Journey to the Centre of the Earth

Each year our UCLAN students have to write a field report about their summer excavation when they return to university, and each year we ask for extra elements to be included into this report to demonstrate how much they’ve learned.


Our MSCi students have had to wrap their heads around the complicated archaeology we’ve found on site. They had to produce a Harris Matrix to help them understand the stratigraphy. Stratigraphy was briefly explained in one of our earlier blog posts:



A Harris Matrix is a visual tool that archaeologists use to help them understand the succession of archaeological contexts, this allows us to see the sequence of depositions made over time. Here’s an example below:


harris matrix



Context number 1 was directly underneath the ground surface and is therefore the most modern. Context’s 3 and 4 were found at the same level so they are believed to be buried around the same time. Finally, context 6 is the furthest down so that means it contains older archaeology.


This example was a simple one, but our MSCi students have to piece together each context from this year’s excavations and produced a much larger matrix to cover the entire trench.


To help them do this they will be using the Context Index. Each time something is excavated it is given a unique context number, to distinguish that feature and any of its finds from other features on the site. The Index will tell us a bit about the context itself and where it is in the trench, as well as the date it was excavated. Additional information can be found on the Context Sheet for that number. An example Context Sheet is shown below:


context sheet



As you can see in the red box, each sheet has a smaller Harris Matrix, telling you which context was above and below it, and from these you can piece together the end product, covering the whole site.

That’s enough practical talk for one day. Here’s some pictures of our MSCi students trying to wrap their head around this year’s excavation.


harris matrix task

harris matrix task 2



Rather them than me!

Until next time,