I’m Sue, an archaeologist with two hats. Half the week I work for English Heritage, as Senior Properties Historian, where I help to research, write and create presentation projects at our properties - exhibitions, guidebooks, site graphics, audio tours etc. At the moment I'm working on two main projects where we are installing new interpretation - Tintagel Castle in Cornwall and a new temporary exhibition for Stonehenge. The other half of the week I'm a PhD student at Cardiff University, coming to the end of my third year (eek!). My PhD is on Neolithic ceremonial monument complexes in Britain and Ireland.

Tintagel II – a not as wet as I expected festival of archaeology

If you don’t know about our English Heritage research and excavation project at Tintagel, have a look at my Day of Archaeology post from last year, or catch up with the work so far during the 2017 season on Twitter or Facebook.

Checking the weather forecast the day before, it looked like it was going to be a very wet visit.

I even went out and bought a new large umbrella.

The purpose of heading to Tintagel was to see progress on the research excavations, where the fantastic team from Cornwall Archaeological Unit and their volunteers have been uncovering a series of inter-linked early medieval buildings, dating from the 5-7th centuries AD. The team has been commissioned by English Heritage to try and understand more about the site at this time. It seems there was an elite settlement, fortified town and trading post there but a full set of buildings from this period has never been excavated with modern archaeological techniques before. I was keen to see how they were getting on!

Secondly, I was also taking a new colleague, Dr Nick Holder, to the site for the first time. Nick has recently joined my properties research team at English Heritage and will be taking over from me on this particular project as it goes forward. So this was a good chance to show him the site, introduce him to people and discuss the various research and visitor projects currently taking place.

And finally, it is our Festival of Archaeology week at Tintagel, and various members of staff and people involved in the project have volunteered (or been volunteered) to lead tours for our visitors as part of the week of activites. I was due to be leading two tours, one at 12noon and one at 2pm. I’d chosen to focus my tour on the headland plateau, taking people around the various ruins and buildings that tell us about the early medieval settlement on the site.

The forecast had improved dramatically overnight and on arrival in Tintagel village it was spitting with rain but not too bad. We headed straight up to see the excavations, bumping into James (excavation site manager) and Doug (visitor site manager) on the steps on the way up.

The trenches are looking absolutely fantastic. James and Brett showed us the key discoveries – both interior and exterior surfaces, a possible hearth, really well preserved stone walling and all kinds of exciting finds. We had a discussion about possible changes to our backfilling and preservation strategy, about radiocarbon dating and environmental sampling, potential floor surfaces etc. One new interesting discovery is that the walls are held together with a firm grey clay, so these weren’t just drystone wall buildings.

Photograph of the Tintagel excavations 2017

The well-preserved wall and doorway at the upper level of the excavations.

Photograph of the Tintagel excavations 2017

Here you can see that some of the walls partly slipped down into the building as it decayed. And you can see the grey clay matrix which holds the wall together.

Photograph of Tintagel excavations 2017

Overview of the excavations, with volunteers hard at work! A possible hearth lies under the black plastic in the left-hand corner and a nice paved floor is in the central trench.

Photograph of Tintagel excavations 2017

The view from the excavations takes some beating. Even on a wet and windy day like today! That’s Tintagel parish church on the mainland, where certain elite people from the settlement were buried in the 6th century AD.

My tours of the early medieval settlement went really well – about 15 people for the first one and 6 for the second (it was pouring with rain by then!) but all interested people with good questions. Managed to make the kids make faces and say ‘eurgh’ at the mention of fish custard in the amphorae! Luckily I had a radio mic so not all my words were blown away in the wind.

The weather worsened in the afternoon so it was a bit of a battle against the wind and rain as I showed my new colleague around Tintagel properly, discussing various future projects, publishing my research on the site and decision-making behind the interpretation project we delivered last year. Then we returned to the excavations to see some of the key finds. Some of the volunteers were asking why I wasn’t in the trench with them – I wish!

On the way back up to the village we bumped into Neil Burridge, master metalworker, who had been doing silver smithing up in the mainland courtyard all week for our visitors as part of the Festival of Archaeology. He’d had a fantastic week so I was really pleased to have asked him along to help out. Giving us a lift back up in his van, we talked about the lead and silver (galena) mine under the island and the fact that the excavations have turned up some crucible fragments this week – so metalworking was certainly happening at Tintagel in the early medieval period, as well as in 2017!

After a long drive home with no voice left and tired legs after all those steps, I’ll be glad to have a hot bath! Although I’ll be handing over responsibility for the Tintagel research project to Nick, I’ll certainly be keeping up with the key discoveries and analysis over the next few years – there will be lots more to say about this magical site.


As this is the last ever Day of Archaeology (sob!) I just wanted to say a huge THANK YOU to the volunteer team who dreamt up this wonderful idea and give up their own days of archaeology to edit, monitor and publish posts. May we all have many more days of archaeology in the future.




Archaeology at Tintagel… on the edge of a cliff!

[I begin with two things – a confession and an apology. Firstly, the day I’ve chosen to describe in my Day of Archaeology isn’t actually the 29 July – as that day I was happily walking the south-west coast path and sitting on a beach in Cornwall. So I’ll be describing my day on Tuesday 26 July instead. Secondly, apologies as it’s being posted so late – the holiday is the reason for that too!]

Tuesday wasn’t a typical day in my role as Senior Properties Historian at English Heritage, but as I struggle to describe a typical day that’s nothing unusual. The day was spent at Tintagel Castle in Cornwall, where there are currently excavations being carried out by Cornwall Archaeology Unit, on our behalf. I drove down in the morning to meet a couple of TV crews – one from BBC Spotlight and another from the ITV local news, who had both been invited to cover the story of the excavations. After re-reading our press release and having a quick chat with our PR manager, I gave a couple of interviews about why we were carrying out the project, and took the crews up to the excavations to meet the archaeologists and show them the site.

Looking across to Tintagel Castle headland from the mainland.

Looking across to Tintagel Castle headland from the mainland.

I’ve been involved with Tintagel Castle for a couple of years, working on a complete overhaul of the interpretation and visitor information on site, alongisde various improvements to the cafe, shop and ticket points. We installed a new permanent exhibition in the visitor centre in 2015, and added a range of interpretation panels and artistic installations to the site at Easter 2016. My role was to carry out the historical and archaeological research, write the text, commission the reconstructions and models, and also to work alongside artists and interpretation colleagues to deliver the rest of the project.

The new exhibition at Tintagel installed in 2015.

The new exhibition at Tintagel installed in 2015.

So, what are we doing now at Tintagel? This is the first year of a five year research project which aims to find out more about the early medieval (post-Roman) settlement on the site. Occupied between the 5th and 7th centuries AD, this extraordinary defended site had somewhere in the region of 100 buildings scattered across the headland. It was linked to a trading network connecting it to the Mediterranean world – more imported amphora and fine tablewares, as well as fine glasswares, have been found at Tintagel than anywhere else in western Europe. We assume that this was an elite, possibly royal settlement, occupied perhaps by the rulers of the kingdom of Dumnonia. But there is much that we don’t understand – when exactly was the site occupied? What sort of activities were being carried out on site? Was it a seasonal settlement? What did the buildings look like? Were they stores, workshops or houses? Although excavations took place at Tintagel in the 1930s by C. A. Raleigh Radford, this was largely clearance work to display the building remains to the public and many of the records were lost when Radford’s Exeter house was bombed in the Second World War. A small amount of work was carried out in the 1990s by Glasgow University but it was restricted to the area already disturbed by Radford.

Site C, a range of buildings excavated by Radford in the 1930s and again by Glasgow University in the 1990s.

Site C, a range of buildings excavated by Radford in the 1930s and again by Glasgow University in the 1990s.

Cornwall Archaeology Unit (CAU) have been commissioned to carry out this research work which involves two seasons of excavations, plus post-ex analysis and publication following. This year’s archaeological work is an evaluation of two key areas of the site to establish the nature of the post-Roman remains and to identify one of the two areas for more in-depth archaeological work next year. The two areas were chosen as they were likely to preserve good archaeological stratigraphy and were undisturbed by medieval activity or later archaeological work. The first area is on the southern terrace where a small trench was opened as part of the Extreme Archaeology series in about 2003 – remember that? It had some dramatic footage of Alice Roberts dangling off a rope but actually the terrace is very accessible and not that scary to work on! The second area is on the eastern terraces, not far from the visitor steps up to the chapel area of the headland.

Whilst the TV crews were filming the archaeology and interviewing colleagues, I had a chance to look at the trenches for the first time. As I write the excavations are still ongoing, but early results look very interesting, with walls and areas of paving, and lots of finds including amphora fragments and pieces of glass.

Staff and volunteers from CAU hard at work in one of the southern terrace trenches.

Staff and volunteers from CAU hard at work in one of the southern terrace trenches.

Once the media interviews were over, I went up to the mainland courtyard to check on the set up for my talk to visitors. We have been hosting events for our visitors all week to tie into the excavations – regular talks from the site team in the morning and then a programme of talks from different specialists in the afternoon, as well as hands-on activities for children. Various staff and volunteers from CAU have also been on hand to talk to visitors about the archaeology at the trench edge. Of course, this is one of the busiest times of year being the summer holidays, so it takes quite a bit of time to get up and down the steps to the headland due to the sheer numbers of people – this narrow and steep route is the only way on and off the castle, at least for the time being!

My talk is entitled ‘Tintagel: where history meets legend’ which is also the title of the exhibition. I’m trying to explain to visitors how history and legend at Tintagel are completely intertwined – you can’t understand one without the other. My audience is typical for Tintagel visitors at this time of year – lots of families, children and a few attentive dogs. I try to explain how the site has became attached to the tradition of King Arthur and also introduce them to the other key legend at the site – the love story of Tristan and Iseult, and weave in the history of the site too. They all listen wonderfully and then I get lots of questions about the castle, the archaeology project and King Arthur. Various people come up afterwards to ask more questions about the site, including one teenager who wanted advice on becoming an archaeologist.

After a late lunch, I head back up to the castle to see how the panels and installations were being received by visitors – it is lovely to stand near a panel that you have written and hear people read it out to their children and see them engage with the sculptures and reconstructions.

An interpretation panel at Tintagel Castle

Visitors reading one of our new interpretation panels near the Great Hall. This one has the remains of a medieval feast in bronze on the top.

I also wanted to take some more photographs of the archaeology in action and speak to the volunteers. We had been planning to have lots of social media coverage but unfortunately broadband has been down at Tintagel for several days and there is no mobile signal, making it difficult to upload posts! Luckily one of the volunteers is a dab hand with photogrammetry and has made some brilliant 3D models of the trenches. He is also happily filming everyone with a handheld camcorder for the BBC’s Digging for Britain.

Unexpectedly I have a spare morning before my second talk to visitors tomorrow afternoon, and my offer to help in the trenches is seized upon by the team – luckily I have packed my trowel. It’s not often I get to actually do real archaeology – this will be a first in 11 years in the job!

Planning the trench - what a view!

Planning the second trench on the southern terrace – what a view!


PhD reading with distractions

In my English Heritage team meeting on Monday one of colleagues who works in PR chastised me and a colleague for being too sun-tanned. “Get back in your libraries, historians!” he exclaimed. My indignant response: “But I’m an archaeologist!” (yes my job title is Senior Properties Historian but I like to remind people I gave up history at GCSE).

In an e-mail conversation on Tuesday a colleague was encouraging me to join the CIFA. My response: “I’m not sure I’m enough of a proper archaeologist to join” (she told me stop making excuses and sort out my paperwork).

Ah, the old dilemma! Can you call yourself a real archaeologist when you sit at a desk most of the time and haven’t picked up a trowel for over a year? Well, today I am preparing to head out in the field and really do some archaeology – in a couple of weeks I’m heading up to Orkney to take part in the excavations at the Ness of Brodgar. How am I preparing? By sitting at my desk and reading. I last went in 2008 so need to refresh my knowledge!

The Ring of Brodgar, taken on my last visit to Orkney

The Ring of Brodgar, taken on my last visit to Orkney

So, here I am reading about the lovely and fascinating Neolithic archaeology of Orkney. As well as working for English Heritage, I’m undertaking a funded part-time PhD on Neolithic ceremonial monument complexes, and Orkney is one of my case studies. Not a bad way to spend a very rainy Friday. I wanted to make sure that I was up to speed on all things Orkney so that I can make the most of my time up there – visiting specific sites at the weekends and talking to people with knowledge about the latest discoveries etc. I start with some draft chapters for Colin Richards’ forthcoming book on his excavations in the Bay of Firth which I’m lucky to have been sent by my supervisor. This soon leads me to look at a lovely paper about the whether or not Orkney was wooded in the Neolithic (Farrell et al 2014) and then into some more general papers and books. Luckily there are so many blogs, online articles and lots of lovely pictures that its very easy to get lost for quite a few hours!


The books I brought back from the library and/or pulled off my shelf for today. Cat for scale.

I’m interspersing my Orkney reading with some theory reading for Chapter 1 of my PhD – hence the rather old-school books that you might spot in the above photo. I’m looking at ceremonial monument complexes in relation to power and competition so have been spending a lot of time reading and writing about previous archaeological theories about social stratification, power structures and social organisation.

So, my day has been full of reading and writing, interspersed with the following distractions:

1) Checking my work e-mails (I don’t work on a Friday but usually check in to make sure nothing blowing up). Today I just had to provide a few sentences for our press office on the discovery of a burial in the ditch of Wilsford henge at the University of Reading excavations – very interesting, I guess it’s an early Bronze Age burial and quite a common thing to find later burials like this at late Neolithic sites.

2) Finding a really fascinating looking conference at Cardiff on British medieval myths and legends and deciding to fire off a quick abstract (today is their deadline). I’ve been spending the last year or so at EH researching Tintagel Castle, where we opened a new exhibition last week, and I think a paper on the site and its legends, and how they relate to Cornish, English and British identities might be really interesting, plus I might learn quite a lot by attending!

3) Sharing on Twitter the fact that our grumpy letter to New Scientist about the portrayal of prehistoric people in a recent article had been published.

4) Booking a B&B near Penzance for a work trip, firing e-mails to the Royal Cornwall Museum and Penlee Museum to see if they have objects from Chysauster and searching the Cornwall Record Office catalogue to see what they have that’s relevant – Chysauster ancient village is another current interpretation project of mine. I have to go down at short notice for a site meeting on 3rd-4th August to discuss conservation, so I’m trying to make the most of it by visiting museums and the record office while I’m down there. These tasks just didn’t fit into my 2.5 EH days this week and if I don’t kick them off today it’ll be too late (Cornwall + August = little accomodation!).

5) Making a list of books to look at in the British Library on Monday – I’m there for a union meeting but am going to make the most of it to see things that aren’t available in Cardiff or Bristol university libraries that I need for my PhD reading for Chapter 1.

6) Reading other posts and writing this! Thanks Day of Archaeology for showing everyone the many and varied ways in which people can be archaeologists 🙂

Better get back to that reading….

The British Museum come to visit Stonehenge

Yesterday started a little later than usual as I returned at 11.30pm the previous night from a preview of the new archaeology gallery at Salisbury Museum. The new galleries are absolutely stunning – it was a privilege to be among the first to see them and to hear speeches from the HLF representative, the chairman and the director. Adrian, Jane, Stef and their colleagues have made a super-human effort to get the galleries finished and looking stunning.

The new Wessex galleries at Salisbury Museum

The new Wessex galleries at Salisbury Museum

As many of you know, I’ve been working since 2009 on the new Stonehenge visitor centre project. The new galleries at Salisbury are part of a museums partnership between that museum, Wiltshire Museum and Stonehenge (English Heritage) – all three venues have been working together to produce new galleries, telling different parts of the same story. And now all three are open, which is fantastic news. If you haven’t been to see any of these new displays – go, and go to all three!

The Amesbury Archer

The Amesbury Archer

On to yesterday then. In the morning I had an hour or so of working at home, catching up with e-mails and sorting out payment for one of my suppliers who has been making replica objects for our Neolithic houses at Stonehenge. A surprising amount of my time is taken up with such paperwork. I’m also reviewing the interviews that I took part in yesterday – we interviewed three exhibition design companies for a desperately needed new interpretation project at Tintagel Castle. That’s my project for the next year or so – a new exhibition and lots of new interpretation for the castle and island. Of the three companies two were very good, so I created a positives and negatives list for each, coming to my own conclusion about which one to appoint.

Arthur's Seat, Tintagel (I do get to work at some lovely places!)

Arthur’s Seat, Tintagel (I do get to work at some lovely places!)

At 9.30am I left to drive to Stonehenge, to meet a party of 39 staff from the British Museum – curators, keepers and exhibitions staff. They have organised a team trip to Stonehenge, and I met them, showed them around the exhibition and Neolithic houses, and then left them to walk or take the land train down to Stonehenge.

Here is Rosie Weetch, project curator for the forthcoming Celts exhibition at the British Museum, trying our interactive sarsen!

Here is Rosie Weetch, project curator for the forthcoming Celts exhibition at the British Museum, trying our interactive sarsen!

Whilst they were doing that I went to work for an hour or so in the Stonehenge offices, catching up with a few colleagues, a few more e-mails and making a decision with my colleague Rob on the Tintagel designer – I’m really pleased with the company we’ve chosen so it should be an exciting few months ahead!

After lunch I head back to the visitor centre to give the British Museum staff a short background talk on the project. It was a real pleasure to meet colleagues from the museum, with similar visitor profile and issues with huge numbers, and show off the work we have done at Stonehenge. We have some interesting questions/ discussions at the end of the day, and had some wonderfully positive feedback – great to receive from such eminent colleagues! Here are some of their tweets from the visit:

That’s the end of the day for me – I clear up the education room and head back to Bristol for some post-work Friday beers.

Thanks DoA crew – as ever this year’s posts have been inspiring and educating!



c.150 days… and counting

About 150 days until what I hear you ask? Just the small matter of the public opening of the new Stonehenge visitor centre.

If you’ve read my two previous Day of Archaeology posts from 2011 and 2012, you’ll know that this particular project fills all of my work hours, some of my weekend hours and a bit of my sleep. I’m the archaeologist writing, devising and advising on all the content for the new centre. This includes the permanent exhibition, the opening temporary exhibition, the external gallery, the landscape interpretation scheme, the audio tour… whatever we are going to be telling visitors about Stonehenge, I’ll have had some input into it.

The entrance to the new visitor centre - a lot of scaffolding and cones at the moment!

The entrance to the new visitor centre – a lot of scaffolding and cones at the moment!

So what I have been up to today? No surprise that I have been office bound (except for a lunchtime to trip to buy paella from the stalls in Queen Square outside my office – it’s the Bristol harbour festival this weekend) and juggling a few different things:

1. E-mails and a phone call about exciting discoveries at Stonehenge this week. Suffice to say that the recent dry weather has been showing up parchmarks beautifully and its been a bit of a scrabble to help get colleagues out on site to survey and photograph them. The last of these e-mails was at 10pm.

2. Commenting on my colleague Harriet Attwood’s designer’s drawings for her interactives for the education room – pulling stones, building Stonehenge, cut-away Stonehenge, dig your own barrow, etc.

3. Commenting on a new draft reconstruction from artist Peter Lorimer of the late Neolithic settlement at Durrington Walls – a few more trees, more activity and people, slightly zoomed in, and we’re there.

4. Commenting on my designer’s drawings of a map of all Grooved Ware findspots in the UK for the permanent exhibition display case – trying to choose which key sites to have photographs of (plumped for Skara Brae, Callanish, Newgrange, Thornborough Henges and Avebury to get a good geographical spread, but might have to double check my thinking on this!)

5. Collating and marking up photographs and images for our landscape panel scheme – we’ve been working closely with the National Trust to replace and improve the panel scheme in the Stonehenge landscape and we’re at design stage now, so quite a lot of back and forth about thumbnail maps, photographs, etc. This includes various e-mails back and forth with Nick Snashall, archaeologist at the Trust about panel positions and photo mark-ups – via Blackberry as she is digging at West Kennett avenue today! A large shared Dropbox folder later and our designer has lots to work with.

6. E-mails relating to: new photography, audio tour interviews, a request for images from Jane Ellis-Schon who is project curator at Salisbury Museum for their new prehistory gallery, temporary exhibition catalogue layouts, writing for the EH website…

The pressure is on. And I’m feeling it! That’s why this is only a short post and why it’s also a day late.

Display Cases: Creativity, Arm-Waving & Ideas

Job title: Senior Properties Historian

Organisation: English Heritage

Usual base: Bristol

Currently working on: Stonehenge visitor centre

Find me at: @SueGreaney

Today in stats: 1 workshop/meeting (5.25hrs); 4 trains (3.5hrs);  2 tea runs (20mins); 1 colleague chat (45mins); 1 large chocolate muffin (5 mins); 1 very welcome beer (time tbc).

Today I’ve been up to our West Midlands office in central Birmingham, with my colleague and curator Sara Lunt, to meet with our exhibition designers Haley Sharpe Design.  We’re all currently working flat-out on our permanent exhibition which will form part of the new Stonehenge visitor centre. We’re doing our display case layouts at the moment – thinking about how our archaeological finds will be mounted alongisde text, graphics and replicas.

On the train on the way up to Birmingham I spend some time reviewing and updating my ‘to do’ list – I have so much to do at the moment that lists are the only way I can keep up with the next most urgent thing. Also checking into my e-mails and Twitter. I saw a great tweet the other day, something along the lines of – you don’t choose your career anymore, you just choose what to answer e-mails about! Well my e-mails are mostly about archaeology even if that definition gets stretched a little. With a hefty dose of project management thrown in.

Not the type of building where you’d expect an archaeologist to spend the day… Photograph by Ell Brown via Flickr

Arriving at The Axis, where EH is based, I stop for a tea on the way. The meeting quickly gets underway. Case layouts is one of those tasks that needs a spatial mind – being able to imagine the 3D layouts of the cases from 2D plans and elevations. It’s also a bit like a jigsaw puzzle – well that object needs to sit alongside that text, but that story has to be on the same side as that group of other objects… We’ll be re-creating quite a number of archaeological contexts, so we talk through the details of these. Soon our meeting room table is covered.

These meetings are quite intense but very creative and exciting – lots of ideas and hand waving today. Tea run no.2 and a grabbed sandwich. Time flies by and I forget to take a photo for this post – sorry! We talk reconstructions and look at recent examples we like. More work to be done here. Sara has been up this week to view the final objects we’re getting on loan from the Stonehenge Riverside Project and we look at where these fit in.

We have to have a really good understanding of what stories we’re trying to get across. We’re been into the detail of the archaeology to such an extent that we now have to extract ourselves and think from the position of a visitor. Imagine you are a tourist from Europe, just arrived on a coach, with only a sketchy understanding of prehistory in your own country, let alone somewhere else entirely – what does this tiny bit of flint mean to them? We archaeologists can all get geekily excited about petit-tranchet derivatives, but really… it is the people of the prehistoric past who have to shine through our displays.

We finish in good time – feeling satisfied that we’re nearly there with this task! I take the chance to catch up with another colleague Beth Thomas, the Stonehenge World Heritage Site Co-ordinator who happens to be in the Birmingham office today. We talk about some upcoming meetings relating to projects happening in the World Heritage Site. She’s also just launched a newsletter Megalith for the WHS which looks good (spot my contribution).

On the train on the way home (after devouring a large chocolate muffin and some fruit) I write up the action points from our day for everyone to make sure they complete all their tasks. I also check details for Monday – I have a site visit at Stonehenge with a colleague, following by another meeting with our exhibition designers at our Salisbury office.  It’s all go. I feel like we might need one of those Olympic style countdown clocks…. in which case it is 473(ish) days to go until we open – gulp. You can find out more about our plans on the EH website. I check into Twitter and have a conversation about capes(!), and read some of the posts on this site, before finally reaching home to catch up with my other half and his day. Now I’m writing this with a welcome Friday beer. Cheers!

PS. Thanks to the wonderful organisers of Day of Archaeology 2012 for their sterling work (again) – see you in 2013!

Prehistory by phone and e-mail

Hello! I’m Sue Greaney, and I work for English Heritage as a Senior Properties Historian. A historian, I hear you gasp? I thought this was a place for archaeologists? Fear not, I am an archaeologist – my job title isn’t particularly accurate as its archaeology and prehistory that are my specialist subjects!

Today is an office day in Swindon. Not huge amounts of digging in my life, unfortunately, unless you count digging in archives, libraries and my own computer filing system. My day also doesn’t have any meetings or scheduled site visits in it, so that is a bonus – I’ll be catching up on quite a few different pieces of work, so you’ll get an idea of the wide range of things I do.

Me at my desk.

The major project that I’m currently working on is the new visitor centre that we are planning for Stonehenge. I’m the archaeologist advising on the content of the new exhibition and the new interpretation for our thousands of visitors. It’s a really important project and most days I have to pinch myself that I get to work on it. I work closely with a small project team dedicated to the interpretation, learning and outreach elements of the project.

First thing I uploaded photographs from a field visit to Kilmartin Glen in Argyll, Scotland last week and put them on our SharePoint site. Not a usual port of call as by its very nature working for English Heritage usually involves England! But Kilmartin House Museum is renowned as a prehistoric museum, and the landscape has been fully interpreted and designed for visitors to explore. It even has two podcasts. We went to see the new European funded interpretation scheme in the area, to meet the museum curator. It’s not a dissimilar approach to the one we’ll be taking at Stonehenge– we want to equip people in our visitor centre to understand Stonehenge, but also the various monuments and features they’ll see in the landscape, and also encourage them to get out and explore the rest of the World Heritage Site.

Some of the new interpretation at Kilmartin Glen

A series of phone calls followed. Talked to an interpretation colleague about the reconstructed Neolithic houses that we’re planning for the external gallery at the visitor centre, arrangements for a site visit to Stonehenge next week and our temporary exhibition programme. Talked to a scientist colleague of mine down at Fort Cumberland about some externally commissioned research. Talked to a visitor operations colleague at Stonehenge about the Neolithic houses. You wouldn’t believe what a busy summer they’re having! Couple of e-mails sent to Stonehenge team members and archives staff at our National Monuments Record.

Tea break. Right, onto some proper work. The rest of the morning was spent doing some research that will support the contents of our display cases in the visitor centre exhibition. This involved writing up a paper for discussion at a meeting next week, using our own internal (and rather wonderful) webGIS, the Pastscape website (we have our own internal databases behind this, but Pastscape works so well I use it a lot) and the fantastic Wiltshire Heritage Museum collections database. I can’t tell you much about what’s actually going into the cases, as it wouldn’t be a surprise when you all come and see the new visitor centre when it opens in 2013! Suffice to say that I spent the rest of the morning and a few hours after lunch looking at lovely prehistoric objects and reading antiquarian and 20th century archaeology accounts of their discoveries.

After sending off this and another paper to the Stonehenge interpretation officer and curator, I sent confirmation to a freelance researcher that we were taking him on for a small piece of synthesis/writing work.

Ok, time to clear some of my e-mail inbox. I’ve been so busy this week that several things have been neglected for quite a few days. First, I arranged a meeting date with colleagues in September to review the next stages of the Stonehenge scanning project. Next, I responded to a query from the curator at Salisbury Museum about where the late Paul Ashbee’s archive is residing. I downloaded some mapping tiles that I need to create a map which will go on an interpretation panel at Kingston Russell Stone Circle, one of our small free properties down in Dorset. When I’m not thinking about Stonehenge I usually pick up a few interpretation projects at our free properties.

Kingston Russell stone circle, Dorset

And then the most important e-mail of the day – anyone up for the pub? Well, it is a Friday! Cue random exchange of e-mails from my friends at work.

Next I respond to request from BBC Learning for an EH expert on Vikings. Not sure if we have one of those! And reply with photographs to a colleague of mine in York who is working on the EH Coastal Risk Assessment and wanted some information about cliff erosion near one of our guardianship properties at Halangy Down on the Isles of Scilly. This is somewhere I did some research and interpretation a couple of years ago.

Me at Halangy Porth beach, Isles of Scilly, a few years ago

Well, there ends the Day of Archaeology. Now to add the blog post! Let’s do this again next year.