The Closing Ceremony

And yes, just like the Olympics, Silchester 2012 has come to an end. The final day of competition was not without drama as we raced to complete the 2 wells under excavation. We have the safety net of 2 days of digging with a skeleton crew next week…..but with so much to be done to put the site to bed, not a minute could be wasted.

Our final day was also a day of visits: Niall Sharples, Jane Timby, Paul Tyers, Mark Robinson, Norman Hammond to name but a few. I also had to hand out our headphones for the final time to lead a tour of the archaeology for the Chichester District Archaeology Society.

At 4.30pm Mike gave his final tour of the 2012 season – after 96 weeks of excavation in total! It has been a fantastically successful season – we all agree on that. It has been a hard season – we all agree on that too. But no gain without pain; I am sure Team GB would agree….It is often difficult – at the end of each season people ask me if we made any exciting discoveries. The answer to me is always ‘yes’ but I do find it hard to elaborate. Ours is not an excavation of wondrous things……we do not often (if ever!) gasp at discoveries made. But we have provided the necessary detail to weave a wonderful story, a story which will echo down the centuries long after our excavation trench is filled in, grassed and cowed over. We can tell the story of one part of a major settlement, a major town – in painstaking detail. We will be able to say how this town was planned and organised. We will be able to describe the buildings and say something about their function, their layout,their architecture. We will be able to draw a vivid picture of the people who lived in Insula IX as it developed from its earliest beginnings as a colony of incomers brought in on a wave of migration from the continent. We know what they ate…..we know what they wore……what they ate on and drank out of…we can guess at their beliefs and superstitions…we can build up a picture of their day to day lives. All these things and more. So yes, we have made exciting discoveries – discoveries of detail…and the wherewithal to tell a story of our ancestors based on a tapestry of hard work….through wind, rain, heatwaves and downpours. Each season our story grows ever richer.

The sign says it all…..

And the closing ceremony? Well, our End of Dig party of course! These parties are the stuff of legend now – due in no small part to my core staff who tirelessly organise this – from the important moment of deciding on a theme, to the booking of a band or disco, to the creation of a barbeque, to the setting up of the marquee… the provision of ambience and bonhomie. My thanks as ever for this must go to Dan, to Ben, to Nick, to Matt Lees and Matt Gittins, to Hen…to name just a few. Thank you everyone – the End of Dig party is always an evening to remember (or not, as the case may be!).

This year the theme was Hot/Wet in celebration of Silchester’s interesting meteorological conditions in 2012. As ever this theme was very broadly interpreted and executed. We saw……lobsters, penguins……Nick as a jellyfish with electrical fronds which lit up as he floated through the marquee…..we saw rays of sunshine and clouds…..we saw a tap (great costume Amanda M!)…..we saw wet suits, divers, bikinis and grass skirts…we saw inhabitants of hot countries (Mike in full African costume)…pirates, fish…..Captain Ahab and Moby Dick (Jon, as ever, playing the part to its fullest extent) and maybe an eskimo or two. I did not have my camera with me so your imagination will have to do. As for me…..well, I ran out of time and inspiration, but here I am:

Cap’n Clarke

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