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Simple bucket flotation and wet-sieving in the wet tropics

CollectionsANU School of Culture, History and Language
Title: Simple bucket flotation and wet-sieving in the wet tropics
Author(s): Fairbairn, Andrew
Publisher: Canberra, ACT : PalaeoWorks, Dept. of Archaeology & Natural History, Research School of Pacific & Asian Studies, The Australian National University
Series/Report no.: PalaeoWorks Technical Report: No. 4
Flotation and wet-sieving are simple techniques for recovering plant remains, animal bones, shells, small artefacts etc from archaeological deposits. Many different methods and machines have been designed to facilitate flotation and wet-sieving (see Pearsall 2000 for the best review of the subject). The author has successfully used the following method in numerous archaeological projects across the world, including Papua New Guinea. I do not claim to have invented this method. It is an amalgam of ideas and techniques derived both from methods taught to me by a variety of people, such as Gordon Hillman, John Giorgi and Mark Nesbitt, and my own experimentation. The method is simple, requiring either equipment available in even the most remote locations or that which is light and easy to carry, but is very effective, even in the, sometimes difficult, conditions seen in the tropical regions. In fact, the close control over the flotation process that this method affords is perfectly suited to the many archaeological deposits found in the area containing plant remains that do not float! The example used to illustrate the method is that of excavations at Lachitu Cave and Taora Rockshelter, Fichin Village, Sandaun Province, Papua New Guinea, undertaken in May and June 2004. I end this introduction with a cautionary note: no single method is suitable for every site and soil the archaeologist encounters; experimentation, practice and persistence, with reference to key principles, are the keys to success. Bearing this in mind, this guide should be seen as a starting point for experimenting with suitable techniques for your site.


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