The scholar most associated with the rules of stratigraphy (or law of superposition) is probably the geologist Charles Lyell. Sub-groups can then be clustered together with other sub-groups by virtue of their stratigraphic relationship to form groups, which in turn form "phases." Smith was not much interested in paleontology because, in the 19th century, people who were interested in a past that was not laid out in the Bible were considered blasphemers and heretics. Archaeological stratigraphy is based on a series of axiomatic principles or "laws". They are derived from the principles of stratigraphy in geology but have been adapted to reflect the different nature of archaeological deposits. Understanding a site in modern archaeology is a process of grouping single contexts together in ever larger groups by virtue of their relationships. Example 1 below depicts some simple stratigraphy. There are two very clear examples in this stratigraphic section. In the 1790s he noticed that layers of fossil-bearing stone seen in road cuts and quarries were stacked in the same way in different parts of England. They are two burrow holes created by fairly small animals originating in the humus layer … R Rock Art: A consideration of excavation strategies in Australian indigenous archaeology. It is more useful to think of "higher" as it relates to the context's position in a Harris matrix, a two-dimensional representation of a site's formation in space and time. ThoughtCo uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. 1999. Examples of keeping a ‘running matrix’ drawing on permatrace and stratigraphic data in a handheld database during fieldwork, and the use and analysis of matrix data during post-excavation. Tools such as the Harris Matrix can assist in picking out the sometimes quite complicated and delicate deposits. See the papers by Lyman and colleagues (1998, 1999) linked below for more information about this sea change in archaeological theory. 1998. Archaeological stratification or sequence is the dynamic superimposition of single units of stratigraphy, or contexts. Two main excavation methods used in archaeology that are impacted by stratigraphy use units of arbitrary levels or using natural and cultural strata: K. Kris Hirst is an archaeologist with 30 years of field experience. Modern principles of stratigraphic analysis were worked out by several geologists including Georges Cuvier and Lyell in the 18th and 19th centuries. Stratigraphy is a key concept to modern archaeological theory and practice. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 6(1):55-108. Since then, the stratigraphic technique has been refined: In particular, much of archaeological stratigraphic analysis is centered on recognizing natural and cultural disturbances that interrupt the natural stratigraphy. Harris notes two principles that were widely recognised by archaeologists by the 1970s:[1], He also proposed three additional principles:[2]. A sub-group burial could cluster with other sub-group burials to form a cemetery, which in turn could be grouped with a building, such as a church, to produce a "phase". There were exceptions: William Henry Holmes published several papers in the 1890s on his work for the Bureau of American Ethnology describing the potential for ancient remains, and Ernest Volk began studying the Trenton Gravels in the 1880s. Examples of keeping a ‘running matrix’ drawing on permatrace and stratigraphic data in a handheld database during fieldwork, and the use and analysis of matrix data during post-excavation. By using the laws of stratigraphy, archaeologists create these logic diagrams to record the top-down sequence of stratigraphic deposits and help make sense of the information they contain. Provenience: The place of origin of an archaeological object, element or structure and their interrelationships. the Remnants of Ancient Mesopotamian Cities, The History of Archaeology: How Ancient Relic Hunting Became Science. Stratigraphic excavation became a standard part of all archaeological study in the 1920s. Modern excavation techniques are based on stratigraphic principles. In practice a huge amount of cross referencing with other recorded sequences is required to produce dating series from stratigraphic relationships such as the work in seriation. We can also see that if the fill of cut 5 – the wall 2, backfill 3 and trample 12 — are not removed entirely during excavation because of "undercutting", non-residual artifacts from these later "higher" contexts 2, 3 and 12 could contaminate the excavation of earlier contexts such as 9 and 10 and give false dating information.