Changing jobs in April.

As I am once again on the move. I do change my job like I change the sheets. It has come to my attention that whenever I change my job at this time of year there seems to be a ridiculous influx of offers.

Now I could be incredibly unrealistic and say it’s all thanks to my ability to do my job, but lets be pragmatic here. April is the start of the financial year. Everyone suddenly has an increased workload, just watch BAJR for those adverts flying up all over the place, everyone suddenly needs copious amounts of staff.

So my advice to those would be archaeologists, or would be ‘stepper-uppers’: Apply for everything, even those jobs you wouldn’t necessarily think you have a shot at, from the end of February onwards. Companies desperately need people. If you think you can do the job but just want a bit more training on something, then tell them that.

Offers come pouring in and options are an archaeologists best friend.

 

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Visiting more pretty things!

A lot of my free time is spent around stuff to do with archaeology… who me!?… I know right! Who would have thought it!?

 

So I took myself off touring Newark-on-Trent. Walked around, grabbed a couple of drinks, ate a roast dinner and most importantly went to the Civil War Museum, which is actually just the museum of Newark as well.

Lots of brilliant paintings depicting battles and scenes of the civil war going on that happened around Newark, but it also has the history (and pre-history) of Newark!

So firstly I saw some sites. Checked out the town.

Lots of pretty things. Old and slightly more modern. That tall chimney used to be for the church. The fancy looking building is the Corn Exchange and then of course the big one is Newark Castle.

Inside the museum…

  • There is a boys dormitory, dating back to the Tudor period, above is a selection of the graffitti which was still on the walls. (Apparently, the Walt Disney came to visit the area, just being down the road from a village called Norton Disney, and the chappy at the museum tried to tell me the R/B. Disney inscribed above was related… I wonder if his name was Robert and he went by Bob?)
  • There were canon balls (wish I had taken a photo)
  • There were Stewart era dressing up clothes, of course I put on the dress
  • There was a ‘mini-cinema’ where you could sit and watch 3 short films about people living in the Civil War era
  • You could even download an Augmented Reality app! I kid you not. You install it (which takes a month of Sundays) and then you can walk around the museum and town and utilise said augmented reality, can even get a painting of old Charlie boy himself talking!

But the piece de resistence… the Newark Torc.

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Now I’m not 100% happy with the way in which this is displayed, ie not with the rest of the pre-historic loveliness, completely displayed out of context, basically showcased as a “look at me, I’m big and shiny and made of gold”… ah well.

So there we have it. A round up of a trip to Newark 🙂

I visited Must Farm!

Luckily for me I was invited to go along to a little friends and family open day at  ‘Britain’s Pompeii’ (Daily Mail, 2015).

Back when a pipeline was being put in place and fragments of wood were pulled up in the foot wide trench, it was recognised to be something of interest, a note was made, should the quarry ever decide to extend, and in 2006 when a quarry expansion was planned the true identity and significance of Must Farm was revealed. Trail trenches were excavated and a plethora of late Bronze Age artefacts were retrieved, leading to the open area excavation currently taking place.

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Gone is the outstanding view of the Whittlesey McCain chip factory, a warehouse has been erected, water sprayers and scaffolding are at the ready. The site, being done by CUA, has been running since July 2015 and they’re now in the fight for more time (hence all of the outreach and open days to spread the word of site significance).

Three roundhouses (in blue), a palisade (in red) and a causeway (in green) have been revealed. The largest of the houses being almost 16m in diam. The three houses seem to be contemporary, or at least burnt down at the same time along with the palisade, but the causeway being around 100 years earlier.

The site is dated from 1300-1200BCE. All manner of specialists have been out to have a looksee, including, of course, those Flag Fen folks. Next week they have a shiny person going out to analyse and conclude whether the houses burnt down by accident or by arson. As of yet they’re keeping all of the specialist comments under wraps but a couple tid bits of gossip made it out. The content of the pots discovers in 2006 revealed food remains, a bizarre concoction of nettles and grains, I decided on a form of nettle bread and my housemates parents on nettle porridge; a well preserved box was lifted a couple of weeks ago and the skull of a child (no other bones) has been found under what appears to be the remains of the outer wall of the largest roundhouse.

The site looks good in the photos which have been spread across newspaper headlines and the bbc, but it can’t really compare to the reality. Stumbling across this open expanse of wood and you would think it freshly hewn and put together, bizarre levels of preservation! But here are a few of the best bits:

 

The largest of the roundhouses. (Note the half closest to the camera has started having its burnt down roof removed.) The palisade enclosing all 3 roundhouses, you’ll have to forgive the oblique section shot, but you can see the depth of the posts, they conducted a test and when the clay is wet the posts can be driven directly in without the need of cutting a posthole first, remains of the wattle and daub walls, having fallen inwards, every part of the house has collapsed in on itself, suggesting the fire started from within and the roof joinings, the one piece of wood has had a rectangular hole cut through its centre and a second piece of wood pushed through, the construction techniques show true wood working mastery.

Eep.. my review

After nearly 4 months of having my job, my probation is at an end! Huzzah.

I have been deemed passable.

So what have I learnt?

  • How not to murder an old man who is my terrible digger driver
  • How to laugh my way through some rather politically charged meetings
  • How to smile and delegate when in your head are simply the words “if you want something done right – do it yourself”
  • How to make each member of managements perfect cup of tea (I think that’s the clincher)
  • How bribery, such as buying ice cream and cookies, is far more effective than training (somehow things miraculously improve and become faster)

Things about my personality that my boss has learned

  • Apparently I can be quite bullish and when I get into that way I seem unwilling to listen to advice from my seniors, particularly if I ‘know’ I’m right (Who…me?)
  • That I can’t stay in my seat. If I’m locked indoors I find it very difficult to concentrate on a computer screen for longer than half an hour. I have to get up, have a chat or go and make a cup of tea… they noticed.
  • Apparently I have a lot of personality. Particularly being very chipper.

All the things which made up my review… notice how hardly any of them actually have anything to do with archaeology, and yet, form up nearly all of the aspects of what I need to be like to do my job.

As I move up the ‘ranks’ of professional archaeology it is sad that it becomes less and less about my ability to dig holes and draw them, but simply spend a lot of time on the phone and trying to restrain my attention deficit.

It’s not all glamour and treasure.

Well since the end of my amaza-site, I have had nothing but blank eval trenches. How the ups come down.

Over the last two and a half weeks I have completed 3 jobs and spent a lot of time in the office writing those reports. In fact it’s probably taken me longer to write the reports up than it took to complete the dig.

First job, got sent to the city of broken dreams (we all have that one place we vowed never to set foot in again. I got sent back to mine)… I went down to take over a colleagues site, he was moving house and needed to not ‘be away’

I arrived and 5/12 trenches had been completed, 4 more were blank and 3 were left to finish, a couple of days down in that pit of a city and the deed was done. Get back up to the office with a couple of days left to spare in the week and I had to stay in doors. Sad times.

Second job, get sent to the city of broken dreams again! Turns out these two eval jobs came as a sort of joint package because they want to build two schools next to each other. Off I go with two other people to do 250m of trenching.

Bish bash bosh, 2 fulls days and then a couple of hours on the third and we’re off again, out of 5 trenches I had two with archaeology in. What’s going on!? I get back to the office with days of the week to spare yet again and I have to be in doors.

This morning I head off for another away job, this time in the beautiful little town of Wall. I was meant to be there for two days. 4 hours on site, 3 test pits and a lot of phone calls later, jobs done, recorded, kit back in the van and back home for 4:30. Now got to spend the rest of the week in the office. Still writing reports.

The fickle life of an archaeologist.

From an amazing site and spending all my days out doors. To the odd days here and there out on site with blank trenches and becoming a computer jockey.

On the upside, come October 12th I’m going back to my amaza-site to complete phase 2. Bring back the barrows and Saxons.

Barrows and Saxons

I have just finished what will probably remain the most interesting site of my career. It has been intense and incredible.

This site started out as a tad headache, initially having to machine it in two phases because the evaluation trenching identified two archaeological horizons. So a couple of months ago I conducted an excavation of the ‘higher’ or shall I say latest archaeological features, to do this I had to spend 9 days in front of a machine while a tiny field was stripped of its topsoil. A lot of spoil was created for not much reward, I had a dry stone wall, a minor earth work and the remnants of a ditch. All of which could not be more than 200 years old.

So from that initial survey I held out little hope for the second phase. BUT me of little faith!…. Turns out in that second horizon of archaeological features there was a total platter of amazing stuff.

Firstly there were some big neolithic pits and a few meandering ditches.

Then came an early Bronze Age barrow – containing this beauty:

20150812_121136 a lovely collared urn

Into that narrow some Anglo-Saxons dug some graves and deposited some fabulous treasures.

20150813_08410120150826_132146 some brooches and some beads

And although the preservation of the human remains was pretty poor, there were some little pockets within the sand (stuff must have miraculously created its own micro-climate and managed to outlast 1400 years) where true treasures lay.

Below are pictures of some weave, believed to belong to a purse and something wooden, having collapsed and sealed its copper alloy grave goods. This is the true mystery, is it a box? is it a ladle? only time (and conservators) shall tell.

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Digitally my site resulted in this:

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Total geek.

In my first year of university I completed a module called Britain BC, of course I searched this in amazon for relevant literature and I found a book called Britain BC.

It is authored by a man named Francis Pryor. I found it accessible, sassy and above all interesting. What can be better than archaeology interwoven with anecdotes?

Well last night I met Francis Pryor. Some of you may have read his books, some of you may have watched him on TV. He is a thoroughly nice chap.

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