6. Conclusion

There is no doubt that in certain circumstances, such as threat of destruction from the tide or flint collectors, and for the careful excavation of small or fragile remains such as graves, block lifting can be an important method of excavation. However, it is strongly argued here that it is not a wise option for Star Carr.

One of the key arguments is that the sediments are now so susceptible to oxidation that excavating them slowly in a laboratory is creating further extensive damage, as was evidenced by the precipitation of what appeared to be iron sulphates in the tray beneath the block and within the sediment sample bags. Therefore, although the method of block lifting can, in certain circumstances, provide extra time for excavation, in the case of Star Carr the effects of the oxidation mean that time is just as restricted, if not more so, than excavation on site.

In addition, the kinds of materials that have been excavated from the block can be found through other methods, including excavation in the field and flotation. There is no conclusive evidence that excavating the block has produced woodworking debris which would not otherwise have been discovered on site. There is, on the other hand, clear evidence that the damage from cutting the block distorted the metrical data needed for statistical analysis. Currently there is no other way of characterising and quantifying the woodworking debris. Nor is there enough comparative material to enable a sampling strategy to be designed.

Finally, and very importantly, the reduction of the site to small blocks obscures the more extensive pattern of deposition, which may be crucial in the interpretation of how and why the material was originally deposited.

In conclusion, the method of block lifting is not suitable for Star Carr, or other wetland sites where oxidation may produce serious adverse affects.


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Last updated: Thu Mar 25 2010