What is the matrix? How do archaeologists use stratigraphy?

Project specs


Keith May



Funding agency





Stratigraphy is recorded by archaeologists during excavations. It helps them understand how, and in what timescale, different objects and remains become buried in the ground.

Archaeologists can create a Harris Matrix diagram of the stratigraphy to visualize the sequence of events, the relative age of items, and the differing spatiotemporal relationships between them. This allows archaeologists to build up a four-dimensional (4D) model of how a site has developed over different timespans.

Such interpretations, based on our understanding of archaeological stratigraphy, often underpin the stories we tell about the sites we excavate.

Researcher Profile

Keith May is an archaeologist at Historic England (HE) with particular experience in developing, coordinating and implementing strategies for Historic Environment Digital Information. He is a Visiting Professor in the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Science at the University of South Wales and an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at Sheffield University in the School of Maths and Statistics.

James Taylor is a lecturer in field archaeology & digital methods at the University of York, with a background in commercial archaeology.

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