Strip, map & sample

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The method of strip, map & sample is a mitigation strategy used by Wessex Archaeology on large areas of land that are needed to be investigated. Ostensibly similar in approach to full excavation, the method differs in nature by the scale of the process. Large areas which are under threat of development such as quarries, road schemes or areas intended for housing developments often require this strategy. The method is one of the most effective ways to clarify the archaeological potential of any given site.
 
Initially large areas are ‘stripped’ of the current ground surface to expose any archaeological remains, using large mechanical excavators.  All work is undertaken under the close supervision of experienced field archaeologists.  Any archaeological features are then surveyed, or ‘mapped’, using modern measured survey technology such as GPS or Total Stations to create an accurate plan. The features are often seen as dark marks in the ground. These marks represent voids that have been dug into the natural geology over the past few thousand years, slowly infilling with material such as topsoil, windblown and waterborne material and dumped waste from human settlement. It is these fills that we see in ditches, postholes and pits and which, when put together, reveal the traces of farmsteads and field systems, and the wider landscape.
 
A ‘sample’ of the archaeological features are then hand-excavated, enough to allow the clear identification of phases of human occupation on the site. The sampling level is usually agreed in consultation with the local County Archaeologist, and is usually a lower sampling level than that achieved during full excavation. All features are drawn and photographed and a permanent record made. Further analysis of the finds and features is then undertaken in post-excavation to better understand the full picture of the human interaction with the site.
 
The strip, map & sample method is required when areas of in situ preservation cannot be achieved.