Rob Burns asks:
> Should we even consider using mechanical diggers for anything but top soil
Obviously the use of mechanical means of topsoil stripping allows work on
the underlying deposits on a larger scale for the resources available.
There are the purists among us - like myself - who would say that given the
nature of the evidence which is actually IN the topsoil on some sites,
topsoil stripping carried out in this way is not always beneficial to the
archaeological record. On a villa site I worked on a while back (Marshfield,
Avon), the evidence for the latest phase of activity was completely
contained in the topsoil (ploughsoil) which we removed by hand in order to
obtain it. There was not a single negative feature of this phase in the
subsoil below. Another example of this type was quoted by Barry Bishop on
the Britarch-debates forum about three weeks ago (Iwade Kent) [I asked
Barry to send me details of the report off-list, but he has not yet done
so]. I am sure there are many others.
Rob also says:
> I know this is one of the arguments our MD friends raise a lot<
The 'anti-archaeological' arguments concerning the use of mechanical tools
in archaeological research raised by "our MD friends" in fact concern a
slightly different aspect of this problem. In using it emotively in a
straightforward "common sense" manner however they reveal a considerable
depth of unawareness of the issues involved (and indeed at least one logical
inconsequence with another of their own favourite "arguments"). An attempt
on PAS forum by myself and Steve Burch to open this and other topics up for
discussion aroused no interest, obviously our artefact-hunting "friends"
prefer not to understand where this argument comes unstuck, once again
preferring to operate with generalisations rather than on the basis of
But let's not discuss that here.