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Urban Archaeology Urban excavation factsheet 2

...define, record, remove...

PITS, SLUMPING AND SUBSIDENCE

Pits are a common feature on most sites, and both cause and they are often affected by slumping and subsidence. How the pit is affected can tell you about how the pit was used, and disused. Slumping is a term that is generally used for stratigraphy that has been altered by both actual slumping, slippage, and by subsidence. Slumping is technically a later stratigraphic event to the original context, but is an example of where strict single context recording sometimes needs to be treated flexibly.

Open pit
Wattle or plank lining

Filled Pit
Dumped fills

PRESSURE

Compacted primary fills

Timber lining robbed?

Sides collapse and fall to base

Sides slump but mostly held by the fill

Collapse into adjacent feature

PRESSURE

PRESSURE

Pit fill

PRESSURE Voids/ cracks

Soft fills Stratigraphy forms without distortion

Soft fills compress

Floor slabs above pit hold the pressure for a time

Intervening strat falls into adjacent feature due to pressure. Rotational slumping of stratigraphy

Blurring of edges of features


Water/roots/worms Cuts and interfaces are weaknesses which are exploited by water flow, roots and worms; over time a zone of slippage and mixing blurs the real cut edge of a feature. Layers of stratigraphy cut by the Zone of blurring feature you are digging will appear in section after removal of the and slippage fill. BUT further cleaning is required to remove the slipped/blurred material edge and reveal the clean stratigraphy in section. Be careful not to overclean though! Section view
contact: chiz@urban-archaeology.co.uk

Chiz Harward, Urban Archaeology 2009, revised 2014

Urban Archaeology Urban excavation factsheet 2


...define, record, remove...

PITS, SLUMPING AND SUBSIDENCE


2 Building constructed on levelled ground Uneven levelling indicates ground had already subsided Compression of fills

Sequence of subsidence
1 Pit filled with unconsolidated material and backfilled. High organic content (eg cess) is compressed over time

3 Renewed effort to level area for new building; uneven thickness of levelling indicates contemporary subsidence

4 Overlying layers start to break up as ground subsides further

Processes of subsidence and slumping


A Original fill compressed by weight of material above, often organic fills will be compressed most as they decay B Subsidence of original backfill and levelling C G D B E D Deposits may break up as they subside. They can rotate or even end up upside down! G Layers which have dropped are now discontinuous units but are ideally still dug in phase H Slumped features -the base may be tilted, sides may close up at top or be overhanging I Fills in slumped features may be on tilt implying original plane of deposition. They may have slumped themselves
contact: chiz@urban-archaeology.co.uk

H G F

C Earlier features slump sideways into softer pit

E Layers slumping into pit which are thicker over the pit than to the sides. may indicate attempts to consolidate and level contemporary slumping F Interfaces between slumped layers can look like cuts, look at other sections to see whether this is the case
Chiz Harward, Urban Archaeology 2009, revised 2014