A module in post excavation methods and reporting

We’ve just finished our first winter modules, two 2-week modules, the first addressing post excavation methods, and the second introducing students to archaeological assessment and non-invasive investigation methods.

Module: Post Excavation Methods and Archaeological Reporting

Skeleton protruding from the E baulk in Cutting 3

Using excavated artefacts and materials from the Blackfriary Season 2 excavations (2011), our students set out to first understand the research questions for that season by looking at the known history of the site and the results of the first season of excavation, in 2010. When we set out to excavate in 2011, we sought answers to the following questions:

  • Was the southern extent of the cloister wall identifiable, intact?
  • Was the wall collapse in the church, identified in 2010, present to the West of Cuttings 1 & 2 (Season 1)
  • What effect did the removal of stone on the modern period have on the archaeological remains?
Geophysics survey of Blackfriary with 2010 cuttings plotted (Cuttings 1 & 2)

To answer these questions, Cuttings 3, 4 & 4A were opened; we were successful in locating cloister wall, identifying the south-western extent, and in finding out what had happened to the church wall building stone in this location. We were also surprised by a number of unexpected burials inside and outside the church building, and by a number of beautiful architectural fragments from the cloister arcade, hewn from Purbeck ‘marble’, a stone frequently used in medieval church architecture.

The Season 2 excavation generated a wealth of artefacts, zooarchaeological samples, soil samples, and of course the skeletal remains from the burials excavated. This had to be sorted through and checked against the excavation records including feature sheets, registers, plans and photographic records.

Plan from Cutting 3

Using this material we started to address the phasing on the site; the site is complicated by later intrusive activity that has disturbed some of the earlier features, creating a jumble of strata…thankfully, careful record keeping and the site notebooks from Season 2 held the key to sorting it out to allow the students to construct a matrix representing the stratigraphy of the site.

Some thing like this!!! (After Harris, EH. 1993. Practices of Archaeological Stratigraphy)

All this information was input into SpADa, the spatial archaeological database, designed by our techie geniuses Gianmarco and Salva; this allows us to plot our data in a GIS capable database, easy access to linked information (cut, feature sheet, find record, plan and photos, all at the click of a button), and produce nice charts!!

We looked at the material collected, and the aims of the collection, where samples were taken to date specific features, and discussed the role of various archaeological specialists in informing the interpretation and dating of a site.

Finally, using the dating matrix, and some C14 dates from Season 2, we put together an interim stratigraphic report for Cutting 1. No mean feat in two weeks!

We’ll post our results soon 🙂

Our Post Excavation module aims included:
  1. to design a post excavation strategy appropriate to the requirements of a given excavation.
  2. to carry out basic analysis and interpretation of all types of archaeological excavation records
  3. including the selection of appropriate material for scientific dating as well as stratigraphic analysis.
  4. to understand the process involved in the production of final reports of archaeological excavation results.
  5. work effectively with a team of post-excavation archaeologists and specialists
  6. work within the legislative framework to ensure the proper conservation and storage of artefactual and archive materials.
 
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About blackfriary

The Irish Archaeology Field School (IAFS) is Ireland’s leading provider of university accredited, site based archaeological research and training. The Blackfriary research project is part of a community archaeology project, based in Trim, Co. Meath. Blackfriary is a 13th century Dominican abbey site; the archaeology includes the buried remains of the medieval abbey and graveyard. Students that participate in the excavation experience and practice all aspects of archaeological excavation processes, learning from experts and leaders in their field, and contribute to an established archaeological research project. IAFS have been excavating at Blackfriary since 2010; students participating have come from all over the works including the Australia, Canada, Europe and the USA.
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2 Responses to A module in post excavation methods and reporting

  1. Jessica says:

    This sounds like a really interesting module. Great work!

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