3.3 Burial locations

The experiment was repeated with different sets of experimental flakes in three burial units and at two time scales (1 month; 11 months), producing six groups of used flakes. Each burial unit contained 24 used flakes (two groups of flakes each containing 12 residue types) and two controls: a total of 78 flakes in all units. Table 3 outlines the experimental conditions. The flakes were transported to each site in an insulated plastic container, which kept the flakes cool and also blocked out sunlight.

Table 3: Summary of experimental conditions
Group No. of flakes Burial unit Time
Group 1 13 unit 1, dry land 1 month
Group 2 13 unit 1, dry land 11 months
Group 3 13 unit 2, wetland 1 month
Group 4 13 unit 2, wetland 11 months
Group 5 13 unit 3, alkaline 1 month
Group 6 13 unit 3, alkaline 11 months

The three locations of burial were the dry land at Star Carr (unit 1), wetland at Star Carr (unit 2), and chalky alkaline non-archaeological soil (unit 3). In each of the three locations, a 1 x 1m square unit was excavated to a depth of approximately 10cm from the surface (Figure 3). The group of flakes designated for the 1 month recovery were deposited in one half of each square unit while the other half contained the group of flakes for the 11 month burial. At Star Carr, the locations around the edges of each unit were marked out with small flags and excavation supervisors at Star Carr were aware of these locations, which prevented unintentional excavation disturbance. No special measures were taken to guarantee that the flakes in unit 3 were not disturbed by humans or animals.

Figure 3
Figure 3: Dry land unit 1 prior to burial of experimentally used flakes

Care was taken to ensure that experimentally used flakes were never touched by hand as they were being laid in each unit for burial, next to a laminated label (Figure 4). The deposited flakes in each unit were then covered with the excavated (archaeological) soil.

Figure 4
Figure 4: Placing experimentally used flakes in the wetland pit (unit 2)

To gain a better understanding of soil conditions at the time of burial and recovery, five pH measurements were collected before the flakes were inserted. A pH reading was taken in each corner of the square, and one was taken in the centre. A small well was made in each test location into which ultrapure water was added and mixed with the soil prior to taking each soil reading. The pH tester (Hanna HI-98129) was calibrated on the same day as use; the probe was cleaned with paper towel and ultrapure water between each reading. A visual estimate of soil bioactivity including the presence of plant organics, worms, insects, arthropods, gastropods, burrowing, and root action, was also recorded.


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