A Brief Lesson on Stratigraphy

Horrendously disturbed! It shouldn't look like a patchwork quilt.

Horrendously disturbed! It shouldn’t look like a patchwork quilt.

Stratigraphy: the analysis in the vertical, time dimension, of a series of layers in the horizontal, space dimensions. Often used as a relative dating technique to assess the temporal sequence of deposition (Renfrew & Bahn 2001). Haha, you see what I did there? I tricked you into learning.

The layers are fuzzy and mixed due to rodent and root activity.

The layers are fuzzy and mixed due to rodent and root activity.

Ok, but that’s the boring version. Basically it means that the sediment builds up like a layer cake with the oldest cake on the bottom, most recent cake on top. Thus the artifacts we find in the oldest cake layer should be from the earliest occupation at the site, we just need to carefully peel back and record each tasty cake layer (sorry, cake on the brain now).

Spot the old test unit that was back-filled!

Spot the old test unit that was back-filled!

Our current sites provide a great learning opportunity for the newbies on the crew; we’ve got some horrendously disturbed profiles, some partially disturbed ones, some with cool inter-cut features, and some beautiful textbook examples of stratigraphy – think of it like an I-spy and spot the differences.

Some beautiful stratigraphy!

From our lowest occupation, you can see how the ground originally sloped.

From our lowest occupation, you can see how the ground originally sloped.

And then draw them all to scale for later - your eyes capture more detail than a camera can.

And then draw them all to scale for later – your eyes capture more detail than a camera can.

Ah time to measure all the levels.

Ah time to measure all those levels.

Beware the measuring tapes though when drawing!

Beware measuring tapes though – such tripping hazards!

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