perfect practicals

I can finally say I’ve taken part in some of the practical elements in my course! I just wish the weather had been nicer while I did them! (It’s meant to be summer, where is the sun? Why so much rain?)

Due to COVID restrictions we were split into groups where half began on excavation and the other half post excavation, I was among the later group. Although it seems odd to do post excavation work before doing the actual excavation, I really enjoyed the experience! We began by cleaning finds from a previous sight as the finds found on our current sight had to be quarantined for 48 hours before we could touch them. The artefacts were largely bone yet there were a few bits of pottery, CBM and metal. Some required more cleaning than others. I don’t think I will ever forget the expression on my group mate's face when he pulled out what at first seemed to be just a solid lump of mud. There was in fact part of a horse skull under it all, but it took several hours of cleaning to find that out! We also took part in finds bagging and cataloging. Tasks that would have been far easier if the wind hadn’t kept blowing the bags away! Despite the weather, and my group's struggles putting up the gazebo (we maintain it was broken before our group tried to assemble it! ) I really enjoyed post excavation!

Next, the two halves swapped and my group started working on excavating. After a very detailed safety briefing (I had no idea how dangerous a dig could be) and an explanation of what tools we would have (and how to use them) we were set to work. If I thought I had gotten muddy from cleaning finds I had no idea what was awaiting me in excavation! The rainy weather made for a very bog like trench and unfortunately we had to leave early on multiple days. Our supervisor has taken to calling the trenches after world war battles- hopefully no one actually gets trench foot though! The day I got the most muddy was when we took part in a field walking exercise. I sank down to my ankles and had to be rescued by one of my fellow group members- at least I found some bone though! So far I would say I prefer the post excavation side of things, so at the very minimum this experience has allowed me to learn that. But in reality I’ve learned a lot in just this small amount of time, it’s just been so wonderful to have some in person learning after a year of computer screens.


Author information

Antonia Thompson White
University of York |