Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Documentation for Days!!

There are many important tasks and activities that go into archaeology beyond the actually digging-in-the-dirt part. Documentation is one of the most important! Because you can’t put anything back or re-dig it once it’s been dug, carefully recording the process is crucial. Today our trench spent the better portion of the day doing just that! Here’s a look at what goes into making sure everything is recorded for posterity.

We record trenches and finds by "SU" or "stratigraphic unit" - these numbered units can be areas of the trench divided by architectural features or by different types of soil. When we want to close an SU and open a new one (when we find a different color soil, or find a wall, for example), we take lots of photos and measurements. First, we clean the trench! While cleaning dirt may sound impossible, some root clipping and brushing up the loose dirt makes a world of difference!

Amy meticulously cleaning the trench for photos
Our trench, looking lovely and ready for photos!
 Then photos are taken. We try to fit the whole trench in the pictures, and use a north arrow, meter stick, and whiteboard with the SU, date, and trench information for references, scale, and orientation!

The photo tools!
Ann taking photos - the location of our trench requires some balance!
Another cool step of documentation is making a 3D model of the trench. This requires taking a bunch of photos at different angles, and then using a computer program to stitch them all together. This is a great technology for preserving the levels of the trenches as they disappear!

Additional photos are taken to create a 3D model of the trench
Hand drawings are done in addition to the photos. These allow you to see details that can be harder to make out in photos, like whether a wall is make of brick and tile or stone.

A dramatically backlit Ann woks on drawings of the trench
Another form of recording is taking elevations and coordinates of SUs and features. These help the drawings and allow us to record exactly where in trench different things are. We use line levels, measuring tapes, and plumb-bobs to do this. We take points in each corner and sometimes high or low points.

Taking elevations requires several hands!
A fun last step in this process is taking the Munsell color of the soil or features. The Munsell Color System is a standard for recording colors, and you get to match up little samples to the soil, tiles, bricks, stones, mortar, and other materials!

Using the Munsell Color System to record the color of mortar
After all of this information is collected, it is entered into a narrative notebook detailing what was done each day, as well as informational sheets for each SU. This is done for certain finds too! These sheets are finally scanned and digitized.

Ann working on paperwork at lunch - so dedicated to the cause
Some of the paperwork that is filled out for each SU
Once we have carefully documented the details of the trench, we get back into the dirt and continue until we find a new SU!!

Ann and Darby consulting on the next steps - tomorrow we'll be back to moving dirt!

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