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Why I love boring post-excavation

After our day of archaeology blog-a-thon last week this Friday evening we have our first post-excavation contribution for this blog. Tonight we are introducing Beth Williams. The lab has been filled with various music tastes over the last two weeks and when what’s on is not to her taste, Beth spends her time, whilst marking pottery, wearing the most amazing yellow earphones.   

Hey Everybody, I’m Beth and I’m a Cardiff University student going into my third year, (already!). I am currently doing a one month placement here at the university concentrating on post-excavation work.  I really love it.

Last year I went on a one month excavation to Brodsworth, all the way up North. The experience was wicked. I loved it. Occasionally you’d find yourself feeling fed up, but for the most part the days were full of comical memories to share with your fellow archaeologists as I have also encountered on this placement, (including the memories influenced by alcohol). Anyways, I decided this year to take on a different approach to archaeology, delving into the skills of post excavation work. I was lucky enough to do a little bit of post-ex and finds work when I was up in Brodsworth and since then decided it was definitely something I wanted to learn more about, so here I am now.

I personally feel that getting to learn about the two sides of archaeology is extremely useful and dynamic. Not only can I learn from being out on site, but I can also get my hands dirty (as I have found out whilst using paraloid solution!) behind the scenes looking at, and learning about what happens to the finds that have been pulled out of the ground.

Post excavation has proved to be everything I was expecting, slow yet rewarding, frustrating yet challenging and most of all you are always learning. I have picked up skills that I will take on with me into my career. I am still not 100% sure what I am going to go on to do but I feel museum work will be my calling.

Thousand of sherds marked, so many more to go.

Thousand of sherds marked, so many more to go.

So what have I been up too, well It has been a solid two weeks now and I have been doing all sorts: digital archiving, marking pottery (a lot of it!), sorting pottery and metal finds, cross fitting with various contexts, scanning plans from previous excavations, learning how to correctly identify pottery, and helping to prepare equipment for excavations coming up. So in a way sort of pre-excavation work as well.

My favourite thing so far has been learning to identify pottery properly. This has expanded my knowledge greatly although I am still trying to grasp it all, but it is great knowing what you are actually handling. For example I can now tell the difference between medieval and post–medieval, between local and non-local pottery, and I am even able to point out French pottery too. Oooh la la! It has been pretty cool using the microscope to look at the different elements that make up the pottery I am studying, especially when your human eyes think two fragments are the same and then the microscope shows you otherwise. I have also enjoyed the cross fitting of pottery from different contexts because even though it is a slow process and can be highly frustrating, when you do manage to actually fit pieces together you feel like you have truly achieved something even if it did take you 2 hours just to put two pieces together. What I haven’t enjoyed as much was the digital archiving, typing up context sheets and photo registers, a very long process but it has to be done and is a very important part of the post-ex process.

The time and effort that goes into post excavation really does make you appreciate the hard work that people carry out, and it is most definitely something I would love to go on and do. With another two weeks to go, I’m sure there is plenty more for me to learn. I think we are doing environmental work next week, so a lot of wet sieving. It has been good to share my experience through this blog and I hope you enjoy reading what my fellow colleagues and I on this placement have to say.

Thank you for reading!



About Cosmeston Students

We are the student labour at the Cardiff University excavations of Cosmeston Medieval Manor.


2 thoughts on “Why I love boring post-excavation

  1. Now this stuff interests me, keep blogging Beth!

    Posted by Monastic Dave | August 5, 2011, 10:35 pm
  2. Thanks for your (Not boring) update Beth,and as I said previously it brings back many meories when working For Worcester Archaeology.Once you have got the bug for pottery, or should I say its got you. Then go for it, and good luck if you decide to go for museum work. I am still working on pottery here in Crete cos its still got me.

    Posted by ritaroberts | August 6, 2011, 12:37 pm

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