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VOLUNTEER'S PERSPECTIVE - WEEK 3

by Miranda - 18:12 on 30 July 2014
 
Unlike the preceding blog entries, this one is written by a newcomer to the world of archaeology - I'd never been nearer to a dig than seeing one on my TV until last week, but as a part-time resident of Cromarty I came along,took the tour and the next thing I knew I had a trowel and bucket and was sharing a trench with the eagle-eyed Sorley.  So this is a very uninformed view of the dig, which I shall write backwards from highest to lowest.
 
This morning I arrived to see the highest object so far - Cathy's gyrocopter hovering over the dig while she took aerial photographs. High tech or what!
 
The two tallest features of the dig are the spoil heap and the large tent. Both have their fascinations, but the tent contains Paul, who is chief plastic-bagger. Clearly a wealth of knowledge and experience is necessary for such a vital role. Paul always has some choice items to show and discuss with visitors. The tent also has information boards with some history and context for the dig, and trays of unwashed finds which are waiting for the find washers to work their magic.
 
In the wonderful weather we have been having, the finds-washers have been sitting in the sun, or even in the shade. They apply toothbrushes to bones, ceramics, glass but not wood or metal. The finds come out lovely, and water is turned to mud soup and discarded.
 
The finds are collected in plastic trays, each containing a tag showing where the find was discovered. These sit alongside the edge of the trenches along with barrows and bits of equipment. The site is divided up with tent pegs and string which mark out the edges of significant features.
 
Everything below string level is archaeology, which I have discovered is a synonym for "complicated". There is a lot of exposed earth. Some trenches are deep and narrow, some are wide enough to have "sondages" or trenches within trenches. There are structures, some of which are clearly walls, but some of which are ephemeral lenses of a particular colour or texture of earth.
 
In my week's experience I would say that nothing looks like much when you are uncovering it from above. And also that medieval and seventeenth century buildings seem to have had an unfortunate habit of falling down on themselves in the most inconsiderate fashion. And that Cromarty red sandstone is very good at disguising itself as shards of redware pottery.
 
So, a week on, I'm not much wiser, but still happy to scrape away just one more layer of soil to find...who knows what?
 
Miranda's first day on the site:
 

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