Cut and dried: chainsaws in archaeology

Jessica Bryan, Senior Archaeologist and qualified chainsaw operator at MOLA.

Senior Archaeologist, Jess Bryan, cutting through Roman timbers with a chainsaw on site (c) MOLA

Senior Archaeologist, Jess Bryan, cutting through Roman timbers with a chainsaw on site (c) MOLA

This week I have been making use of a recently acquired skill, cross cutting with a chainsaw. Not something that initially springs to mind as an archaeological task, however when faced with a site containing hundreds, if not thousands, of preserved timbers (as we do in London) it is a skill that is called on from time to time. Timbers need to be cut from trenches for access, health & safety and also cut for species and dendrochronology samples.

At MOLA we have a longstanding team of experienced chainsaw operatives and recently they allowed me to join the ranks.  Anyone can use a chainsaw in their own garden, but to use one professionally you need a City & Guild qualification, and the right gear…. my chainsaw protective clothing is the most expensive outfit I have ever owned. The boots are twice as much as any pair of designer heels I have ever purchased!

In February I spent three days in a forest cutting down trees. It was brilliant but a steep learning curve. However cutting trees in a forest is a whole different ball game to cutting 1,000 year old timbers in a muddy trench. The qualification was just the start of my chainsaw education, and I am still very much in training when compared to the expertise of the other guys.

It’s a skill that I hope to carry on improving, and I am very lucky that MOLA provided this opportunity, and for the other chainsaw operatives taking the time to train me.

Also, if anyone needs a tree cutting down…