Community Archaeology Excavation

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  • I’ve finally volunteered to go on a dig. From next week there is a free community excavation starting that will be taking place alongside archaeologists.

    Mainly Iron Age and Roman archaeology. I’m excited because of recient discoveries in that area.

    I’m hoping I can coupe with sitting down, kneeling down for long periods of time. Only one way to find out!

    I got confirmation this morning that I’ve been excepted for this dig.

    Anyone got any advise for me? It will be from 9am to 4pm and they are allowing me to take my vehicle (bed) on site should I need to rest.

    I may take my metal detector along, see if there’s any tech heads who can give me a lesson or two.

    There’s just not enough Steve’s in this body of mine or there’s too many! I have so many interests, far too many projects. A workload that would keep a team busy. But opportunities like this just can’t be missed. I’m going on this dig if it kills me (and it probably will) :D

  • Hi. This sounds really exciting!

    I worked as a field archaeologist for many years. I'd recommend that you get kneel pads or a kneel mat as archaeology can be very hard on the knees. It's always good to have water proofs as well and to do some warm up exercises before you start work. Archaeology is great but it really takes a toll on the body depending on what you're doing. Getting hand cramp from using a trowel is really common when you first start.

    I hope you have a fantastic time and find some lovely stuff!

  • Thanks, I’ve got work trousers with knee pad pockets built in. Working down the coal mines got me use to wearing knee pads. So Thanks for the suggestion, I will take them. Going by the long-range weather forecast. It could be a hot few days. I’ve been offered any days and as many Monday to Friday until the 20th.

  • Working in a coal mine must have been an interesting experience.

    If you're on Facebook and haven't come across it already there is a page called BAJR - UK Archaeology which tends to be the go to page for anyone working or volunteering in archaeology.

  • Today I joined the local “retired” anoraks, students and fulltime archaeologists on the phase 2 Iron Age/early Roman archaeology dig site. On a disused RAF WW11 airfield, Base and Barracks. Now earmarked for housing development.

    I can only say I loved it from first stepping foot on site.

    I was lucky in that no other volunteers turned up ‘first thing” so after a brief induction and risk assessment. I had a guided tour of the archaeology with the supervisor.

    WOW WOW WOW.... I was blown away. I hadn’t given much thought to confronting human and animal remains sticking up out of the ground, out of the sides of excavated trenches and pits and my first thoughts were that this site has been “stage set” deliberately for the invited volunteers. I was later reassured that this was no staged set up and a far greater discovery than the original phase 1 survey hoped to be.

    The guy In charge (supervisor) took me walk abouts and explained the visual archaeology stuff to me. Bending down to pick up a shard of decorated Iron Age pottery and then passing it to me. I suggested I better return it to the very spot it came from. He just said “put it down where you like, this place is covered in such artefacts.”

    He wasn’t kidding. It turns out the excavation will probably be the size of a large Roman Town and could take a further ten years to document.

    I was given a Iron Age post hole to dig and then record my findings. I did this before lunch and was going to be given a more challenging dig in the afternoon.

    Surprisingly I had no real issue with kneeling down and picking at the dirt with a trowel. I was in my element. Finding archaeology wasn’t even that important. (It would be nice) but Just been ôthere, being involved, being viewed as a normal able bodied person once again was goal enough for me.

    After a while more archaeologists and volunteers joined the dig and I was privileged to wander around their pits to see their finds and chat. Iron Age nail one shouted! No kidding within a hour or two some had several trays full of broken pottery, human and animal bones.

    To my left was a volunteer sketching the skelington of a young adult in a shallow pit. To my right several

    My difficulty arose when it came to recording my excavation. Sitting uncomfortably for longer than I would like, sketching and recording details of the post hole.

    Then it was lunchtime. I was determined to stick it out for the day and hopefully get to team up with another volunteer for the afternoons digging.

    I returned to the field a short distance from the portacabins and control compound where we had lunch, But I knew things were going South with my health. My back pain was flaring up, loosing sensation in my right leg, but hey-ho! I’m here and loving it. Waiting for the supervisor to return from his lunch I knew I was now a lost cause. I couldn’t even bend down to pick up my gloves and tools from where I had left them.

    Too embarrassed to ask a volunteer to help, I pushed through. Got my gloves and made the decision to leave site under my own steam while I still could. I told the supervisor I would like to try again tomorrow. It’s taken 3x 800 mcg Fentanyl lozenges to get me stabilised and laid down in my wagon. Hopefully, I will be fit enough to return for a second day tomorrow. Only this time, sitting in a chair or similar to do the recording stuff will defiantly be a smart thing to try out.

    Anyway. My first time on a archaeogy excavation and Im addicted :D

    I also came away wondering why the enormous extent of this archaeology hadn’t really been recorded when the airbase/airfield/barracks were built in the 1940’s. Was the need to establish the airbase more of a priority due to Britain being at war with Germany or was this type of archaeology not taken that seriously back then?:whistle:

  • Day 2 ..... Not going to happen. After sedating myself and resting up. I still can’t stand up or get dressed this morning. I’ve emailed the Community archaeology team to let them know I wont be attending the dig today. Just another activity I’m not physically up to doing (Yet) I may try again in a weeks time. Never say never!

    Don’t take life and your health for granted. If there’s things/activities/journies you want to do/try out. Do it while you still can.

  • Sorry to hear you are out of the achaeo action, Steve. Problem with these things is being there and not feeling any the worse whilst working, so naturally you carry on. Then it can hit you hard afterwards.

    I help with a men's shed for older guys, and one of the biggest worries is these guys getting too enthusiastic and engaged and over-reaching themselves.

    Most of these guys suffer from health problems of one kind or another, but tend to forget when they get involved in doing something.

    Picking up stuff, moving it about, lifting stuff on racks; it is so easy to get caught up in the enthusiasm of the job, and carry on when it would be better to rest after a few minutes of hard work.

    Even light tasks, if done repetitively, can cause hands or fingers to lock up, sprains and strains in joints, and aches in limbs and backs, sometimes resulting in people having to take to bed for a few days.

    When you are working with a great crowd of folks it is very difficult to ration yourself, to say after a couple of hours - "That's it, enough for today" and go home. We somehow feel we are letting the side down by clearing off early, but unless we do ration ourselves according to our personal health circumstances, we do ourselves more harm than good.

    I try to remember the old Buddhist saying "Look after yourself first; only then will you be able to help other people".

    Take it easy awhile mate, and recover yourself completely. And if you go back to help, just go in for an hour or two at the end of the day to start with. That way you knock off work with everyone else, and don't feel you are leaving early.

    All the best:thumbup::thumbup::thumbup:

  • Have you trained that wayward drone yet Steve? , if so then maybe offer some aerial assistance (assuming all the diggers are wearing hard hats!!) ??

    I haven’t yet shroom. I’ve challenged our lad to gen up on flight control and spec. He is tuned into game consoles controllers, computer programs and touchscreen tablets. It should be up his street & Im setting him some “home schooling”

    I feel he may worry he will break it and “Piss me off”. But together we can see what it can do.

    The Archaeology team have used drones to photograph most of the digs (who wouldn’t) and Ariel reconnaissance. It’s all there in photographic form, printed and available.

    It’s a good idea you just gave me though. There’s a few farm tracks that take us to the airfield/ Dig boundary. (important part of the site, and one being dug by the “professionals” no public access at all.) Nothing to stop a drone looking from Public side of airspace and PRoW.

    I was also interested in metal detecting. Except not bending down every two foot to gig up can ring pulls. I originally bought my metal detector with the intention of strapping it to the electric wheelchair! No kidding. Pay a friend to do the digging or go halves on finds.

    I know I struggle swinging a petrol strimmer/brushcutter side to side. I had to resit a Lantra brush cutter test (ex-employer) I passed the practical test, but I had to lay down on the forest floor for the rest of the shift. So swinging a light metal detector about for a few hours is unchartered territory, never mind digging up the gold coins and ring pulls :(

    I had a email back this morning. I’ve been offered some experience in the artefact washroom. Depending where it is? I could sit down, but I also struggle with that. Although I would find exposing/handling these objects really interesting. So I may take them up on it.

  • These drought conditions are quite often the best time to spot anomalies on the ground from a height . my suggestion was serious albeit naive to think it had not been aerially surveyed in the past.

    I have a good friend that goes metal detecting or 'spooning' as its known locally and he has found many things , mostly olde coins on the ridgeway nr Uffington/Wantage some of which I believe he has in a museum in Oxford , quite fancy it myself but like you I have mobility issues due to my back.

  • These drought conditions are quite often the best time to spot anomalies on the ground from a height . my suggestion was serious albeit naive to think it had not been aerially surveyed in the past.

    I have a good friend that goes metal detecting or 'spooning' as its known locally and he has found many things , mostly olde coins on the ridgeway nr Uffington/Wantage some of which I believe he has in a museum in Oxford , quite fancy it myself but like you I have mobility issues due to my back.

    On that site the archaeology was clear for all to see, they had stripped the soil/subsoil off of probably 20 hectare at various points. Some, it was whole fields, some just scrapes. Test pits. They have traced a old unknown Roman road that intersects at a crossroads in the middle of the airbase. Around the crossroads is a huge settlement (larger than the original Roman City 4 crow miles away) so very important place at onetime. Including both Iron age, early Saxon settlements. In the road junction location is a rare Saxon longbarrow with unique posthole/end doorway arrangement. Unique in The UK and only found in Germany.

    Between the light gravel natural and the darker greyish brown Infill, it was very easy to see the archaeology, unmistakable, but they had gone one further. Blue paint strayed to the outside of every ditch, road way, hole, excavation and boundary, The size of which is so big, we could probably see it from window of the AL23 Stanstead to Amsterdam 5.30pm flight.

    I would really like to get out more places with the detector. Looks like the beach could be just the place for me. “Kids get your spades, your going on holiday” !!!

    I have a torpedo underwater metal detector I bought some years ago off of some divers. One that is lowered on a rope from the back of a boat. It’s 12volt car battery and must have a depth of 20 foot I recon. It’s olny audio signal but could be fun on the Cut.