METHODOLOGY \ 35tools
1: G. Buccellati, February 2009
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Mechanical toolsBackhoes and bulldozers
The official rule laid down by the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums is that one cannot use heavy equipment to conduct excavations on site. In particular, this refers to backhoes and bulldozers. At Mozan, we made the case at one point for so excavating the central portion of the Plaza: our reasons were that (1) it was known from previous excavations and from the geomagnetic survey that the deposits are inert (without structures), (2) that we would supervise and control very closely the operation with close inspection of the section after each pass of the heavy machinery, and that (3) we would sift every load in order to retrieve all sherds and items.
After obtaining a preliminary permission to do so, I had three large mechanical sifters constructed, that would have facilitated the operation.
For reasons of prudence, and after considerable discussion, the preliminary permit was revoked. This did not particularly impact our strategy, since the purpose of the operation was intended primarily to provide an ideal point of view of the monumental Temple Terrace, and not to yiled additional stratigraphic information. We eventually resorted to a hand operation in J7, which is intended to achieve the same perceptual goals on much more limited scale.
Bulldozers are permitted only to remove dirt piles, when the distinction beteen the dirt pile itself and the original surface of the tell is clearly marked. We use this to ali mited extent, because in most cases our dirt evacuation tools dump the detritus directly onto open trucks.
Permission was given to use a jackhammer in the case of a very hard deposit in the Plaza. We used this in J3k103 to remove f76. In the end, this was the only occasion when we did in fact use this tool, because the area where it was needed was very limited (part of a 4x4 square). Should similar situations arise in the future, there would certainly be reasons for using the same tool again. While we felt we retained adequate control of the archaeological side, we would need to establish better safety standards. A videoclip shows the tool in operation.
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