We dig the Castle – A day in the life of a trainee archaeologist
9:15 – Arrived early as I am pathetically excited about getting my hands dirty again at the dig. Got mistaken for part of another group and nearly got whisked away by them to go and have a look around the Castle – luckily I spot other people who are more dressed for digging: sturdy boots, long trousers and at least one guy with an ‘I love Archaeology t’-shirt.
9:30 – Collected by Laura and taken around to the dig site. They have extended it a fair bit since last year and I can’t wait to get going.
9:45 – Get ‘tooled up’. I’m shown where I can get my hard hat, high vis vest and my gloves (safety first!) and given the grand tour. Interesting hearing about some of the new finds and developments and what the plans are for this year.
10:00 – Trowelling. I’m given my bucket, a trowel and a kneeling pad and put to work cleaning up the debris that has covered the top of the visible archaeology, having been washed in from all the rain over the previous days. Given pointers on what to do and warned to be really careful about the edges of the sections as they are really fragile.
10:30 – More trowelling… given a few more pointers about getting in to all the nooks and crannies so that we can see exactly what we have on the site. This will help decisions to be made on which bits to dig next.
11:00 – Still trowelling. Now this might not seem very exciting but I really enjoy bringing out some of the shapes and colours for the dig. I’m also finding small shards of pottery and pipe as I go. I don’t know much about pottery but I’m pretty sure that one piece is some Nottingham salt glaze stoneware, probably 18th century and Laura thinks the other piece is some green glazed pot – probably 12th/13th century.
Tea break – Today's theme was... songs containing food. I feel shame when the best I can do is the Ketchup song! Still tea, biscuits and a bit of daft banter – can’t go wrong really!
12:00 – Trowelling some more. Managed to get a few fragments of animal bone - looked like a herbivore's tooth to me.
1:00 – Lunch time. It’s the leftovers from ‘Posh Lunch Thursday’ so as well as my own lunch there are cakes, sweets and for the others ( I have a bit of an aversion to stinky cheese) some very fine (or so I’m told) brie and crackers.
2:00– Flotation, No, this isn’t where all the archaeologists strip off and get into big blue flotation tanks to relax! It’s a way of pulling out more things from the soil samples. By pouring the soil samples through different grades of mesh in a big barrel of running water you can find smaller fragments of man-made materials and stones. Things like seeds and bits of plant material will then float, so that different specialists may be able to aid in the dating and interpretation of different sections of the dig.
3pm – Found the tiniest fragment of Cistercian ware. It’s a dark black brown pottery that was quite popular during the 16th and 17th centuries. And a piece of worked flint. OK, so it was only a bit that had been chipped off whatever it was they were working on, but it’s still quite exciting for me. I watch as some alterations are made to the site plan to show some of the different features that are coming through as a result of the work that we are doing. From above you can really see the variation in the soils and infill across the site, and down in the trench I can feel the change in resistance of the different soil types. The dark, blackish brown stuff is difficult to move and tightly packed, the lighter brown is more easily dug and then the light sandy orange stuff, which is where most of the finds are coming from, is really soft. In fact, it's so soft that it makes it difficult keeping the level in the trench.
4pm – Home time. I’m grubby, I'm tired, I ache like an achy thing, I’m not used to all this hard work malarkey – but I have had a fantastic day. Really would have loved to have been able to go back and do more another day, but am looking forward to going and helping out as an Explainer in the last week of the dig.
Cara – aka Musket