The archaeology of overburden: Method within the madness at Švédův Stůl, Czech Republic

Duncan Wright, Philip Hughes, Nicholas Skopal, Matěj Kmošek, Amy Way, Marjorie Sullivan, Lenka Lisa, Pamela Ricardi, Petr Skrdla, Ladislav Nejman, Patricia Gadd, Miriam Nývltová Fišákováj, Ondřej Mlejnek, Miroslav Kralik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the 19th and early to mid-20th centuries, a rush to better understand the European Palaeolithic led to the substantive removal of deposits from limestone caves. In the 21st century the situation has changed. Many caves are now excavated, leaving behind a human-made environment of diminished cave sediments and large spoil heaps, with the latter now targeted by those searching for artefacts missed during the original excavations. In an age in which archaeologists are increasingly attempting to balance their roles as cultural heritage educators and destroyers, the question remains - how much do we know about the taphonomy of these features? In this paper
we report results from the excavation of a large spoil heap outside Švédův Stůl Cave, in the Moravian Karst region of Czech Republic. Results show heterogeneous sediment formation (revealed primarily through their field characteristics and ED-XRF and Itrax geochemical analyses) and patterns in artefact distributions (evident through assessment of Iron Age, Neolithic and modern artefacts) and faunal remains. This allows partial context to be provided for some artefacts and a methodology to be developed for excavation of overburden.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105429
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


  • Archaeological spoil
  • Closed contexts
  • Geoarchaeology
  • Geochemical analyses
  • Czech palaeolithic


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