We are a small independent archaeological consultancy based in Wiltshire, who specialise in small works and bespoke reports

Just Another Day, Sort Of

Well this is my first year of joining in with Day of Archaeology, (and first time of writing a blog); being an independent archaeological consultant (posh name for a small company), I thought I would actually give an idea of how the day panned out, the good the bad and the ugly, rather than a more bland “we do this, we do that” report.

The Morning Session

This morning I was on a watching brief, which can be highly exciting or highly frustrating, and sometimes darn-right odd.  At least on this brief, I was only going to be needed for about three hours as long as nothing was found as the site was in a small backyard.  Now though it is commendable that a watching brief was added as a building condition, the desktop and local knowledge indicated that there would be nothing to find.

However, it was also somewhat complicated by the building contractor, who is obsessive when it comes to health and safety, full and complete personal protective equipment will be worn at all times whilst on site, and that applies to everyone, with no exceptions…….and that included the dog!

Now very much as expected on this site the trench went in, and all that was exposed was previous disturbed ground, dating from the days the estate was built (1960’s), so measurements taken, photos taken, quick drawing made, and then homeward bound.  I’ll write this on up this evening, as it will be very much a ‘template’ job.

Don’t get me wrong, I like those with absolutely nothing in, but I love those that yield finds, or give indications to our past, that is when I come into my own and have no compunction into taking as long as I can, which can miff a builder off.

The Afternoon Bit

Well this afternoon was going to be a bit unusual anyway, as I have picked up a commission to produce eleven consolidated information sets for Iron Age sites in the county I live in.  The sites are small, some have been excavated in the past, some have not, some have been written about, other have not, but what all having common is that they are never accessible by the public, as they all lie within a restricted military training area.

OK I hear you saying this is just a standard desktop assessment, but in this case it is more much more, it is a consolidation of all known archaeological, environmental and historical information on the site, from the time it was first recorded through to modern times, which unfortunately due to the location of the sites, means the damage to them.  I am lead to understand that if I get these right then I will get a lot more, it is not about condition reporting it is about producing a ‘log book’ for each site, a sort of living document

On the plus side there is no invasive or non-invasive investigation required, it is purely based on previously recorded information. However, no matter how laudable that may sound, I still visit the sites, I still look at the landscape, and more importantly I still try to feel and understand why the site is located where it is.  I do this so that when I correlate the facts, I can give them some degree of life by emphasizing the more important aspects.

So this afternoon I toddle off to visit one of the sites, I have been there before and it is one where information dates back to 1810, thanks to William Cunnington, but I just need to absorb an aspect of the landscape and to check the current condition, as the latest report has indicated some damage to the site since I was last there.

Sure enough I arrive at the site and yes there is some minor damage, thankfully nothing that rings major alarm bells, but is is man made, caused by one of the tracked vehicles that train in the area.  This will need emphasising in the report, as despite begin protected, damage is still being permitted, and somehow I feel that the damage could have been avoided by the simple expediency of moving one protections post.  Even though not rewired in the report on the site I decide that I will add this as a non published addendum to that particular report.

Now due to the environmental issues of the area that theses sites are located in a degree of sense is applied to those that train there to prevent further damage, and in areas where training is undertaken mobile loo’s are to be found, but sometimes I do smile at the instructions…….


But enough of the flippancy I hear you say, but to me that is part and parcel of what keeps us sane, keeps us focused and drives to to produce excellence all the time, irrespective of if you are in a trench studiously working on a section, you will be chatting laughing and joking, or if you are writing a report for Day of Archaeology, you will think back to find what warms your heart and makes you smile.

Right I will concede for now, and get back to the seriousness of the day……..

On the way home I drop into the local museum, as I am honoured to live so close to Devizes Museum, and spend a short time in the library, extracting yet another report from the archives of the Wiltshire Archaeological and natural History Society magazine, this time form 1917, which will be used in one of the reports I am writing.

From there homeward I head, knowing that this evening will be spent writing reports.

On to the evening

The Watching Brief doesn’t take long, well there is only so much you can write about nothing, then I get on with the commission work, finally I start to reflect on the day, the past week, what has worked and what has held me up, and one fo the things that holds me up time and time again, is that old issues of local archaeological groups reports are not available on line, such as in ADS, and today was a good example, the excavation report dated from 1917, is it not about time that was available on line, as I know that work is being and has been duplicated because there is no virtual repository.

Yes I know it our responsibility to seek the information, but times are changing, and I do get annoyed when I phone a society to obtain an extract only to be told that if I want it I must travel 200 miles to view it in their library.  We are in a time when information should be easily available, OK I am NOT saying digitise the latest information, but after 25 years then digitise it, that way if a society owns it they can still charge a few pounds for the digital copy,where as if they dont it will eventually get copied on to the t’interweb in a way they loose out and for heavens sake why cant they at least maintain a digital on-line index, that alone would save hours and hours of work…….. Sorry Rant over.

And finally the night

So to finish the day off, I write this, from the heart without to much planning, the good the bad and the darn right ugly.

Next year I promise to try and have an interesting day, but that will depending on who I am contracted by, and more importantly what I am doing work on.  Now had this been a week ago I could have discussed the Saxon remains I was dealing with and the issues with builder when they were found!

So until the Day of Archaeology 2013

Tim Darch
AKOT Heritage

[All images are owned by myself, if you wish to use them please feel free to do so]