Archaeology, by its nature, is a destructive process. Once material is removed from its original context, that contextual information is gone. It exists only in the form of data recorded by the archaeologist who excavated it. Furthermore, the removal of debris, fill, and sediment from ruins exposes underlying architecture to the elements. Unless additional steps are taken, the effects of mechanical and chemical erosion will damage any features that have not been removed during excavation. In order to preserve sites for future generations, archaeologists must consolidate standing architecture and refill open units once excavations have concluded. As we prepare to begin excavations for the 2014 field season, lets look back at how our preservation efforts from last year have held up.
In 2013, we excavated a large community public building labeled Casa 5128. Below is the structure prior to our excavation. The overlying vegetation has been cleared, but the rubble and wall fall has not been removed.
Below is the same structure towards the end of the 2013 excavations. The rubble from the collapsed portion of the walls has been removed, exposing the standing portion of the walls underneath. Our excavation uncovered several floors and a central hearth, which were recorded and removed to expose the underlying platform fill.
Once excavations were concluded, the rubble from the collapsed wall fall was packed inside to brace the standing portion of the walls, and the excavated sediment was poured back into the interior of the building. This helped stabilize the structure to protect it against erosion. Here’s the same structure one year later:
The forest has largely reclaimed Casa 5128, which is now more protected than it was before excavations began. It is now almost impossible to tell than anyone excvated here at all.