All Hands On Deck!

Today was the first day of the much-anticipated dig.  Setting off this morning with my waterproofs, walking boots and rucksack I felt as though I was about to tackle Snowdonia.   I probably did allow for too many worst case scenarios judging by the weight of my rucksack.

The site itself is extremely remote.  The ground is boggy and bumpy, and we were sharing it with some curious cows.  They must have seriously ruminated about the motley group of bipeds digging up their grass today.  (Not to mention the yellow quadruped with a wagging tail who liked the taste of their dung).  Yes, Trudy came too.

The plan today was to dig four trenches so that we have an idea where to focus our efforts for the next two weeks.  As we set to work the air became damp with impending rain.  Thankfully one violent shower was all that fell from the sky.

Because we are excavating a field that is normally used for grazing cattle, we have to pile up the soil in separate mounds so that afterwards we can put it all back in the right order (known as backfilling).  The topsoil is the first layer of soil, and this was hard and crunchy as the spades kept hitting tree roots. 

Some people dug the soil, while others (like me) began sieving the mounds of earth to sort out any hidden finds.  It was a lovely moment when one of the volunteers found his first large piece of pottery.  We all found various fragments of pottery and glass.  The general rule of thumb for novice archaeologists is: “If you’re not sure, put it in the Finds Tray”.  At first most of my “finds” were stones and gravel, but as my fingers became more tuned in to the soil I was able to hand-sift tiny fragments of glass and pottery, and to differentiate between stone and brick.  As the trench became deeper, the soil lost its lumpiness and became more fine and dry.  By the end of the day I had even stopped yelping at the sensation of worms and centipedes wriggling through my fingers.

Today has been such a memorable day.  I enjoyed the competitiveness between the different trench teams, the camaraderie during the lunch break as we sheltered under a gazebo, the sonorous cows, and the field itself with its old oak trees peacefully watching.

But like all the volunteers I am absolutely exhausted!  Walking back from the site at the end of the day I could hardly muster up enough power to motor my arms and legs.  At one point I actually forgot how to walk.  We left the seasoned archaeologists on site digging deeper into the trenches.  Which one will be our focus for the project, and will we discover anything significant about Studmarsh?

4 thoughts on “All Hands On Deck!

  1. Gosh! I was surprised to see this quick & great write up of the start of our dig today. I am sad I missed so much again today due to my guts (its like I go from the bog to bog & to blog from the bog) but at least I didnt miss it all, I did get there eventually. I like the pictures too, also quick work getting those on the blog. Its getting so interesting as we have been going through each part of an archeological dig, just how the pro’s have to do. I/We? can see why it takes a long time to do a Dig, I had guessed this anyway & from watching things like Time Team on Tv but when you have a time limit on how long you can investigate the land for & with all the complications that we have, just to get us all together to the dig site, it seems very sad that our time to complete is so short. Im also sad that other parts of my own life keep getting in the way of me being there as much as I’d like. Next time, hopefully this Wednesday, I will be able to get down & get more dirty than I did today. All I did today, was go round visiting & poking my camera into the pits that had been dug & trying not to fall in them when I tried to get a close-up of lumps & bumps & bits of pots? or glazed pottery, glass & stone in situ’ before they were taken out to be examined, I guess! I was very interested in the bits of pottery, glass, broken bits of clay pipes & a coin that will be good to see when its been cleaned. It was good to hear everyone talking & guessing about what was thought about all aspects of the dig. I also had the pleasure of annoying my fellow diggers, because I hadnt done anything other than get there late & then by going round chatting to them & taking photos of them soil sifting with sided round trays with mesh bottoms, you add soil to the tray & swirl it round & see whats left in the tray, whats left should be bigger than the soil thats fallen through & maybe, not just soil. One friend was sat happily amongst it all with a heap of soil that had already been sifted at the side of her. We made jokes with one archeologist about how soon were we to start the back filling, while we towered above him as he sat in the pit, digging, in the very close fitting square hole he was sat in, with only his head showing above ground level. I am really looking forward to Wednesday now, to see what we find, & to be with my fellow diggers again.

    • Hi Helen,
      I love your comments! Thank you for taking the time to write. Can I please put this on the main page of the blog? It captures so much 🙂 See you on Wednesday for more digging x

  2. I just caught the last part of a Midlands today piece on the dig. It’s great to get closer to the experience through your description. You’ll be on Timeteam next, I expect! Here’s hoping you find a golden brooch, Pete.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s