Why do you use Trenches?; The Standard of Ur; Halls of the Dead, Herefordshire.

Why do you use Trenches?

Archaeologists use the trench method of excavation as it only destroys a small area of the site they are investigating. Once you dig down into the layers of the ground you are actually destroying a part of the site that you can never get back – it is gone.

Trenches allow you to choose an area where questions around the history of the site can best be answered, and they are usually small trenches to begin with. Test pits are a mini type of trench which allows you to look in the ground to see what is there. Sometimes test pits turn into larger trenches because they have finds that can assist with understanding the past.

Measuring out a Trench ©kingholmes.photoshelter.com
Measuring out a Trench

Archaeologists set out trenches within a grid of the site that they have already set. Pythagoras theorem is sometimes used for setting out the trench area within the grid, that is

The square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the opposite sides

Using a base line from the grid, trenches are measured and marked within this grid system and the area is strictly kept to when digging, so as not to go into the next area where you will mix up finds, data and other aspects of excavating. Each trench is allocated its own unique number as to where it lies within the grid system.

So you can see, we do not just stick the shovel in the ground and start digging. Archaeology is a science and there are methods and practices that must be followed.


  • Burke. H., & Smith. C. 2004. The Archaeologists Field Handbook. Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin.
  • Maschner. H. D. G., & Chippendale. C. 2005. Handbook of Archaeological Methods, Volume 1. Maryland: Rowman Altamira.
  • Measuring out a Trench – ©kingholmes.photoshelter.com


Archaeology Wow!! – The Standard of Ur

The Standard of Ur as a remarkable artefact that was found at the ancient city of Ur in Mesopotamia by British archaeologist Sir Leonard Woolley in 1927. The site is in modern day Iraq.

Woolley was excavating royal tombs in the ancient city when he came across the remains of a hollow wooden box. He noticed there were small pieces of what looked like mosaic around it so poured wax over the area and was able to lift all of the pieces in exactly the same order as they were in the ground. This meant that he was able to reconstruct the Standard in its original manner.

Standard of Ur – War Public Domain
Standard of Ur – War
Public Domain

When reconstructed the box that made up the Standard measured 21.59 cm by 49.53 cm and was wider at the bottom than it was at the top. The mosaic pieces making up the illustrations were made up of shell, red limestone and lapis lazuli.

The Standard shows two themes. On one side it depicts war and soldiers, and on the other what appears to be a banquet. The panels have been named War and Peace and they date from c. 2550 BC.

Standard of Ur – Peace Public Domain
Standard of Ur – Peace
Public Domain

On the side called War there are chariots, soldiers, prisoners and a King. On the side called Peace the pictures show a banquet, musicians, people relaxed and sat down, and animals.

The Standard of Ur is currently in the British Museum in London.


  • Bartman. S. 2005. Handbook to Life in Ancient Mesopotamia. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Wooley. Sir. L. 2013. Excavations at Ur. Oxon: Routledge.



Archaeological Site Guide – Halls of the Dead, Herefordshire

In 2013 archaeologists from the University of Manchester uncovered what is beleived to be Halls of the Dead at Dorstone Hill in Herefordshire, England.

They uncovered the remains of two halls which measured 30 m by 70 m, and there is evidence that they had been deliberately burnt down and covered with earth.

Excavation of Site ©University of Manchester
Excavation of Site
©University of Manchester

The halls have been dated to c.4000-3600 BC and were constructed with daub walls. The date places them earlier than Stonehenge. Finds include worked flint and a flaked flint knife.

Flaked Flint Knife ©University of Manchester
Flaked Flint Knife
©University of Manchester

With the evidence of the deliberate burning and then covering with earth the archaeologists believe that the halls ritually destroyed.

 This is a very exciting site which still has lots of questions that need answering! Keep an eye on the news as I am sure there is still pleanty to learn from this smazing discovery!



Great Books to Read…….


Great Web Pages to Look At…….

Activity – Word Search 6 February 2015 docx

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