What is an Open Area Excavation?
An Open area excavation, (also called open excavation, or stripping) is where a large area is stripped of its topsoil and the underlying archaeology is exposed. Areas can cover from 10 x 10 meters, to an entire field. The topsoil is usually stripped off by a mechanical digger, with the digger operators being skilled in their work that they do not disturb or destroy the archaeology that lies close to the surface.
The system of open area excavations was introduced in the 1940’s in order to reveal what lay under the topsoil of a known, single period, sites that had already been identified. It is undertaken in a controlled manner and involves a large team of workers and site directors.
Site directors are responsible for everyone on the site, as well as watching the excavation, in order to ensure that each layer of stratigraphy is taken off in its correct sequence. They need to control all areas of the work environment, pair up trained and untrained staff, volunteers, and students, to ensure proper protocol is being observed, where to place the spoil heap, and assess how each stage of the excavation is going.
The list of staff would include the director, supervisors, experienced field staff, students, volunteers, admin, recorders, finds staff, photographers, computing staff, sievers, and specialists that may be required at the dig. The mechanical digger driver would have to be experienced in this type of work, ensuring that only the topsoil was removed and there is as little disturbance of the underlying archaeology as possible.
Open area excavation allows archaeologists to see the ‘big picture’ of a site – like a snapshot from the past.
Archaeology Wow!! – Basse Yutz Bronze Wine Flagons, Moselle, France
In 1927 in Moselle, France, workmen uncovered what is beleived to have been the grave of a high status Celtic chieftain. Within the grave were two identical flagons with beautiful artwork of the Le Tène period, about the size of modern day wine bottles.
The workmen did not know about archaeology and so took the items from the grave and abandoned the rest of its contents, so there is no recorded or know stratigraphy or context for the find.
The flagons are beautifully decorated with handles represented by dogs and a duck on the spout. The duck is near the end of the spout and there is a scene around the top beleived to represent a narration from Celtic mythology. When wine if poured from the flagon it looks as thought the duck at the end is swimming. The flagons are made of a copper alloy and have 120 pieces of glass and coral inlaid around them.
The flagons are of Italian design and shape, and this represents cultural links with not only Italy, but also Egypt and Cornwall in England, where the tin component of the casting process would have come from. This shows that there was a network of connections between the different areas of Europe and even east Africa.
The flagons have been dated to c.450 BC and were bought by the British Museum soon after they were found. If you are visiting the British Museum over Easter take a look – I would love to see the duck ‘swimming’on the spout!
Archaeological Site Guide – Hacilar, Turkey
Hacilar is situated in Turkey and dates back to around 7040 BC. In 1956 a school teacher first showed a small mound to archaeologist James Mellaart, and the next year, in 1957, excavations started and continued until 1960. It was discovered that the site was inhabited, and also abandoned, during the prehistoric period.
As the settlement was being excavated, the archaeologists found that there were a number of houses or small unit type structures situated around inner courtyards. The houses were constructed of wood, daub, and mud brick and a lime mortar was used. Some of the rooms had small recesses in the walls and all of the houses appear to have had separate kitchens. Granaries and workshops were located on upper stories of the buildings.
The settlement relied on agriculture which included the production of wheat, barley, lentils, purple pea, emmer, and einkorn. The people also ate meat from local wild animals and they had domesticated dogs, and they buried their dead outside of the settlement.
They produced beautiful painted pottery which included linear patterns, and Mother Goddess statues have been uncovered too, similar to those that have been uncovered at the later settlement of Çatalhöyük, nearby.
Finds from this amazing and intriguing site can be found at the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara – make sure you get along and check it out!
Great Books to Read…….
Great Web Pages to Look At…….
Activity – word-search-3 April-2015-docx