What in the World is Stratigraphy? A.K.A. Why am I Writing About Dirt?

Answer #1: Stratigraphy refers to the distinct layers of sediment found while excavating.

Answer #2: I am writing about dirt because the stratigraphy provides relative dates for artifacts and suggests potential features such as fire hearths and post holes.


An example of stratigraphy from Golema Pesht Cave. I know, not SNAP, but my pictures are not nearly this nice.

After finishing the chapter on lithics, I moved on to writing a summary chapter on the stratigraphy at Slocan Narrows from the 2015 field season.  Unlike the lithcs chapter, the chapter on stratigraphy did not involve examination of artifacts.  Instead, I used the massive amount of paperwork we filled out last summer. I described the strata in each housepit by soil type, color, and which 5 cm levels the sediment was found in.  Then I wrote about the twenty-one features discovered during SNAP 2015. Feature descriptions included size and shape, sediment type, and any related rocks, roots, or artifacts.

Once the writing was finished, it was time to learn how to use Adobe Illustrator!  You might remember that between the last day of excavation and backfill day, we spent a morning drawing profiles of the walls in our housepits. (Here’s the original post if you want a quick refresher, though I didn’t go into much detail about profiling: Days 37 & 38 – The End of Excavation)  Profiles give a visual representation of the stratigraphy.  Well, as lovely as our profiles were, they do not translate all that clearly or consistently into a digital archive.  Therefore, it was my job to create digital versions by tracing over the profiles in Illustrator. The new versions are plainer, but much easier to read.

And that pretty much sums up the “dirt” portion of my summer research.


Now I know why we did so much paperwork!


Brought in an old friend to help me decode the Munsell color designations. Hello, Fred!

Working on Profiles [4868]

A finished profile in Adobe Illustrator

2 thoughts on “What in the World is Stratigraphy? A.K.A. Why am I Writing About Dirt?

    • Just the walls of each housepit from 2015. So 12 profiles from Housepit 4, 13 from Housepit 7 (because of the half unit that juts out), and 8 from Housepit 8. Once I got the hang of it, each one took about half an hour. Most were not quite as complicated as the one I posted.

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