The Harris Matrix: Overview

The Harris matrix, developed by Harris (1989) is a schematic method for displaying archaeological stratigraphy. At KAP, we produce or add on to Harris matrices for each excavation area over the course of and at the end of each season; these matrices help both the excavators and other specialists to visualize the relationships between contexts and their phasing. (See here for a free copy of Harris’s Principles of Archaeological Stratigraphy).

We employ a stratigraphic excavation method at Kaymakçı; therefore, the relationships between contexts that are recorded in the Harris matrix should reflect relationships between and thus formation sequences of archaeological deposits and features. Some contexts that only describe excavation-related actions (primarily cleaning contexts from the beginning of the season, scarp cleanings, etc.) are not included in the Harris matrix since they do not reflect stratigraphically coherent and discrete units. Objects—whether excavated as spatial contexts or approximate contexts— are also not currently included in the Harris matrix, because they are encapsulated by the spatial contexts in which they are found.

We now use yEd Graph Editor software to build Harris matrices via directed graphs; in previous years, we used MS Powerpoint, most commonly, and Stratify. The yEd software is designed specifically to build schematic, directed graphs and diagrams and includes a number of tools that are useful for our purposes. Below is an overview of the tools in yEd and how we currently use them at KAP.

  1. Using yEd Graph Editor
  2. Preparing a Harris Matrix

Powered by BetterDocs