Digging the pits

University of Southampton student Ben Heaney (left) and DAACS archaeologist, Lynsey Bates (right), screen sediment excavated from a STP at The Spring, St Kitts

Each pit was dug with a round-tipped shovel. Excavators were careful to dig pits that were exactly 50 centimetres in diameter. Excavators also dug until they reached subsoil, a sterile layer of soil that had not been disturbed by human activity. All sediment excavated from a pit was screened through ¼ inch mesh. These protocols ensure a standardized sampling method and recovery of artefacts. Although 718 pits may not seem like a lot, archaeologists and students excavated more than 54 square metres of soil, which weighed approximately 93,196 kilograms!

Video: digging a shovel test pit

In this video University of West Indies intern Suzanne Francis-Brown talks to Karen Hutchins about digging a shovel test pit (STP)


Suzanne Francis-Brown: We're trying to dig a pit that is 50cm across, 50cm in diameter, as deep as possible to try to reach subsoil or bedrock. So we have to get through the plough zone which is kind of loose so we have a little bit of breakage on the top. It's easier to try to get it straight, which is the idea. The idea is to create a hole that's very clean and you can see the various layers quite easily.

It wasn't a hole that was very yielding. It was quite hard to dig because it had a lot of clay in it. And as a consequence it was hard to screen because the lumps don't want to go through the mesh. And it's also been a very mean hole. After the top layer, which is the plough zone which is this kind of very soft layer, we haven't found anything at all in the hole.

Video: doing the paperwork

In this video University of West Indies intern Clive Grey talks to Jillian Galle about recording a shovel test pit (STP)


Jillian Galle: Hi Clive, what are you working on?

Clive Grey: Oh I'm doing the paperwork

JG: What does the paperwork tell us?

CG: It's recording everything of the STP, of Munsell colours, soil texture, depth of each layer, everything.

JG: Did you find any artefacts in this pit?

CG: Not really - just two pieces of brick.

JG: Just two pieces of brick. All right.