Lesson in environmental archaeology

And so, our final day. We started with a session with Naomi on environmental archaeology which is the study how the environment can be used to study human impact. We got to look at lots of bones – birds, mammals and human. I learned how to spot a male or female skull and, teeth willing, how to tell if a person has suffered long periods of sickness. It was an excellent session, Naomi’s enthusiasm being a big factor in this. She LOVES her bones!

It was then off to the flotation tank. This is a big drum that empties into two smaller trays with small screens across them. These sit one above the other and catch anything that floats to the surface of the big drum and cascade into these smaller trays. The water eventually collects in another big drum which pumps out.

What happens is a sample of a context is taken and put into a net in the big drum and is manipulated with the hands until bits float up and collect. Most of us had a go, dipping our hands in and squidging the dirt between our fingers. It was very cold water!

Naomi and her flotation tank

At 11 it was back to the site for morning break then back to some digging. Peter put Nigel, Bryan and I digging out a cut of the ditch. A lot of clay, heavily compacted, made it very hard going and also, not a lot of finds. It was particularly hard sieving every 3rd barrow. A break for lunch then back to it. Beside us (near Bev’s beautifully dug out posthole) David Rudkin started trowelling out around what we thought was a bit of tile. It turned out to be an amphora, maybe buried whole, that had collapsed in on itself. He took a sample from inside it and sent it for analysis to try and determine what was in it. The amphora extends out of the trench and beneath the baulk wall so they’ll have to drop a trench onto it. All very exciting.

After our coffee break, we all got our certificates then had our evaluations with David. We chatted about good and bad things with the week (there wasn’t a lot of bad) along with suggestions to improve it in the future. A few were posited and discussed. David is a lovely, enthusiastic man and a pleasure to have worked with. I hope I can do so again! He then had to bolt for Bolton – don’t know why. We went back to our ditch and cleaned it up in time to pack up for the final time.

Steve left at afternoon break and Sam and Rachel left when we got back to camp.

Had some left over sausages and salad for tea then off to the Bulls Head for the usual beer. Met Nigel and Chris there shortly followed by Bev and Bryan. We sat drinking and chatting until first Nigel (he of the extreme views on marriage), then Bev (she of parachuting prowess) left.

We were then joined by Peter, Caroline, Emmie and Gill (volunteer) who had been into Chichester for dinner. We left at closing time (again) following a spirited discussion of my extraordinary views of mankind. Peter accused me of doing it deliberately in order to inspire a lively discussion and keep him there drinking more beer – smart bastard! Bryan left us and we wandered back to the camp where we finished off in the portacabin discussing the dangerous fauna of Australia. Bed at about 1.30am.

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