocks and shovels. Here we are doing just that on trench M yesterday. We work in shallow spits of around 10 cm and try to keep everything as clean as possible so that we will recognise the changes in soil colour and texture that mean we have reached the top of the next layer.

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Once we get there, the surface needs to be cleaned up. I realise that talking about clean mud is another example of the special archaeologist’s view of the world. What we mean is that the soil needs to be scraped with the sharp metal edge of a pointing trowel to expose a slightly damp and dust free surface that shows the colour and texture. You can see the difference in this shot of very good cleaning going on in trench N this morning. Everyone is working backwards in a line, so as not to stand on the cleaned surface and the colours positively glow, at least when compared to the nasty dusty bit behind them. You can see three features here thanks to all this work: a circular patch of dark soil just in front of Mike and two diagonal linear things, one running under Connor’s hand and another behind it.

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The good thing about all this cleaning is that you find things while you are doing it. This is a lovely chert scraper that stopped George going crazy with boredom during the middle of the afternoon on his second go cleaning over the same bit of trench N.

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You can also make your own entertainment with the buckets of spoil.

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Once the surface is clean it needs to be recorded. We photograph the archaeology but also make measured drawings of where all the soil changes are. Here are George, Lauren and Mike drawing a 1:20 plan in trench N. Once this is finished we can start digging again, and go around the whole process over and over again.

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Just for variety, we have also taken the turf off in our last trench, P. Just in front of Katie, Chelsea and Jack you can see lots of limestone, which gave a clear signal on the gradiometer plot last year. Further back, Rob and Connor are clearing off what we hope is the top of a ditch.

Wildlife of the day today is the mysterious and very swift brown vole-type thing that ran over Connor’s boot and vanished underground while we were walking down the hill to the bus after work.

Rick

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