Author: Rachel and Mareike
With drawings from: Chris, Eleanor, Eloise, Charlotte, Cathleen, Holly, Maddie, and Rachel
It might seem a bit old fashioned in the world of digital photographs, RTI, and 3D modelling but archaeologists still do a lot of drawing. We do two main types of drawings: plans and sections. Plans are drawings done from above: a bird’s-eye-view. Sections are drawings of the archaeological layers we dig through. Plans help us to understand the layout and extent of a site. Sections are particularly helpful when it comes to understanding the history of the site and working out how different events in the past have produced different layers in the site. Sections help us to work out how these relate to each other in time (i.e. what came first and what came after). All our drawings are to scale (either 1:20 or 1:10) and follow standard drawing conventions in archaeology. These are not artistic drawings aimed at giving an impression of the site but accurate drawings to capture data and represent the nature of the site.
Drawings are not just representations though, they actively help us understand it. When you are carefully drawing the site (literally stone-by-stone) you are able to consider what it is you are looking at, how it was constructed or formed, and what it might be. Often more importantly, you have the power (and the pencil) to decide how the site will be represented – what you decide to emphasise and where you place boundaries between different features can go on to effect the overall interpretation of the site.
Some drawings on site are completed using tapes strung between known-points on the site with measurements taken in relation to these known points (this is known as an off-set plan). Alternately when we are drawing complicated parts of the site with lots of details we use planning frames. These are meter square wooden or metal frames with internal divisions (usually at 20cm intervals) that help us to accurately (and hopefully quickly) draw the different features we can see. Drawings done with planning frames are also (crucially) related into the overall site grid. Some of our drawings might be of single parts of the site such as a pit or the cist (commonly referred to as single-context plans), these drawings all contain information on the spatial location of the feature and can be related to the overall site grid and layered together with other drawings to show the whole site effectively. We do all our drawings on a type of weather-proof paper called perma-trace so that we can layer them together. All the drawings also contain ‘spot heights’ these are points we have recorded the location and height of using the total station. Changes in the spot heights, together with the ‘hachures’ (black triangles with tails coming off them) can be used to interpret the varying shape of the ground.
Since we travelled back to the UK Mareike has been working hard digitising our plans from the site. We completed 25 drawings whilst on site so this has been a big task. The digitised drawings are excellent and will be used in up-coming blogs, in lectures and presentations and in the report about the excavation we are writing for MNH.