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How we excavate

How we excavate a site like Star Carr. Professor Nicky Milner explains the key steps to excavating this waterlogged site.
An image of excavation on the dryland and tagging finds
© University of York

As archaeologists we use different methods according to the type of site it is. At Star Carr we have waterlogged deposits and dry land deposits which require different techniques.

Most excavations take place on dry land and we generally use trowels to excavate. We clean off sediments and at Star Carr, every time we find a piece of flint or bone we put it in a bag, give it a unique number, and record that find using surveying equipment so that later we can plot all our finds in GIS on the computer and create maps of the data.

In the waterlogged deposits the biggest challenge is the water which starts to accumulate, especially if we are digging below the water table. In these circumstances we dig drainage channels around the edge of the site and use pumps to extract the water. The great thing about waterlogged sites is that all sorts of materials survive, such as bone, antler and wood, which we would not normally find.

This drone footage of the site gives you an impression of the extent of our excavations, the depth of some of the trenches and the differences with some of the sediments (the paler deposits are the dry land and the darker deposits the peat in the waterlogged areas).

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

© University of York
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Exploring Stone Age Archaeology: The Mysteries of Star Carr

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