Monday, July 5, 2010

The Thrill of Backfill

One of the least glamorous jobs in archaeology is also one of the most important. It is rare for excavations to remain open because the freshly exposed surfaces are vulnerable. The layers of soil removed by excavation were a protective blanket that lessened the damage of wind and water erosion as well as the destructive actions of living organisms (plants and animals, including humans). A good way to protect excavated sites is to backfill, or re-fill the areas of investigation with soil. In our excavations, we backfilled with either a bright red clay or a sandy soil with lots of cobbles (river-smoothed stones). Even the small features, such as the postmolds shown below, were filled with bits of plastic or tyvek and bright red clay.

These unusual soils and materials are easy to distinguish from the typical deposits of the site area, so the backfill is a marker for the limits of our investigations. With these markers to guide us, we can be assured that in future seasons we will indeed be breaking new ground.

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