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Simple Samples Survey
Hi All,

I am conducting a survey for my dissertation, which focuses on the use and implementation of sampling methodologies used in all sectors of archaeology. The survey can be found at the link below, and it is only 9 questions. It is aimed at being as broad as possible so that it gives more of an overview of how sampling is being carried out. If any of you fine archaeologists can find 5 minutes to tick a few boxes, that would be excellent!

Any questions you have, or any bits of odd archaeological knowledge that bubbles its way to the forefront of your wonderful minds that may help me in my research, please feel free to post it here! I welcome all feedback! (because this hasn't been marked yet so if you can see a massive flaw in my ideas Please point it out so i can do something about it :face-approveSmile - survey can be found here!

thank you!
Very easy... very important. think about it... imagine a sampling strategy that could save YOU time and money!

I have talked to Ginger and I am impressed.

BAJR backs this survey... so go on!
Thank you BAJR,

just to let you all know ive had 30 responses so far (which i consider brilliant!) and there some very interesting insights coming out of these stats!
More input is always welcome.

Thank you to anyone who has completed the survey, your input will help me to produce this new methodology!
The survey needs a comments/explanation box after each question - I can't fill it in without giving misleading answers, e.g. the one about on-site sample processing, we've got a Seedygirl in a purpose-constructed setup back at the office who can do it properly undercover without stuff blowing in all the time, but who'll turn round stuff and provide answers (including initial sorting etc) as required if we're very nice to her.
thank you for that dino, i've made a note of that, i would adjust the survey but it wouldn't be ethical to change it half way through! I have however, made a note of your comment, and that you have a specialist in the field with you, as that is a really important factor within this research. I tried to get the questions to be as broad as possible, so that it gives an overview, i know of a few units that sample up to 75% but there's some who don't sample at all.

Thank you again for the feedback (i will put it in as a limitation of using surveys of this kind for brief "market" research.) :face-approve:
Just a couple of pendantisms..........sorry, I can't help myselfSmile

Q1 ' initial investigation research design.' Do you mean the research design (method statement or WSI - written scheme of Investigation - in the commercial world) of an initial investigation e.g. DBA, walkover, field walking, trial trenching. Or the initial WSI for an excavation?

am guessing its the second!

Q4 depends on how much soil is in the feature/ what the sample is for bulk, dating, finds retrieval, small bones retrieval, OSL profiling, etc etc (see current guidelines)

Q7 always depends on the project and the findings! And can be different if you mean the final report for the client or a publication.

For Q8 and 9, in my opinion (and just mine), I think your on the wrong track. You can't (and shouldn't) have a single strategy for ALL archaeological work. However, guidelines for different types of interventions would be very useful as long as they are robust enough.

Also, (again my opinion) there is no such thing as random sampling in archaeology - nor should there be. It was a product of archaeologists misunderstanding the difference between fundamental and applied mathematics.

and the majority of the questions depend on what type of project. Strategies are very different for say upland survey of peat hags, monitoring a pipe trench, building survey, trial trenching, excavation etc etc. Even during an excavation the sampling strategy can (and should) change depending on the date and nature of the remains, you can often have several different sampling strategies on the same site if its big enough. Think a large excavation encompassing a Neolithic structure, mesolithic waterlogged midden, early Bronze Age buried soil, a late Bronze Age metalworking area, Roman field system, an Anglo-Saxon graveyard, medieval ridge and furrow and a part upstanding early post-med farmhouse.

would you use the same sampling strategy in all of the areas?

Saying all that, I did the survey and good work! Far too little understanding and discussion goes on about environmental/ date sampling amongst commercial archaeologists! :face-approve:

Oh and I noticed you have a middle option.........from what I remember form when I was at Uni eons ago its better to have an even number of options to force people to choose rather than opting for the easy middle option.....could be wrong though.

I got excited when I saw a survey on sampling (yeah) then a bit despondent on the way the questions were worded. As Dino, Jack and I work for the same unit we work to the same guidelines etc. so our comments are similar.

Q1. A methodology is stated within our WSI/ PD for every piece of excavation fieldwork that we do. But the methodology should and would change dependent on what is required, eg was our clayey northern sites yield very little plant material, on an ongoing five year project the results have been the same....very little...however, the last few samples have produced very nice charred cereal grain assemblage, this was unexpected. Without our methodology these would have been missed.

Q2 and Q3 There are various types of samples (whole earth, GBA, column, grab, artefactual etc.) so this should be done in conjunction with your specialist. Often these two are linked (artefactual and ecofactual). If something comes in for artefactual recovery I see this is a bonus and often use it for environmental recovery also.

Q4. This is dependent on the feature and question asked of said feature. We do 40l or 100% (if smaller). However, if all we are wanting is a parasite squash then a small bags-worth would suffice!
Q5. See Dino's response, its even heated too Cool

Q6Processing can be done during post-ex but is often done during excavation and can alter said methodology.

Q7 If I've went through the whole gamut of site visits, processing, sorting, dealing with other specialists prep, identifying charcoal, seeds and shell, assessing then convincing the SPO's and PMs that charcoal analysis is sexy then I'm gonna make sure that it is in the final rep. That, and the fact I can be persuasive......Wink

Q8. Jack's said most of this but a generic template would be difficult to work, as stated previously, we use template, but this is adapted. Knowledge is the key here. The knowledge of the area, the data that would be useful and further said knowledge, the other sites within the area (I done some research for one of my postgrad degrees on sampling and animal bone, where some work had been done in the area and not much animal bone was seen, but 20 years later and back in the site area and loads of animal bone was recovered, therefore preservational qualities of sediments and soils need to be understood.) Then there is the people, who dictates the strategy, the specialist? The PM? The SPO? The County Archaeologist? The RSA? What about the site location itself? There are too many variables to have a basic template......

Q9. All are useful but none in isolation! This is dependant on the site, the archaeology and the questions being asked.

I would have loved to have filled in your questionnaire but felt I couldn't get my point across with the choices given (hence the mini essay here).

I am always trying to point out how valuable environmental archaeology is and it annoys me no end when I get told archaeological science is useless!!!!!Sad! Thankfully not from the staff now present here.
But good luck with this, I think its fab :face-approve:
Jack, you are wonderful! Thank you for that feedback! I really glad that you pointed those issues out to me, or i might not have seen them!

Firstly, in question one, i used the term research design, but you are right, for commercial archaeology it would be the WSI, for community projects it would most likely be with the method statement, and for the academics it would most likely be with the research proposal/design. I wanted to ask it in a way that everyone would understand meant is it included at the start.

The volume of material removed from my experience has always been suggested as 30 L or "as close as damn it". I think the volume issue is the main issue we have for some sampling methods, as unfortunately samples can and often are left in a cold dark room for months or years before being processed. I totally agree however that the question could have been asked in a better way.

As for the reporting aspect, surely if the work is carried out (i could be naive here but) then we as archaeologist have an ethical responsibility to include any and all information of the completed works, both to the client and in publication irregardless of outcome?

But the point about the blanket methodology for sampling is something that i haven't fully figured out as of yet, ideally id like to produce a methodology for the reduction of the volume, kind of like an initial process which can be done immediately on site, which would reduce the overly large volume of samples, into something more manageable and transportable, while maintaining the integrity of those samples until a time they can be sent to a specialist, and with the reduction in volume, should (in theory) mean that the specialists time is used more efficiently. So it would be more of a method concerning sampling processing than a method of sample extraction.

The random sampling thing - i completely agree with you, but having said that there's still 5% who have responded that they use a random sampling methodology. Which is interesting.

But overall, you have highlighted several things, that i hadn't fully considered before, and i agree that any new methodology needs to be flexible and interchangeable.
Again, your amazing! Thank you for the feedback!!

Lets hope this along with my dissertation will help to bring sampling in line with the rest of the field methods! :face-approve:
Might be worth looking at the excavation reports. What did the project say was going to happen and compare it with what actually happened and why they changed their approach. All of which should be in a decent post ex report. Might also highlight where sampling isn't happening and why. I would be interested in how many WSI actually have a decent sampling stratagy built in before they commission the work. Great that you are tackling this Ginger. Have you contacted EH field operations at Fort Cumberland I am sure they had some pretty good guidelines in their field manual.
Thank you!! I designed the questionnaire to be generic, but im so glad you put this on here!

Have you found that by processing the samples on site in your awesome heated cabin (which im pretty jealous of btw), that the production of the samples report for enviro or otherwise, is produced quicker and with more clarity than if you where to send them off and have to wait?

Does your processing method (sieve/flot) change dependent on the type of sample? ie, rendzina, podzolic, brown earth, does that effect the way you process the sample?

How many of you site assistant/supervisors/volunteers (if you have them) are aware of the methodology and why its important?

sorry i keep coming up with extra questions!
Thank you for the feedback, this is turning out to be so much more helpful than i thought it would! Big Grin

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