While photographs can tell us a great number of things about an artifact or archaeological site, they can still miss many details. This is why drawing is one of the most important aspects of Archaeology, as Chris our resident illustrator will tell you. Drawing an object or a plan of a site enables us to emphasise certain areas allowing other archaeologists to easily identify features of said objects or sites.
As today was our last day on site we spent the morning doing plans of our trenches. This task is usually a fairly straightforward one, although it can be very time consuming. Trench 11B was a particularly difficult trench to plan due to the shape of the trench and the amount of architectural features found within it. Once we got into the groove of things however, things moved at a better pace.
Drawing a plan of a trench usually involves taking measurements from one or more base lines that are strung up along the edges of the trench. Using a set scale (usually something simple like 1:20 or 1:50 depending on the size of your trench) we plot on graph paper, significant aspects of the trench such as trench boundaries, architectural features, bedrock cuts and wells to name a few. Once the general outline of the trench and its contents are plotted we fill in the detail so that anyone reading the plan can easily determine what is found in the trench.
Archaeological plans are usually fairly basic, because of this you don’t need to be an artist to be good at drawing them. In fact artistic flair is usually discouraged as it can make reading the plan difficult (just one of the many things in archaeology I’m grateful for, as my artistic side was apparently lost during transit).
Trench plans are tools that assist us in making sense of a trench even if we can’t be on site to look at it. This is particularly helpful when writing site reports or other publications when you’re away from the site.
That’s all from me, hopefully you’ll all tune in again next year to see what we’ve been up to. Now I’m off to Malta! (Yet another perk of being an archaeologist – getting to travel all over for work and pleasure!)