Opening the excavation
On Monday we started work on the archaeological dig at Greenhill Primary School in Leeds (West Yorkshire, UK). There are several ways to go at this. You could, for instance, dig one long thin trench and range the pupils down one side. Myself, I prefer to dig a number of 2.0m x 2.0m trenches 2.0m apart. It might be easier from the point of view of ‘crowd control’ to keep an eye on a single row of children but it can cause archaeological problems: if you don’t have a large enough area exposed you’re not likely to be able to identify archaeological feature when you do come across them. Besides it’s the way that other archaeologists do it when they want to test a theory by excavation: only they obscure the fact by calling their 2.0m x 2.0m excavations sondages, instead of test pits or small-scale excavations.
Monday’s work went well. The weather was good for the time of year and the children made a substantial number of finds. Most of the items recovered were mid to late 20th century in date though some of the pottery could perhaps have been Victorian. The latter half of the 20th century may not seem that long ago to you or I but for many of these children it is an impossibly long time ago. After all it’s before their parents were born!
And bad weather
Tuesday’s weather was not so good. In fact for most of the day it rained so badly that I didn’t want to get the camera out for fear of damaging the electronics. The children, on the other hand, could not have cared less. Finds came in more slowly too. There were a few pieces of pottery, some cinder and some very small fragments of brick, but nobody complained at all. Children enjoy digging and, as I’ve said before,, archaeological excavations get children enthused. Even if you offer them the opportunity to go back inside, most of the time they won’t want to.
Why is gingerbread worse than mud?
After the children had gone home, we were stacking the tools in readiness to stow them away into the van when a couple of cleaners came into the room. Naturally we began to apologize about the mess. ‘We’re not bothered about the mud,’ said one of them. ‘We can deal with that. It’s that gingerbread those people have been making: it gets absolutely everywhere’.
And the Trinity students themselves. What did they think of the whole thing? ‘I’ve never been so muddy,’ said one of them ‘but it’s been really good’.