Seeing as this is my first blog post, I thought I’d tell you a bit about the Field Work that I did over the summer.
At the end of First Year everyone who studies Archaeology has a 2 week field school in archaeological techniques, which for the last 5 years has taken place at Burrough Hill, an Iron Age hillfort in Leicestershire.
The module started on a Sunday with a trip out to the site to explain what the supervisors expected to find in each trench, and to assign us all to an area. I got to help excavate an odd shaped feature in Trench 10 which turned out to be a stone and clay quarry for the ramparts of the fort. Then we got started with the actual digging, which first involved straightening the edges of the trench with spades, and then cleaning back the loose earth in the trench, for many of us our first trowelling experience.
The next few days were spent identifying different features in the trench, and after a few false-starts everyone had their own area to excavate. I spent the first week digging through hard-baked clay trying to find the edge of the quarry, and excavating finds including Iron Age and Roman Pottery (with its wonderfully descriptive names like ‘Grey Ware’ and ‘Scored Ware’), animal bones (and one piece of human skull that unfortunately I didn’t find), and one modern cigarette lighter that a passer-by found amusing to throw into my feature overnight! And that’s not to mention numerous cowpats, because as part of a working farm the cows decided they would use our trenches as a toilet overnight.
The weather in the first week was really hot and sunny which made the work a lot harder as we were using heavy tools like mattocks to break up the ground, and everyone was tanned (or burnt), so I was glad when the next week turned cooler.
In the second week we continued with our features, now trying to find the natural rock at the bottom of the quarry, which thankfully wasn’t too far from the surface in my area because there’s only so much clay you can dig without getting bored. It wasn’t all digging though, as we all had to learn how to preserve our finds, keep the site records by filling in the paperwork correctly and measure how far above sea level each feature was, which broke up the monotony nicely. I really enjoyed filling out the site paperwork; there’s something satisfying in making sure everything cross-references, and it was nice to have a job I could do outside the trench.
At the end of the fortnight there was a 45 minute field test taking place in the Attenborough Tower on campus to test us on the history of the site and the techniques we had learnt, although it was rather rudely interrupted by two men with loudspeakers setting up the sound stage for the Kasabian Concert in Victoria Park!
Despite the hard work and the test, the two weeks went by quickly and it was great to make friends with everybody on the course that I didn’t necessarily see in lectures because studying History as well as Archaeology means I only have half the amount of Archaeology lectures most other people have.
And of course, the best thing was we all got matching T-Shirts at the end!