The Wheeler–Kenyon method is a method of archaeological excavation. The technique draws its origins from the work of Mortimer Wheeler and Tessa Wheeler at Verulamium (1930–35), and was later refined by Kathleen Kenyon during her excavations at Jericho (1952–58). The Wheeler–Kenyon system involves digging within a series of squares that can vary in size set within a larger grid. This leaves a freestanding wall of earth—known as a "balk" that can range from 50 cm for temporary grids, and measure up to 2 m. in width for a deeper square. The Normal width of a permanent balk is 1 m.—on each side of a unit. These vertical slices of earth allow archaeologists to compare the exact provenance of a found object or feature to adjacent layers of earth ("strata"). During Kenyon's excavations at Jericho, this technique helped discern the long and complicated occupational history of the site. It was believed that this approach allowed more precise stratigraphic observations than earlier "horizontal exposure" techniques which relied on architectural and ceramic analysis.
This method primarily gives archaeologists a grid system to keep better organization of their findings while they dig their squares. These squares also give the archaeologists a very good look into the stratigraphy of the earth as it is uncovered and remains on the balk walls. The main reason to use this method is to more easily distinguish the different layers of earth that would signify and detail the occupational history of the site, which is primarily found in Tells.
There are several problems associated with the Wheeler–Kenyon method. First, this stratigraphic dating technique can only be applied to a site that has formed in identifiable layers; this criterion excludes many sites in North America. It also cannot be used on large-scale projects, and leaves no opportunity for re-excavation by future archaeologists using improved techniques. This method often hides vital walls or important doorways, obstructs earth moving operations, and requires significant effort to remove after they have served their intended purpose. The Kenyon–Wheeler method should only be used if the archaeologist fully intends to makes use of it.
- Dever, Lance, et al. A Manual of Field Excavation. New York: Jewish Institute of Religion, 1982. Print. pp.50-51
- Dever, Lance, et al. A Manual of Field Excavation. New York: Jewish Institute of Religion, 1982. Print. pp.49