I am a cliche. I got into archaeology because of Indiana Jones and because I liked to visit old castles when I was a kid, running round pretending I was a knight or some such.
After undertaking a degree in the subject at University, I quickly learned my image of archaeology was wrong; however the fiery passion that was ignited in my youth, based on intrigue, adventure and imagination stayed with me, and I learnt that the reality of archaeology and heritage could be just as exciting, only in different ways.
I imagine many of today’s posts will be about muddy boots, interesting fieldwork using new technologies and amazing finds (or rather mundane finds as is often the case!). There are however a fair amount of us who would describe ourselves as archaeologists that never set foot in the field (basically because we just dont like getting dirty – something else I discovered at university!)
I currrently work as a Training Delivery Officer in the Capacity Building Team at English Heritage and our aim is to provide the heritage sector with the knowledge, information and skills needed to better understand, protect and manage our heritage. So whilst I am, for the most part, office-bound, I like to think it is for a worthy cause!
Today I have been working on two separate, but not unrelated, tasks.
Firstly, part of my job involves co-ordinating English Heritage’s programme of collaborative PhDs. One of the main schemes we are involved in is the Collaborative Doctoral Partnerships (CDP) scheme and offers a small number of AHRC funded studentships that are jointly supervised by a specialist member of English Heritage (EH) staff and an academic from a UK university.
Offering collaborative doctoral awards gives students the possibility to combine academic work with the acquisition of practical skills and work experience outside the university context. It also provides us with focused research advancing the protection of the historic environment and heritage through the National Heritage Protection Plan (NHPP).
CDP projects we have offered have covered a diverse range of topics, with titles such as: “Defining the Potential of Ploughzone Lithic Scatters for Interpretation of the Final Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Landscape”, to “Interpreting loss of data from metal artefact decay (rates, reasons and conservation management implications)” to “Religious Heritage in Transition: Sikh Places of Worship in England”.
This morning I have been writing up notes from a meeting I attended yesterday with a Consortium of CDP holding organisations where we discussed, amongst other things, the joint specialist training programme we are running for CDP students across the country, as well as hearing from the AHRC on the future of the scheme.
You can find out about EH’s collaborative research opportunities on our website: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/professional/training-and-skills/work-based-training/collaborativeresearch/
The bulk of the day so far however has been spent with a colleague in our National Planning and Conservation department designing a training course that is aimed particularly at Heritage Champions and other elected Members in Local Authorities, to really get them to understand some of the key concepts around managing our heritage; and identifying and developing practical exercises for them to get to grips with how these are applied in the real world. This course will form part of the HELM training programme, which is a Capacity Building programme aimed at decision makers in local authorities, regional agencies and national organisations whose actions affect the historic environment. You can find out more about EHs training offer on our website http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/professional/training-and-skills/
The Republic of Kazakhstan has students who like archaeology and who participate in practicums as part of their first or second course studies as History majors in university. But as we know archaeology is not a profession that brings wealth or even fame. Therefore it is very important for all of us to train the next generation. We have worked in the Talgar region for twenty years now, hiring local high school kids to work on our digs. Now the oldest students in our village have children! While none have become professional archaeologists, many have enjoyed their work with us and have now a good appreciation for their cultural and historical heritage.
Here’s a photo of the in situ pot fragments we found today!
AOC Archaeology Group has been working with Culver Archaeological Project (CAP) on their excavation of a newly discovered Roman site at Bridge Farm near Barcombe, East Sussex. This post is a joint post from AOC and CAP!
CAP began in 2005 with a simple programme of field-walking, survey and trial trenching in the hope of identifying further archaeological sites in the landscape around Barcombe Villa. Fieldwalking finds included Roman pottery and coins dating to the 1st and 5th centuries AD, and a comprehensive geophysical survey revealed impressive archaeological remains, just waiting to be investigated. CAP were successful in their application for a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and with their support are conducting six weeks of excavation this year. The project is community-focussed at its very core, and volunteers are participating (for free) in every stage of the on-site work, which runs from 1st July to 10th August: excavation, wet sieving, finds processing and geophysics – and a brilliant job they are
doing too. Volunteers range from school pupils to octogenarians, and everything in between. Five local primary and secondary schools have also participated in classroom-based workshops, and then come out and visited the site before the end of term, taking part in the excavations, wet sieving, metal detecting, finds washing and so on, and we’ve also had a visit from the local YAC. There are also weekly workshops on various specialist areas of archaeology. Sounds busy, doesn’t it? It is! There is lots going on every day but everyone involved is showing boundless enthusiasm. The sunshine has helped!
Anyway, moving on to what’s been going on in the run-up to the Day of Archaeology 2013! We are almost four weeks in to the six week programme of fieldwork, and things are getting really interesting. Our trenches were located to target specific features that had appeared through geophysical survey. This week, we have excavated an almost complete urn, which may contain cremated remains. The urn was removed intact, and will be excavated in the lab at a later date.
We also have an interesting tile-lined feature, which contained a large chunk of opus signinum (a type of Roman cement). The current thinking is that the cement might have been prepared to line the feature, however for some reason the job was never completed and it solidified to the tiles below. A bit of research has found a similar feature excavated in Tuscany, which the archaeologists there interpreted as a basin. Still speculation however.
Nearby is a possible kiln, which has a hard-baked clay lining. The fill of this feature was particularly sludgy, and Robyn and Clara had a very enjoyable day removing it! The look on their faces amidst the slop and squelching was something to behold! However the hard clay lining gives us more certainly that it may be a kiln, but it’s exact use is still uncertain. Postholes nearby may represent the traces of associated structures.
Today Dr. Mike Allen attended site and at tea break gave our students and volunteers a talk from the point of a geoarchaeologist, a very interesting point indeed, we now understand post depositional gleying, which explains the difficulties we are having identifying some features on site.
With two more weeks of digging to go, we are excited to learn more about the site. We couldn’t possibly explain it all in one post – this is just a snapshot of life at CAP 2013 – so please come on over to CAP’s website to catch up on the rest.
Culver Archaeological Project is supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund.