Love and Harris Matrices


Ah, jetlag.

So, while I was at Çatalhöyük this year, I dug a house floor, two foundation trenches, a foundation slot, and Hell’s Ditch, the 23.6m long monstrosity. That’s a little bit of dirt. The paperwork for the foundation trenches got out of hand sometimes and it was frustrating to me to leave it until lab hours because I really like filling out the paperwork while I’m with the archaeology. This year we were allowed to stay “upstairs” with the archaeology until 5, instead of coming down at 3 and having lab hours from 5-7. This both helped and hurt with paperwork, because you got more dug, but you also had less time to enter it into the onsite database.

Oh, and speaking of:

So, I got pretty behind at a couple of points and had to work long hours to make it up. This was not helped by the film festival I had to get together (despite rolling power outages) and the general social schema of Çatalhöyük (I have had drinks placed forcibly into my hand while entering unit sheets). On one of our Fridays off, I stayed behind and was able to get most of my work from the first part of the season in order. The image on top is one of the products of that day. It’s a Harris Matrix, a visualization of the stratigraphic sequence within the foundation trench. As foundation trenches go, it was a fairly easy one, with only one burial and a couple of walls. Some of the other trenches had massive amounts of burials or heavily plastered and painted walls (a bear relief was found just the other day) which are a headache to deal with when you’re not fully excavating the associated building. I’ve done matrices before, but they were generally associated with very straight-forward stratigraphy.

Additionally, this matrix was done on permatrace, which (for my ‘merican friends) is like thick tracing paper. The British system uses a highly symbolic method of drawing archaeology, with zig-zags representing uncertain edges, triangles with lines representing slope, and dot-dash lines representing artificial limits of excavation. Oh, and you have to use special 6H pencils to draw on it. It’s all pretty hilarious and esoteric when you first encounter it–I kept asking if they wanted some extra robots or hearts and stars in there as well–but it starts to make sense after a while. Also, if you use permatrace and key off of the same datum each time, you can (in theory) peel back the strat simply by paging through the drawings. It never seems to work out all that neatly though and many archaeologists redraw things back in the lab. You can get it grided or ungrided, and if it’s ungrided (like the kind at Catal) then you have to tape it to a piece of graph paper. This is pretty grim work when there are gale force winds (like the kind at Catal) trying to rip it out of your fingers at every turn and the tape either doesn’t stick or sticks too well and rips your graph paper. It’s even worse when you get a batch of bad permatrace (like the kind at Catal) where the wind will rip your drawing in half even while it’s on the drawing board.

So, behold my Harris Matrix. One part is a little wonky–I should have just had 15665 – 15667 – 15675 in a straight line, for clarity–but it’s okay. The matrix for Hell’s Ditch was a bit of a mess as I didn’t have time to redraw it properly before I left. The write-up on all of the trenches should be appearing online soon, and I’ll post when they come up.

Overall, I’m enjoying this alternate-reality training, even if it is frustrating at times. Sometimes I think the undergrads who have never dug anywhere else have it the easiest time of it–nothing to compare to. Now I just have to get on a few continental digs, maybe dig with a Battiferro, and I’ll be all set.

Author: colleenmorgan

Dr. Colleen Morgan (ORCID 0000-0001-6907-5535) is the Lecturer in Digital Archaeology and Heritage in the Department of Archaeology at the University of York. She conducts research on digital media and archaeology, with a special focus on embodiment, avatars, genetics and bioarchaeology. She is interested in building archaeological narratives with emerging technology, including photography, video, mobile and locative devices. Through archaeological making she explores past lifeways and our current understanding of heritage, especially regarding issues of authority, authenticity, and identity.

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