A-Z of Archaeology: ‘Q – Quantity Vs. Quality’

Hello welcome back to the 80 said of archaeology today is the letter Q and Q stands for quantity versus quality now on any archaeological excavation there is a constant tension between the amount of the sites which is excavated and the the quality of the data which is gathered from the excavation and this has a bearing on how well we understand .

The site and for a long time these two different factors words always kept in balance early in the history of excavation it was entirely possible as a burial mound could be dug in one day indeed several could be done in one weekend and the results weren't exactly what one would call accurate some early excavations took a great amount of time .

And huge numbers of people to complete but again the question must be raised how is it possible that this excavation could yield accurate data aren't all these people merely hacking aware of the rock rather than being careful about what they're excavating however out of this tradition came archaeologists like mortimer wheeler who advocated .

Methodical and accurate excavated techniques and investigative techniques some have taken this to new extremes advocating meticulous and extraordinarily accurate recording of all excavations around the world some commercial archaeologists complain that this is too far the other way it's too meticulous and it wastes a lot of time .

Indeed some argue that it's over prescriptive in just how one should excavator site so the key factor often between the quantity and the quality of an excavation is time and over the years there have been many attempts to increase efficiency in archaeology in order to make the best use of the time .

That we have to do an excavation an excellent piece of research was done by dr. brain no not the mouse as in pinky and brain but rather dr. Charles brain he noticed that archaeologists tend only to recover the larger bones from animals when they excavate a site he wondered to what extent did this accurately represent the site and the die to the .

People living there therefore he chose to study a living village and soon found that the smaller bones from animals were being given to dogs or being eaten by rodents and thus the diet of people on archeological sites could be being grossly misrepresented another key piece of research found that if archaeologists saved their spoil heap that is the .

Rubbish from the archaeological excavation they would find animal bones such as fish bones which cannot usually be seen by the naked eye Heather to this key part of the diet on many sites had simply not been represented this forensic attention to detail increased the quality of an excavation without necessarily having to increase its .

Quantity some archaeologists have even taken to filming the excavation as it occurs thus increasing the depth of analysis which is possible from one excavation however in some cases time is short and elicits these situations it's not the quality so much as the quantity the matters and I'm thinking often about rescue archaeology or archaeology when .

There is a looming deadline for development in the early 1960s the expansion of the Aswan Dam in Egypt meant that an entire archaeological landscape was in imminent danger archaeologists had to rush to survey as much land as possible before is flooded and in some cases entire monuments such as that at Abu Simbel were relocated to .

Higher ground in the early 20th century fascist dictator Mussolini probably damaged the city of Rome with the help of his archaeologists corridor Ichi he decided to make a road that would connect party headquarters with the Colosseum in doing so he systematically dynamited and Tom October swaths of Italian and Roman heritage .

Archaeologists and historians at the time begged him not to and in the end simply had to rush to record as much as they possibly could in this way he'll always be remembered for the damage he did to the forums of Caesar Augustus and the Emperor Trajan more often than not excavations in Britain now take place in the context of the urban environment and .

There was an extreme pressure to complete the excavation as soon as possible not least because it is the developer who has to pay for the work to take place prior to the buildings going up a good excavation plan will take account of the timeline however often in the days leading up to the deadline there is a mad rush to record as much as .

Possible and sometimes details are lost the balance between the quantity and the quality of an excavation is a constant juggling eggs mmm it's not a straightforward equation often is it's based upon the context of the excavation is based upon the desires of the people who are doing the excavating it's based upon and veil from the the desires of .

The people who own the land and all we can try and do as archaeologists is walk that tightrope between quantity and quality and now am often this is the constraint on this is time and obviously an archaeologist will always want to do the best quality excavation possible and but if time simply isn't there then there has to be a decision made on .

What's better is it better to to to to excavate the and to the utmost our house of one meter square or is it better to get a sense of the overall site and lose some of the the detailed resolution so it's not it's not a simple issue so I'm that's benq quantity versus quality thank you very much for watching if you have any questions feel free to send .

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