The Power of Pottery

The rain clouds had drawn in when we set foot on the excavation site for the first time early on Monday morning, and there was a steady downpour as we were talked through our initiation into archaeological excavation. It was my first time on an excavation, and at that point, the weather was a perfect match for my mood. Field archaeology had never held much interest for me so the prospect of early mornings and long days didn’t fill me with much joy. To top it all off my group happened to have the only site that hadn’t been machine dug beforehand meaning the hard graft was left entirely in our cold, damp hands. Within no time at all I was intimately familiar with our small 10 x 2 meter  trench.

De-turfing the trench.
Trench D, as we began de-turfing. (Photo: Isobel F. Christian)

 

Trench on my final day
Trench D, at the end of the third day. (Photo: Isobel F. Christian)

Throughout our first day the weather continued to improve and with it so did my mood, my body was aching and sore having not gone through such physical labour before.but the satisfaction when our patch of grass slowly evolved into a trench you might find on Time Team, was not something I had expected to feel. Despite the fact I only spend three days in the on the dig; my entire view of field work definitely did a 180 degree turn.

My first find!
Me with my first archaeological find. (Photo: Jessica Cousen)

The key moment for this I think was the fact that during the first 2 hours of our hard work we found no finds, no pottery, coins, or anything else other than a few worms and some interesting looking stones. But at the end of the first day while cleaning the trench ready to mattock down to the next level I spotted something in the ground. A small insignificant piece of pottery, but honestly in that moment I felt so elated and excited, that the idea of spending my day in the mud and rain didn’t matter anymore because the moment you discover something untouched by human hands for hundreds of years is so enticing I knew I’d had a change of heart.

Despite my unexpected new found love for excavation, the course I have chosen to study at university is Archaeology and Heritage, so my time on the dig was only short as the heritage students began our own digital field school. The idea of studying Heritage is one that I have been wanted to pursue since I was 16 years old, and had my first guided tour around Kings Manor, the archaeology campus at the University of York. History as a subject has always been my favourite, as a child I devoured all kinds of books, tv shows, films to do with anything historical and my parents were constantly taking me on holiday to visit historical buildings, and sites as well as Museums. The one thing I never enjoyed though was the endless displays with boring fonts and language which were inaccessible to anyone who wasn’t well educated and well-read in all areas of the historical and archaeological spectrum. Whenever I found a museum which I could enjoy, it excited me so much; places like Jorvik were my haven. I think my want to study heritage stems from wanting history and archaeology to be something accessible to everyone, as a subject it interests me so much I want to be able to create things which will allow others to experience that same joy and excitement.

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