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Excavation Technology in Kalkriese

The work of an excavation technician consists of planning, technical management and execution of archaeological excavations or surveys, as well as of their documentation.
After all, excavations lead to a »controlled« destruction of the examined areas, which is why they must be carried out with utmost care. Treatment and documentation of artifacts as well as how archaeological finds are recovered form the basis of a successful scientific evaluation and restoration.

Excavations in Kalkriese

For our excavations at the Oberesch, this means that upper soil layers, e.g. the Plaggen soil layer, which is up to one meter thick, is removed with a shovel excavator. As soon as we have reached the soil level, i.e. the ground surface on which people lived 2,000 years ago, the excavation continues by hand: Thin layers of soil are removed with shovels. The area under examination is surveyed with a metal detector each time before a new layer is removed. The position of each find – its exact coordinates and the elevation at which the artifact was found – is carefully documented. Then the finds are carefully removed from the ground and entered into a map of the entire excavation area. In spite of all diligence, it is possible that especially small objects or badly preserved metal artifacts are overlooked sometimes. For this reason, the excavated soil is sifted to make sure we don’t miss any finds.

If discolorations are detected in the exposed soil layer (planum), the ground is »cleaned« meticously millimeter by millimeter with shovels, so that all prominent features of the ground (colors or structures) become clearly visible and can be photo-documented first. Measures are taken with an electronic tachymeter. The maps drawn in this manner form the basis of a later evaluation and representation of all excavation findings in their context. In addition to drawing a ground plan, the excavators must also cut into deeper soil layers to create a profile (in the case of a large number of findings several profiles) for all finds from the soil surface. The documentation is carried out in the same manner as for the planum. The resulting maps combined reveal information regarding both construction and function of the respective findings.

The work of excavation technicians and their assistants is not limited to working on the actual excavation sites. The finds must also be cleaned, labeled, given check slips, packaged and inventoried. Moreover, all this information must be stored in a database. The photographs must be organized and archived, as must be the excavation maps and drawings. These steps are followed by the time-consuming evaluation process, which usually takes at least as much time as the actual excavation.