Sampling and Excavation

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Survey can be an end in itself. Often though, it is just one stage in a broader study. At Gardom's Edge, survey has been the starting point for a series of excavations on many scattered features; on houses, enclosures, cairns and other banks.

Where the right evidence survives, these trenches allow us to date and characterise particular features and to establish the conditions in which they were created.

Several seasons of trenching have also gone hand in hand witha programme of shovel pitting. This has entailed the cutting of 1m x 0.5m pits at regular intervals across the moor (see image below). This work is designed to sample the varying density and distribution of archaeological material across the landscape as a whole and in relation to upstanding archaeological features.

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At the same time, test pits provide an opportunity to gain insights into the character and development of soils across the area. A companion to excavation, shovel pit surveys do bring with them certain problems, not least the fact that archaeological features are largely impossible to understand when viewed through such a small 'window'. Nevertheless, in an area of rough upland grazing, shovel pitting provides the only means of sampling the structure of the archaeological landscape as a whole. Over the course of the next few seasons, we plan to extend a series of shovel pit transects across the moor, encompassing the area of the 1:1000 survey.

Taken together, these ‘windows’ allow us to build up a broader picture of how the landscape changed over time. Our work is still at an early stage. But already it is clear that as society changed, so too did the ways in which people made use of the area. You can follow aspects of this sequence via descriptions of some of the features that have been excavated to date.

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