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Kent Archaeological Review extract

Conference on Mechanical Aids in Excavation.
by Elizabeth Betts.

The lecture-theatre at the Institute of Archaeology, Gordon Square was packed to full capacity for this first-ever conference on the use of mechanical aids in archaeology. Although well supported by archaeologists from many parts of Britain, there were very few from Kent.

Earth-moving equipment was the principal subject of the morning session, when the design and function of many different types of machine were described and illustrated by action photographs, and the merits and hire-rates of different equipment were compared. In the ensuing discussion by a panel of representatives from earth-moving equipment firms and archaeologists with experience of using such equipment, major points stressed were the necessity for the archaeologist first to comprehend the capabilities of the machine employed, and secondly to give precise instructions to the machine operator.

A number of interesting papers on related subjects were presented during the afternoon session. These included talks on: the use of "artificial rain" on archaeological sites, and the different types of spraying equipment available; various types of temporary and permanent excavation shelters to protect both diggers and features from the weather; useful hand tools; photographic towers and similar devices, outlining different types of wood and metal-framed structures and improvised towers made from ladders and wooden poles; and conveyor belts, with particular reference to one constructed by the engineering department of Nottingham University and successfully employed in excavation by the University extra-mural students.

It seemed clear that archaeology was entering a new, mechanised era. Problems and difficulties would be encountered, and the need for a developed technique in mechanical excavation was stressed.

The Conference, sponsored by the Council for British Archaeology, was held on 23rd October, 1965, and was accompanied by an extensive exhibition of relevant trade literature.

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