For most of the burials, the pot is cracked and we are able to lift the pieces gently away to expose the ball of soil inside. It is cemented together by carbonate which is deposited in the ground. We then expose the bones, draw a plan of them, take a photographic record and then lift them. It is like a very small scale excavation, all done on a table top. The other difference with a usual archaeological excavation is that we have to excavate from the underside first because otherwise the weight of the soil crushes the bones.
Once all the soil has been excavated and all the bones and other finds removed, we sift it all through a fine sieve. Some of the bones are so small that we need to use a 2 mm mesh to be sure of catching them. We need to keep a very sharp eye because a lot of the pebbles look a little like tiny bones.
Bioanthropology project on the island of Astypalaia, Dodecanese, Greece > Bioanthropology laboratory >