Breaking Rocks in the Hot Sun

Breaking Rocks in the Hot Sun

Where have you been?

Things may have looked quiet on the surface recently, but there’s been a lot going on at Past Participant Towers over the last month or so. There’s a lot of catching up to do.

The end of term seems to have signalled a real change.

We dig deep holes…

You may have noticed some odd pictures cropping up on Facebook and wondered what’s been going on. Well, it’s dead simple: I’ve been doing a stint as a professional archaeologist.

Archaeologist's trowel

Archaeologist’s trowel

I’ve been working in various heritage roles for so long now that it’s easy to forget that this is where I came from. I have two archaeology degrees, that’s five years of studying. However, I’ve not wielded a trowel in anger since 2003, so people I’ve known and worked with for a long time don’t realise that my background is in digging holes. That always comes as a surprise.

When people ask me what my background is I usually reply that I’m a reformed archaeologist. It’s always been a useful part of my skillset as a heritage educator. It gives me the ability to talk about a wide range of historic, prehistoric and environmental subjects with a sense of authority.

So, when the opportunity came up this summer to re-acquaint myself with a mattock, I jumped at the chance. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I really wasn’t sure whether I could still cut it after thirteen years out of the trenches. However, it was a chance to put my money where my mouth is, which is a challenge I can’t ignore.

…And fill ‘em up again.

So I donned my hard hat and flash vest and got ready to get dirty on an active construction site.

Three men in a pit

Three men in a pit

I’ve been re-familiarising myself with pits, fills, context sheets, plans and sections.

I’ve been enjoying working at the sharp-end of heritage as well as becoming the site expert in identifying ancient tree-throws (mostly by digging them).

I’ve even got to excavate my first skeleton in a very long time, albeit a lamb burial.

Lamb burial with trowel for scale

Trowel for scale

Some of it felt instantly familiar. Some of it far less so. It’s been over fifteen years since I last worked on a commercial site.

Working on a construction site has also helped me keep my engagement skills sharp. Many of the builders and digger drivers were really keen to know what we were up to. Often they’d drive their 9 tonne tippers right up to our pits to find out. Cheers for that.

It was a lot of fun to meet new people and enjoy the camaraderie that comes from a shared experience.

It was also pleasing to feel that I’ve still got it. Kind of.

And we never, ever, find a thing.

Working on a clean-stripped chalk site in the hottest weather of the summer has been…errr….challenging but rewarding. Hefting a mattock in 35 degrees of blazing sun with no shade was, I’ll admit, not a great deal of fun.

Desperately seeking shade

Desperately seeking shade

It’s has been good exercise and I reckon I’ve stored up enough Vitamin A to get through the winter.

But, I hear everyone ask, did you find anything?

Well….kind of. There was some cool stuff. There were several burials, there were things that may well have been Iron Age houses. There was even a Romano-British ditch.

There was also a lot of dross. By which I mean that, when you’re investigating things, a lot of the things you dig up turn out to be nothing much. Or, in my case, the boles of trees long gone.

That’s how I earned my nickname “The Tree Throw King” which was, I hope, meant affectionately.

I have also thoroughly enjoyed the experience of stopping off on my way home with me site kit on, hard hat & flash vest strapped to my back, covered in filth for a free cup of coffee in Waitrose. The looks I got were priceless.

The last days of summer

Sadly, all good things come to an end. It’s now time to refocus Past Participants on our core business. So I have, once again, hung up my trowel and returned to the office.

It’s going to be a busy and exciting few months. I’ll be keeping you up to date with the excitement as I get a chance.

Enjoy the photos.


Posted by Past Participants Andy in Uncategorised, 0 comments