Student blog — Archaeology: A Holistic Art and Science

We had a day in the lab today, due to the steady rain. Here’s another blog post from one of our undergraduates taking the Advanced Field Methods course. We’ll be back out on site tomorrow! –Kate

Archaeology isn’t just about pulling ‘artifacts’ from the ground or uncovering ‘features’. Its also about cataloging and contextualizing. Digging is great fun, everyone gets a rush when they locate an artifact, even some of the smallest sherds of glass or ceramic can excite an archaeologist in the field. But what happens when those artifacts are removed from their excavation location? Well, that’s when the real work begins.

In lab we do the bagging, tagging, washing, sorting, cataloging, sub-categorizing, and the recording of each artifact’s details, attributes, and we record the counts of each category and their associated sub-categories.

In the field it’s easy to locate a hundred of something and not even be aware. It isn’t actually until you head into the lab that you realise you collected over 20 sherds of glass from one broken bottle.

Just take a look at Raine, overwhelmed by green glass sherds, all of which seemed part of the same bottle until we looked at the glass in the light, at which time it was determined that all but two of the sherds were from the same bottle.

Raine busy sorting out pieces of a green glass pop bottle.
Raine busy sorting out pieces of a green glass pop bottle. Photo: Shannon Dwyer

All in all, archaeology is much more than simply playing in the dirt. It requires in-depth recording from start to finish, both in the field and in lab. It also requires research on dates, typologies, makers, and so much more.

All in all, archaeology is not just for those who like getting dirty, it’s for the organised, the imaginative, those who love puzzles, people who like drawing, and there’s even room for those who enjoy data entry. After all, as anthropology is holistic in nature, it only makes sense that archaeology also be all encompassing.