My previous Day of Archaeology posts (Returning to archaeology and On the trail of the elusive fallow deer) were written while I was a mature student, studying part-time for a Masters degree in Archaeology, in fulfilment of a long-held ambition. That went well — better than I expected, in fact — so, a few years later and with the encouragement of my MSc supervisor, I now find myself on the brink of starting work on my PhD. For me, this is the stuff of dreams and hard to believe, as the first in my family to attend university, many years ago.
I’m excited about my research project, which will look for evidence of diet and mobility of people and animals in Lincolnshire, from the Neolithic to the Iron Age. Using the technique of stable isotope analysis, which I was keen to use in my MSc research, I will examine dietary ‘signatures’ in bones and teeth from archaeological sites in the county. After building a database to hold the results of my analyses, I will add as much comparable data as I can find from published papers and excavation reports, as well as the commercial ‘grey literature’. Statistics and data visualisation software which I will add to the database will allow me to compare and contrast the area of Lincolnshire with the rest of the UK, which has generally been better studied. From preliminary discussions, this work should complement other projects looking at later periods in the same area, as well as those in adjacent regions, so I am looking forward to the prospect of collaborative work with others.
However, that is still in the future so today’s work relating to archaeology, although more mundane, is still interesting. As an IT professional with qualifications in archaeology, I have been invited to join a project to set up an Historic Environment Record system for Jersey Heritage, using the free Arches software. When the project is completed in three years’ time, it will provide a website which the public can use to explore the rich archaeological and historical resources of the island of Jersey. Today, I will be reviewing my notes from a project meeting I attended on Monday, after a very interesting weekend visiting many of the prehistoric sites on the island with a colleague, including the internationally important Neanderthal occupation site at La Cotte de St Brelade and numerous Neolithic burial sites. It was also fascinating to see some of the conservation and recording work taking place on the Iron Age Le Catillon hoard of over 73,000 coins and gold jewellery, in the museum at La Hougue Bie.
Later today, I’ll also read the installation notes for setting up a demo version of the software, which we need to have working to show to Jersey Heritage and the local archaeological society, Société Jersiaise, before I start work on planning for the server which will be the system’s home on the Internet. For me, this is the perfect project, combining my IT experience with archaeology, which I find endlessly fascinating.