Archaeology: Come for the Dig, Stay for the Puns

A few months ago, I emailed one of my lecturers and asked if I could please, since I had to do more classroom archaeology next year, despite my degree being sociology and anthropology, for complicated reasons, pretty please would they let me come on the Durotriges Big Dig, three days a week? After some discussion and my reminding them that I'm a star student, they said yes.

I thought this would be a good way to get some field work done and learn more about what I've only studied in lectures and books. Plus, I've always liked the idea of archaeology. It looks like fun.

Fun it is! This week I've met some amazing people. The Big Dig draws serious archaeologists - who all seem to be incredibly friendly, knowledgeable and kind, willing to answer questions and offer encouragement. There are also 'bucket list' people from as far away as Australia who have always wanted to channel their inner Indiana Jones and do serious supervised archaeology. One young lady got her ticket along with a little trowel for Christmas, and has been waiting for months. Some are regulars, coming along every year to dig and enthuse.

I've been informed that the tiny bones may belong
to little toads that long ago fell into the pit
we are excavating.
My ground-breaking* theory is that we have
discovered an ancient lost tribe of toad worshippers
who dug enormous pits where they buried their Tiny
Toad Gods. Look out for my upcoming
paper** on this exciting new discovery. 
Besides being great fun for geeks of all kinds, archaeology is very hard work. Crossfit has nothing on archaeology. Stooping and standing a hundred times, hoisting buckets of flint and chalk out of pits, running up the spoils heap with wheelbarrows - all in the sun and rain from 9 to 4.30 - make for a long day and an early night. You'll need sharp eyes and passion. You'll need to bring sustaining sandwiches to eat while you are collapsed in a heap during the lunch break. You'll need sturdy boots, sunblock, rain gear... and everything will be caked with chalk, or mud, or both, at the end of the day. But then you'll get seriously cool finds, which make it all worth the effort.

I thought this would be fun, and it is, but it's also been very informative. I love the way the site has been inhabited over so many thousands of years. I love the sudden silence, almost reverence, when something really good is found. Seeing the layers appear in our pit has been eye-opening for me. I thought I was doing archaeology units for kicks - but my pit in Trench F has given me a lot to think about. If you happen to be stuck for a birthday or Christmas gift, I'd definitely suggest a week on the dig. There are still tickets available, with two more weeks to go, and I've heard that Dorset residents get a discount. Probably because we've just dug up half their field.

And if anyone asks "how's it going?" the correct answer is "down!"

*Pun alert
**I am not a real archaeologist. Don't listen to me.  


Anonymous said…
Years ago my mother did this while in college. She also went to the LaBrea Tar Pits. I've never had the urge, but I do appreciate the finds!