Blog by David Mannion, University of Toronto, Canada
After finishing my first week on this archaeological excavation—which is also my first—I have both thoroughly enjoyed myself and have learned lots. My first task once stepping on site was to remove a baulk to assess whether or not suspected floor slabs at the north end of the cutting were a continuous feature under the baulk. It took nearly two full days to meticulously remove the baulk layer by layer, but now I can say I have mastered my trowelling technique. Although I could have yielded the same final result in a matter of minutes by simply kicking the baulk down; it would have been less accurate to document and likely frowned upon.
By mid-week—after reaching a layer of compacted earth—it became necessary to map out the cutting before digging further. This job also turned out to be a meticulous and time consuming task as every feature and stone larger than a fist had to be precisely recorded on the map. This often entailed taking four or five measurements on a single stone to insure its exact position was documented. Although this process became a lot easier, and more accurate, when working with a group. My initial contribution to the team was to hold a makeshift plumb-line—constructed of a rusty nail and a piece of string—over points in the cutting that needed to be measured, which become considerably more difficult went the wind picked up. We were also taught how to use the level to calculate the heights of various key features in our planning.
After working hard all week Fin took us on a field trip to the Hill of Tara. The site was beautiful and very impressive in its expanse. Albeit, every photograph I took turned out to just look like a flat green field, as my camera was too cheap to distinguish between the slight trenches and mounds extending through most of the site.
We were also followed by a group of other people visiting Tara, who thought Fin was an official tour guide and were eavesdropping on her lecture. However, soon realizing they understood very little of Fin’s lecture—due to the high concentration of archaeological terms—they sauntered on to find a less verbose tour guide.
All in all, I have learned a lot in my first week on the dig and I look forward to making more progress at Black Friary next week.