Archaeology 101: Recording

Part two of the Archaeology 101 feature covers the process of recording the site.

Archaeology 101: Recording

Excavation is a destructive process, once an archaeologist begins troweling or mattocking the physical record is immediately lost. It is therefore essential that every effort is made to record the archaeology in as much detail as possible, in a manner that anyone can understand.

As a profession, archaeology has developed a standard way of recording sites, right down to the type of terms used to describe soil colour, compaction and consistency. Here at Bamburgh we use single context recording, whereby every feature, deposit, cut etc. is recorded individually in a way that can be rebuilt so we can understand a group of contexts which make up a feature, and on a larger scale, a way that will enable us to cognitively rebuild the trench.

Therefore, every context will have associated descriptions which are found on contexts, cut, masonry and group sheets which will also contain information about the drawings and photographs in which they appear. Everything on the surface of the trench and in the vertical walls of the trench is drawn by hand and then photographed so we have a visual, as well as verbal, record.

Ben drawing the west section in the NW corner

Lorraine and Nicola planning on the baulk in T3 at the beginning of the season

A section drawing of a potential Anglo-Saxon wall

Furthermore, each context will have a soil sample taken from it, which will be floated through the environmental tank so we can observe the large and minute consistency of these contexts. Finally, we also record the small and bulk finds by context.

When combined, this information enables us to understand each contexts potential date, use and sequence within the trench stratigraphy (the way in which contexts form), thus providing us with a narrative for the trench.

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