Bobcat E10e mini excavator helps uncover archaeological secrets

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The battery-powered, one tonne Bobcat E10e mini-excavator has been utilised for its low noise and zero emissions on a prestigious archaeological dig, exploring the ruins of a castle in the town of Ricany near Prague in the Czech Republic.

The castle ruins where the E10e has been working stand in the very centre of Ricany and date from the second half of the 13th century. After the site was evaluated by archaeologists, the operator of the battery-powered E10e excavator was faced with a clear goal - helping to find the castle’s moat and any other historically valuable finds that would help determine the size of the original castle. This involved an in-depth exploration in the garden of one of the buildings adjoining the castle ruins. The task was to dig a main reconnaissance trench with a length of 57 m and another 16 metre long verification trench.

The work was carried out by an experienced Bobcat machine demonstrator, Tomáš Mrkvička, who said: “These very special excavations require the utmost caution. The soil must be removed literally centimetre by centimetre. It is similar to a knife scraping over butter. For actions where it is important not to damage what could possibly be in the excavation, the operator's feel and touch are irreplaceable.” To ensure that any archaeological excavations were not damaged, the teeth were removed from the bucket at the beginning. Fortunately, the surface of the area being surveyed was not too hard, so it allowed this fine technique to work.

The E10e uncovered the point where the soil mixed with the original masonry of the castle. Excavating was immediately stopped and experts from the local museum were called in to investigate the site further and they were surprised to find that the E10e had in fact encountered the remains of an old cellar. “The cellar may be up to 500 years old,” said Jan Boukal, a historian from the Ricany Museum.

Whilst the excavator weighs only one tonne and its weight is evenly distributed over the entire track area, it was still decided that after discovering the cellar, archaeologists would dig only by hand in this area. With the cellar vault located only tens of centimetres below the surface, there was a real danger of it collapsing. Instead, the Bobcat E10e continued to dig along pre-marked lines on another reconnaissance excavation elsewhere on the site.  

“The use of a one tonne excavator in combination with an experienced operator proved to be very far-sighted due to the discovery of the ancient cellar,” said Petr Frank from the Municipal Office in Ricany. “We are pleased that we were the first in the Czech Republic to have a chance to try a zero-emission, battery-powered excavator in Ricany. In addition, the ability to communicate seamlessly with experts during excavations due to the low machine noise was extremely useful and efficient. I assume that we will see electric machines more and more often in the centres of towns and villages in the future."

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