The Excavation Process

Good evening everyone,

Since we’re coming to the end of the excavation process at Woodland for the stones of the Scottish cemetery, I’m devoting tonight’s post to detailing the steps we go through when removing artifacts from where they’re originally found.

Generally, our excavation begins with preliminary probing, of the dig site. For this, we simply insert long metal rods into the ground, and listen for any contact it makes. A keen listener can tell the difference between striking metal, stone, or wood with a probe. After establishing that something is below the ground, we work to get an idea of the objects dimensions by probing further out in four different directions until we no longer make contact with the object. After this step, we know exactly how deep the object is. Measuring the objects dimensions allows us to break ground with shovels without fear of damaging the artifact. Although the stones of the Scottish cemetery were only buried several inches below the earth, we have probes capable of digging 4-5 feet into the ground if necessary. While probing is extremely useful for us, it is not infallible. Today, our team spent a significant portion of time digging to what we suspected may have been a gravestone several feet below the earth, only to discover we had struck a tightly packed grouping of rocks instead. All part of the job!


After probing is complete, we dig to the depth of our target. If we’re lucky, the object can be reached relatively easily merely by ripping out the top soil. If we’re not, we have to dig into the earth with conventional tools, and then travel down the last several inches with small wooden tools we utilize to avoid damaging an artifact should we make contact with it. The gravestones we have uncovered are largely sandstone, marble, or granite, and in various states of preservation. While a steel trowel can do significant damage to such stones, a blunt wooden tool is much less likely to do so.

As we uncovered the entirety of the Scottish cemetery, the sheer size of the gravestones astounded us. While we found many foot stones and children’s stones, which generally are smaller, the majority of the stones proved too much for our team of four to lift safely. Fearing for both our own health and the safety of the stones, it was time to bring the heavy machinery in. For the past two days we’ve been utilizing a backhoe to do the majority of the lifting for us, although it has taken some adaptation on our part. Despite having the backhoe at our disposal, we still had no way of safely sliding straps under the gravestones to allow us to lift them without causing scratches. At this point one of our safe members suggest we utilize the power of the digger to pry them up as well. Swiftly putting together a makeshift fulcrum, we utilized the backhoe to push down on a pry bar which allowed us to strap the underside of each gravestone before moving it off the ground.

Excavation day 2

While several stones still remain to be done tomorrow, the vast majority have now been removed from the dirt and will soon undergo restoration and reparation, which warrants another full length blog post for another day. As for today, I am happy to announce that, except for encountering a very angry colony of fire ants, the extraction process went off without a hitch.

That’s all for tonight, take care everyone!


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