It’s been a great few weeks for growing my archaeology skills!
First, the two week dig at Vinegarth in Epworth with IoAHC, then a fantastic week with Mercian Archaeological Services at their training field school (http://mercian-as.co.uk/fieldschool.html) Andy, Sean and David certainly know their craft. They presented the course in an accessible, fun and creative way with a good balance of practical tasks and brilliantly delivered talks and demonstrations; as well as evening outings to Sherwood Forest and places of interest in the surrounding area.
I arrived at their ‘Tin Tabernacle’ base on the ‘King John’s Palace’ site in the beautiful village of King’s Clipstone on the first morning, not knowing quite what to expect. The welcome from the Mercian team was warm, with coffee provided by Roy (the onsite caterer…I’ll say more about him and his culinary skills further on…) and the training group was a lovely mix of all ages and experience. We had a lighthearted and relaxed welcome talk and introductions – then a site tour and a fascinating background history of the medieval palace site and how it functioned and related to the surrounding area. This set the field school into a lovely context as part of the long-standing research and hard work by Mercian, who are a not-for-profit, Community Interest organisation. Their ethos is outstanding. They have a firm emphasis on research, community engagement, training and education – all underpinned by their very obvious passion for the local Sherwood Forest archaeology and history
‘King John’s Palace’ – King’s Clipstone, Nottinghamshire.
The course itself was amazing, with depth and meticulous attention to detail in all aspects of core skills such as excavation, context sheet recording, plan and section drawing and site photography, and secondary skills such as finds processing. I loved the pottery and small finds identification sessions, and the animal, vegetable, mineral’ object quizzes….and we even got to have a go at flint-knapping at the end of the week. I think I might manage a stone tool or two now, should things get apocalyptic… 🙂 Seriously, it was great fun.
We learned a massive amount in the space of a week. The teaching involved not just the correct processes, but also the whys, the wherefores and often the maths (yes, maths!) behind technical approaches such as trench layout from co-ordinates, use of dumpy level, total station, and so on. Now, I don’t have a particularly refined maths brain, and it’s a (very) long time since my GCSEs but Andy presented it in such a way that we could apply and use it effectively. I was pretty impressed that his approach made it stick!
Getting my head around Total Station…
The excavation part of the course was interesting and rewarding…finding and identifying medieval pottery and other small finds on a medieval site is always exciting. We didn’t find the boundary wall structure that we were looking for, but there was still a depth to go at the end of our training week and the changes in stratigraphy in the trench were starting to look rather interesting. I wish I could have been there for longer! It was a fantastic experience and I came away feeling a lot more confident in my developing skills.
Great to find some medieval South Yorkshire coal measures pottery in the heart of Nottinghamshire!
Now I have to talk about the food. Oh goodness me. Roy, the site caterer, is a magician. A two course hot meal every day cooked onsite in a tent, ranging from full-on roast dinners to kebabs, cottage pie and fish and chips and some rather naughty puddings. His homemade cinnamon sponge with homemade jam has custard was divine. I think there must have been some ex-army field catering experience there…but the food he produced every day was amazing and delicious. I was fully prepared to end the week looking like a house side. I didn’t…but it’s a wonder!
So then. I’d highly recommend this wonderful field school set amongst all the history and legend of Sherwood Forest. A huge thanks to Sean, Andy and David for all the support and effort that goes into their teaching and course development…and to Roy for keeping us all fed!
For me, back to dissertation work and relentless job seeking. Keeping fingers, toes…and probably eyes crossed too on that if it helps any!