The dimensions of the shafts hindered their complete excavation. Commonly over 5 m deep and just 1 m wide, mobility was difficult inside them, and visibility decreased with depth.
In the first two field seasons the structures were completely excavated following normal archaeological practice, from the top towards the bottom. Harnesses, ropes and ladders were needed to help enter and exit the shafts and to guarantee personal safety when working at depth. The use of these aids helped us share a little of the experience of the Neolithic workers who actually extracted the flint.
During the second field season, and after assessing the potential risks, methods were sought that could improve safety while working. Those based on the shoring up of the shaft walls would have made the rigorous documentation of the shafts impossible and hindered their excavation. The solution was found during the third field season, and consisted of two stages. The first involved the excavation of the first 2 m of all the shafts in each sampling unit; the second involved mechanically removing the soil surrounding the shafts down to this depth. This process was repeated downward until the shafts were completely excavated. This allowed the complete vertical and horizontal documentation of the geological formation.
The excavation process followed in the first field season; complete excavation of the shafts required the use of protective equipment such as harnesses etc. not normally employed by archaeologists in open air excavations
Photo: The Casa Montero Team
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