Finding Roman roads

First day of our Liss dig. Met Vietta who told us we were the wrong people. Personally I think Vietta should have her own TV show. I liked her immediately.

The site has two massive (dare I say ‘brand new’?) tents. One for breaks and lunch and the other for the Site Director and finds personnel. All very swish and, hopefully, waterproof. I bet there’s a few jealous weasels.

At the beginning of each day’s work, George, our illustrious site director (he was a supervisor at Fishbourne when we were there though, obviously, he wouldn’t remember me), took us through the health & safety schpiel. He repeated this every day and it’s interesting how much funnier it was the first day. Not because I got used to it but because George became bored with the jokes, I think.

Park and ride

The portaloos (of which there are six) are emptied on separate days so each morning Colin will tell us the “toilets of choice”, these being the nicest. All of them seem fine – even Dawn (official portaloo testing weasel) approved.

Next George called forth the supervisors (Ken, John, Jonathan and Antony) who, apart from Antony, were all old enough to guarantee a certain respect. I’m going to state right here that there were no students on this dig. Antony was the only person dressed like an eco-warrior reject fallen from his tree. Being alone, it meant he could act like an adult and not a wanker. Proves what I say about packs of students!!

And one more thing! I dug for five days and did not once see any thongs either on feet or disgustingly visible buttocks! Oh, sheer bliss is a civilised dig. But back to George…

People who had dug previously (this year) were to return to their supervisor while us new-tons were divvied out. Dawn and I were given to Ken, who firstly walked us all the way out to the trench before telling us we’d need trowels, buckets, kneeling pads and coal shovels which were back in the lock-up where we’d just walked from. We all walked back and tooled up.

Dawn and I managed to wangle a spot next to each other in the trench containing the north east corner of the aisled hall, scraping and trowelling. That is until Ken suggested some mattocking was in order. Cue to mad mattocker (does every dig have one?). Instead of the 50cm Ken wanted, MM removed at least 500! He removed so much natural you could have built a sandpit (sand being the natural – natural is the level after which you will find no more archaeology).

Shortly after this I was moved to a long trench, given a mattock and, with two other poor guys, told to prove Ken’s theory that there was nothing there. I have to say here that it’s one thing digging madly and finding nothing and quite another actually expecting to find it! Sort of futility upon foolishness. EXCEPT! We found something.

After mattocking for a bit, being the most experienced (!!) I was nominated to start trowelling while the other two kept going with the heavy weaponry. I just scraped away, having a fine old time, listening to George teach groups of school kids about ancient worlds. I better explain!

And that’s a big hole in the ground

Every day a group of school kids visited the site. They were divided into groups which would take part in different activities (including George’s travelling tuition). After a while they would swap around.

Anyway, just near to where I was scraping, an odd piece of metal was protruding from the ground. It had been discovered the previous week and been christened Excalibur due to it’s aspect. The kids, on being told it’s name, would then ask why George didn’t pull it out of the ground, to which he replied “because I’m not the one true king of England” which seemed to satisfy them. To be honest I heard a few theories about what this is (it was obviously iron but the shape is clearly unclear), my two favourites are:

  1. It’s a gladius or Roman gladiator’s short sword; and
  2. One of those stakes that farmers use to run electric fences around cattle (quote from Ray: “I mean look, you can see the round ceramic disk”)

I just continued scraping away until Ken came by and claimed I’d uncovered a Roman B road (“The BXIV?” I quipped) and to stop with my trowelling and start mattocking the other half of the trench! To be honest I couldn’t really see the road but the ground was slightly discoloured in an unnatural way so…actually by the end of the week it turned out to possibly be the remains of a central courtyard within the villa complex of either three of four buildings!

Ken thought I’d maybe found a pothole as well but, again he wasn’t very convincing. Or convinced. He is a bit obsessed with his mosaics. Last week someone accidentally found a bit of tessera when digging a bit too deep and Ken is convinced any level of dirt coloured black with flecks of white is an indication of a mosaic. Fingers crossed! But we haven’t seen one yet…

By the end of the day I was totally knackered! But so nice to go home and hop straight into a hot, full force power shower.

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