Day 1 and counting!

This week we have 122 people on site: 55 people who have never been before, 30 who have and 37 members of staff. The first day of the season is always a daunting one….so it helps when the weather is clear and sunny…which today is. The first morning all Supervisors are on site in their respective areas, getting ready for the arrival of their teams. I spend the morning introducing all newcomers to the way this site works…..we run on lists and rotas…..list of lists and rotas of rotas. I give a site tour to all newcomers – walking them around the site and pointing out the colours, the textures which together make up a tale of 2 towns: the early Roman town still on view in the south-east corner of the trench, and the late Iron Age town, now emerging in the west side of the excavation. It is a complicated story and rather than throw lots of complicated explanations to a slightly shell shocked audience (after a first night under canvas) I spend the hour showing them the more obvious features on site: the Roman streets marching north-south/east-west across the trench, the diagonal Iron Age lanes, the blackened, reddened hearths in the centre of the small Roman workshops, the clusters of pits, latrines and wells which dot the site. I then give a catch-up site tour to all of those who have been before – this one has more detail, and I talk about the aimsĀ  and the complications of the forthcoming season. Can we identify a short military occupation of Silchester (after AD43)? What do the clayfloored buildings emerging in the centre of the site look like – their date, their function? Can we ascertain the limits of the early Roman workshops in the south-east area? What preceded the Iron Age lanes – and can we begin to identify the Iron Age occupation in the centre of the site? Meanwhile all newcomers are with the Finds team and the Science @ Silchester teams, learning the basics of finds processing and environmental sampling. This is followed by the compulsory Health and Safety briefing – most people by now swooning in the heat of the marquee…it is a hot day. Lunch courtesey of Jean and Maisie follows….doorstop sandwiches, fruit and chocolate…and by 2pm EVERYONE is on site. I enjoy this moment – the site is carpeted with people, all learning, all focussed, all involved. It is a good feeling after months of preparation. We are there and digging has begun. Everyone spends the afternoon getting to know their areas and testing the weight of their trowels. We pause briefly after tea for a talk about the assessment all students are undertaking – and then at 5.30 the day ends. Already everyone looks different – sunburnt noses and grazed dusty knees. Short work is made of the university caterers’ dinner – pasta and salad and potatoes – and the sun goes down on a tired workforce. Thuderstorms forecast for tomorrow!

Su and Lisa show off the first find of the season: an early Roman cremation pot

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