BAJR Federation Archaeology

Full Version: Box sections on rescue sites
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A few years ago I moved to beer and sausage land, my head full of ideas along the lines that British techniques were the best there were and that Johnny Foreigner had little to teach me. I was horrified at the speed at which features were dug - by boxing features you forgo the need to follow the edges of pesky postholes etc. However, after digging many sites where the developer has had more pull than the archaeological contractors and where we were under intense pressure to get part of a site finished on XYZ at ABC o'clock I concede that it may not be that bad.

We never get 100% of a site... there will always be some data lost (although we may not even appreciate it at the time)...and now I think that whilst by cutting box sections (where appropriate) we may not get subtleties like inclination, we would get bread and butter dimensions, fill etc. Box sections also photograph well.

So... my question is... on a site where you know the archaeology will be totally destroyed and the digger is juggling time X workforce X money X whatever...... could it be argued that boxing features was an appropriate measure, as opposed to taking the feature out in negative? With complex stratigraphy, such a move could bugger things up but I am thinking about the site as a whole... spend/waste time fiddling with a fence line V spending that time/resources on the complex of features "over there" which look to yield more information and thus, better/more archaeology for resources invested?

I have not worked in the UK for a wee while so have not seen how the recent crunch has upset the practicalities of fieldwork v the interests of the developer.... are County Mounties sticking to their guns or are work spec's being written with the view of keeping the developer sweet? If I turn up on site and have to excavate a longhouse in 2 days because they are putting drainage down (an extreme example but not impossible) and have my crew box the lot to meet the deadline could I expect an interview without coffee? Or would it be "surveyed, drawn, photographed, X of pot, Y amount of bone recovered... job completed on time... your next job is XXX"

Now, what?s it to be? Crucifixion or stoning?





i have used box sections on occasion - when clay was too hard, homogenity too hard etc - and it is no more unreliable than a crap digger but sometimmes useful for finding the edge of something fuzzy
Often for the same amount of money etc you can get a lot more out of a 'rescue' site by boxing, especially where the edges are tricky - the only point really in digging ditch (/gully?) sections in many cases is to get the section to draw/photo so it's a lot more efficient to whack a machine bucket through it than leave someone messing about for 3 days looking for the edges and then discovering later that the thing's hugely underdug. Have just spent most of the summer on a job where a lot of stuff's been underdug in horrible gravel, machine-boxing stuff over the last week or so has been quite revelatory....and of course boxing things like wells has been standard since the dawn of digging...
In Norway box sections are the standard method for recording lots of different archaeological structures. However there are a small group (whom we like to think are growing year on year!!) who prefer to excavate in what I describe as the 'English' fashion. My compromise when a field leader insists upon boxing is to excavate and record in 'English fashion' and then create a box if needed at what I call the 'post-ex' stage. From my lpoint of view neither technique takes any longer so there isn't an efficiency or cost implication, but on many occasions structures are so close to each other that 'boxing' one would result in compromising the next. So then the English method comes to the fore.....
Can we also have a discussion on the 'planum' excavation method?
ah the hidden world of 'under dug features' - - its like archaeology within archaeology - ...

Are we distinguishing 'box section' from, eg:

a)hand dug (i cant find the edge)
b)machine assisted excavation (another issue entirely)

Or, are we talking more about just ripping a Big Hole out, and poking at it for a bit?



Kevin: you seem to suggest that the English method is in the end better.... I guess the thing with the Planum method is that , for one thing, Nothing is Underdug....
Sadly the latter, although to be fair we've been hand-digging the same features the 'normal' way since April, these are just the bits in between that are going to get quarried anyway, so they're extra archaeology (and have provided some better sampling sites etc than we had in the hand-dug bits so definitely a bonus).

The old boxing technique for digging stratified sites had some advantages, if only keeping section-drawers employed...and of course there were all those standing sections to refer back to, whatever happened to the unexcavated baulk or has it been retired? Admittedly it was devised so that 'unskilled' workmen could be employed to do the digging and the archaeologists could concentrate on recording and interpretation....no, we'd better not get back onto that perennial chestnut.....
Dinosaur Wrote:....whatever happened to the unexcavated baulk or has it been retired? Admittedly it was devised so that 'unskilled' workmen could be employed to do the digging and the archaeologists could concentrate on recording and interpretation....no, we'd better not get back onto that perennial chestnut.....

Still in use, reintroduced it to a PO who had no idea what it was....makes you wonder.

Box sections, like any other method, have their uses.
GnomeKing Wrote:Kevin: you seem to suggest that the English method is in the end better.... I guess the thing with the Planum method is that , for one thing, Nothing is Underdug....

Only in that I have seen a number of diggers of boxes concentrate most of their attention on the box and only look at the exposed archaeology, the profile and the stratigraphy once the box is complete. My extrapolation of the 'English' method is that we dig the features in their natural form respecting, fills, edges and interfaces and if we need to end up with a box section, we end up with a box section. If we don't we don't.
..........if in doubt.......box it out .......................:face-approve:
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