Trench shoring for archaeologists and the Randwick Grave Digging Course

23rd January 2014

Richard Wright setting out the runners (published in Australian Archaeology 39:100).

Richard Wright setting out the runners (published in Australian Archaeology 39:100).

Mike A. Smith

Introduction*

Archaeology shares some common safety concerns with other trenching operations such as grave digging and pipe laying. Foremost amongst these are the dangers of working in unshored or inadequately shored excavations. It is not uncommon for archaeological excavations to be more than 1.5 m deep and deep shafts 4-6 m deep have occasionally been dug (e.g. at Devils Lair, Koonalda Cave, Malakunanja 11 and Mushroom Rock). Shoring has been used in some cases. For instance, Jones used it in his excavations at Rocky Cape in 1965-67 (R. Jones pers. comm.), at Nauwalabila 1 in 1981 (Jones and Johnson 1985) and most recently at Allens Cave (R. Jones and S. Cane pers. comm.). Dortch installed an internal scaffolding of pipe-work and heavy duty timber shoring in the deep trench at Devils Lair (Dortch 1984). Sim used a series of nested prefabricated boxes in her excavations on King Island (Sim and Thorne 1990) and Horton and Wright used timber soldier sets in trenches at Trinkey (Wright pers. comm.). These, however, are the exceptions and it is still all too rare for shoring to be used on prehistoric sites. The usual practice is to install some form of shoring only when deposits are demonstrably loose and unconsolidated or where slumping or fretting of the sections is actively taking place. In cases where shoring has been used there is also some question as to whether it has been adequately engineered for the lateral stresses that would be imposed should the trench fail catastrophically.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Smith, M.A.
Trench shoring for archaeologists and the Randwick Grave Digging Course
December 1994
39
98–102
Article
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