E is for… Excavation

E is for ExcavationEntertained? Excited? Exasperated?

No of course not. The E in today’s A to Z of Archaeology has to be Excavation! HollyMae Price tells us more…

So, you’re setting out on your first ever excavation; it’s likely to be an archaeological site local to you, a university dig or an amazing DigVentures Dirty Weekend. You’re excited about digging, looking forward to meeting new people and thrilled at the prospect of excavating something no-one has set eyes upon for centuries, if not millennia.

But, do you know your picks from your mattocks, your shovels from your spades and do you know which type of trowel you will need?

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The main tool associates with archaeologists is the trowel – a veteran archaeologist would not be seen dead without their trusty trowel worn down by years of digging (WHS preferably!). There are many things one can do with a trowel; light cleaning, heavy cleaning, prodding, poking, digging, creating nice straight sections (a must-do if you’re working with Raksha) and last but not least, saving your seat at lunch time.

Shovels and spades have very distinctive and unique uses; a spade is great for cutting turf before digging, for straightening out sections and for shifting very stony soil. Shovels are best for moving soil and flinging it into wheelbarrows.

In my mind, the best thing about excavation is mattocking– there is nothing better than letting loose with a mattock and ‘whacking out’ the contents of an old ditch (in a measured and controlled manner, of course). A pick, on the other hand, is very useful for loosening rubble and solid clay contexts which are usually a nightmare to get through!

Then, on top of all of those you have planning frames, sponges for mopping up puddles and buckets to wring the sponges into, tape measures of differing lengths, string, levels and drawing equipment. At the end of the day, whatever your skills, archaeology will probably have a use for it, and if you don’t know what tool would be best for what job, make sure you ask! There’s no harm in asking questions!

HollyMae Steane Price graduated with a BSc in Archaeology from Cardiff University and is now the Community Archaeologist for the CALCH project, based with Dyfed Archaeological Trust

Twitter: @sapphonica

Personal Blog: http://hspheritage.com/

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