Bob Clarke

Another busy day

Hello from Bob Clarke. Well another day of contrasts for me. The first few hours of this morning was taken up with planning the curriculum for the apprentice training school at Boscombe Down. I should say, for those who are not familiar with me, that like most archaeologists I have fingers in a number of pies. Since last year I have been promoted to Curriculum Manager – I’m responsible for the success of all students studying aeronautical engineering at the station. I am also the archaeologist on site – connected to the conservation group – an MoD sponsored post. Part of the Ministry’s requirements for Boscombe Down is that it has an archaeologist available to advise on ground works, undertake small-scale excavation and watching briefs and co-ordinate works and mitigation with outside agencies, contractors and official bodies. Sounds like fun but can be a right royal pain in the backside on occasion.
Today I have been finishing writing the watching brief sections of a 4.5km trench for essential services I followed recently. This involved not only me but Wessex Archaeology and an external contractor. The work took just over twelve weeks and turned up some interesting material. By 2 o’clock I was back home. This afternoon has been taken up with prepping for a community excavation I am planning in August. The project design was submitted to the County Archaeologist and accepted last week, so now it’s all hands to the pump. The dig is to be co-ordinated between my group (Broad Town Archaeology) and the Wiltshire Archaeology Field Group from the Wiltshire Museum, Devizes. Basically one of our local residents was removing trees from the front of her property when she discovered some walls. Luckily she had studied archaeology at night school (delivered by me as it happened at the University of Bath) some years ago, putting theory into practice she recognised what was there and called the County Archaeologist – who called me and asked if we could help – naturally I said yes. I am currently offering places on the dig, free of charge, to local residents and members of the Wiltshire Museum. So this afternoon I have been checking all the paperwork – context forms, small finds that sort of thing – ready for next month.
And after that it’s more work on the PhD thesis. I’m intending to submit by next September. Currently I’m writing the archaeological chapter before heading into the theoretical aspects of abandonment process – the key point of the work.
So today has been much the same as last year, a mixture of commercial, community and academic archaeology. Wouldn’t have it any other way. And this year’s quote from the good, late, professor is ‘just because it isn’t there now – doesn’t mean it wasn’t there then’. I’m not sure I’d get away with that as an argument in the thesis!

Bob Clarke’s Varied Day of Archaeology

Like many archaeologists I wear more than one hat. I am a qualified aircraft engineer as well as a professional archaeologist – aviation and archaeology – strange bedfellows but very fulfilling!  This morning I was busy supporting engineering students at a local training college. This was interspersed with a rationalisation of some bags of finds from last weekend’s ‘Dig Devizes’. This was a community dig over two days. Running the children’s trench was a rewarding experience however; five year olds can produce very full finds trays! I’ve just weighed in and analysed a mass of CBM, not so informative unfortunately however there is also a substantial range of coins – everything from 1889 to 1991, clay pipe, a small silver bar and my favourite – ring-pulls. As part of my PhD I’ve been working with ring-pulls, a very important part of modern material culture (watch out for the paper!). Later today I will be writing up the context sheets for test pit DD 13 601 and forwarding them to the PM Jon Sanigar.

IMG_8589 - Copy  Now this afternoon I have been busy recording a recently discovered well  in my village. I run a community project, The Broad Town Archaeological Project (BTAP), encouraging locals to report and get involve in their local environment. Last Monday two guys taking down a fence discovered a cap-stone with a chalk blocked lined well below. This afternoon I will be recording this for our project and so we can submit the feature to the Wiltshire Building Record. After that I need to complete a watching brief report on some work I oversaw for the National Trust at the Sanctuary (Avebury). That was a nice day well spent. I work occasionally for a small archaeological contractor who specialises in small watching briefs in North Wiltshire – this allows me to build up a small pot of money to cover my fees for my part-time PhD at Exeter. Now depending on the time I get finished on reports I might well squeeze in a couple of hours on the thesis – I’m currently mapping cold war bunkers against a heterotopic/secret landscape/taskscape.

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So that’s my day – no spectacular digs or discoveries, more a community orientated effort. And that is archaeology for me – we often work in a position of authority but we should always remember the local community’s history we are digging. I have always enjoyed involving the local community; then I would do as one of the UKs foremost community archaeologists shaped my formative years – Professor Mick. He also told me ‘archaeology is a beautiful mistress but she brings a poor dowry’, Never a truer word spoken.

Bob Clarke

PS I’ve popped links to Broad Town and Dig Devizes if you want a peep.