Baptism of fire?

Today my Visitors’ Team came into their own…..Day 2 and we were expecting a site visit from 80 children, aged 7 to 10 years old, from Woodley School. Laura, my Visitor Manager, had paled visibly when I told her the numbers – but she and Michelle rose admirably to the occasion and organised 5 activities, each run by a student…and the children loved it. We were inundated by small people in blue blazers who dug in the sandpit with Charlie, dressed up in togas with Simon, handled finds with Helena, learned drawing techniques with Jemima and walked the site with Michelle. The rain stayed off and the children behaved impeccably.

Meanwhile, on site everyone settled into their Supervisors’ teams….areas were cleaned and tactics were discussed. Just after lunch I ran a session on Single Context recording in St. Mary’s Church… we disentangle and write about the myriad of units of archaeology we have in our 55m by 55m square trench….I divided our 50 plus newcomers into 3 groups and gave each group 5 minutes to describe – objectively – a familiar object, as if to someone who will never see it. Surprisingly difficult when you are not allowed to interpret – but must, simply, describe. As field archaeologists we must learn to write about the archaeology in simple descriptive terms – size, shape, texture, colour… IS important (and motivating) to interpret…..but the interpretation should not overwhelm, lead, influence the description. It is a skill that can be learnt.

We left the church to gathering clouds, and back on site the heavens opened and washed out the remaining hour and a half of the working day. But think what good the torrential rain will do to our parched archaeological deposits….we will wake tomorrow to a freshly coloured site….which, I hope, will inspire everyone to great descriptive heights…..

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