G&A Heritage recently completed a joint research project with a Canadian researcher based on the application of the Whittaker Botany Survey technique. This project looked at sampling techniques for archaeological surveys that are directed toward evaluating the properties of surface artifact distributions. The sampling techniques we experimented with consist of a multi-scale sampling plot developed in plant ecology and the use of a nested-intensity survey design. The sampling technique we borrowed from plant ecology is the Modified-Whittaker multiscale sampling plot, which gathers observations from the spatial scales of 1 sq m, 10 sq m, 100 sq m, and 1000 sq m. Nested-intensity surveys gather observations on the same sample units at multiple resolutions. We compared the results of a closely-spaced walking survey, a crawling survey, and a test excavation to a depth of 10 cm. These techniques were applied to ten 20 x 15m survey plots distributed over an area of 4 ha at the Lajuma Research Centre.
This approach can significantly improve the accuracy of survey data. Our results show that high-resolution coverage techniques overlook more material than archaeologists have suspected. The combined approaches of multi-scale and nested-intensity sampling provide new tools to improve our ability to investigate the properties of surface records.