and now for some archaeology…

One of the wonderful things about living somewhere new is getting to experience new things. Today I went to visit some of the students at their teaching dig, which is also a rescue-type dig. Archaeology in the Netherlands is (sometimes at least) quite different from the chalk-based archaeology I did as an Undergraduate, but it’s a bit more like the work I did on my PhD- there are extensive wetland deposits here, naturally.



This excavation was of a Meso/Neolithic transition site (and some Funnel Beaker Culture, partly). Up until the second half of the last century, the site was only barely buried, so there isn’t much surviving in the way of features or ceramics, but there are flint concentrations. It’s being excavated in spits- 0.5m by 0.5m squares, that are taken down 5cm at a time. Each block of soil removed is then wet sieved for ceramics and lithics, and the recovered material recorded. This allows the artefact densities to be mapped over space and time.


The site is on what was once a pleistocene sand ridge that would have been surrounded by lower lying (and probably wetter) ground. It was eventually buried in clays, sometime after the bronze age. It was really interesting to see this sort of archaeology in progress; it’s something we all study but the excavation method is used in pretty specific circumstances in the UK; such as very long lived cave deposits, or on paleolithic sites in gravel terraces, and other sites like this one (which we have less of). It was also happening on a fairly industrial scale, with a big system for wet sieving using huge water tanks and recycled water. The students were head to toe in waterproofs as the water pressure used to wash the sand and clay sediments through the mesh is pretty high! I got to see some lovely mesolithic arrow points too: the long side of the trapezoid is the ‘point’; the narrow end is where the arrow is fixed.

Mesolithic arrow-head

Mesolithic arrow-head

Looking at the pictures now, I’m amazed at how well they came using the camera on my phone! There are more on flickr here. I’m feeling more on top of things today. I cracked on with some report writing and puzzled over some data plots. I had some useful discussions with my boss, which always manage to remind me that I know what I am talking about (sometimes!), and we sourced some of the kit we’ll need in July, which is a weight off my mind. I’m really conscious that I’m going back to the UK next week, and then there is going to be a trip to Germany to meet with our co-conspirators in Mainz, and then it’s pretty much July and I’m gone for a month. There is some work on my PhD that I promised myself I’d have done before the next fieldwork, so I am planning on working over the weekend, and on Monday (which is a holiday here, for Pentecost) but I’ll try to have some fun too!

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