On Saturday I had the delightful privilege of teaching in the middle of this field, off the beaten track in deepest East Sussex, with the only real downside being that it was a rather exposed location should the forecast thunderstorms decide to arrive. Oh, and the fact that the only toilet facility was one plastic portaloo with only tanked, stagnant water available for washing your hands in. And no electricity of course.
But it has to be said that the location was really rather beautiful. In the excavated area that you can see in the photo above is part of Plumpton Roman Villa. Not that there’s much to see, to be honest, as most has been ploughed away over the centuries.
I wasn’t here to do any excavation. That was being done, on the day I visited, by a group from the local Young Archaeologist’s Club. My course was about ‘First Aid for Finds’ - teaching archaeologists (or aspiring archaeologists) how to look after finds correctly while out on site so that the artifacts don’t deteriorate and lose some (or all) of their information potential. The students had a go at packaging, using raw eggs to start with (which they did very well - even playing rugby with their packages or hurling them high in the air failed to break the eggs!) and then with fragile cake decorations. Their carefully packaged sugar roses are now winging their way back to their home addresses via snail mail, to test whether their packaging skills are sufficient to prevent Royal Mail from destroying them while in transit!
They also got to try out lifting techniques that can be used when excavating more fragile artifacts, such as using dry bandages, or Plaster of Paris, or other support techniques that we had covered in discussion earlier. This generally seems to go down well (I’ve been teaching this course for about 18 years now I think), although I’m always surprised at how reluctant some are to get dirty.
Thankfully the thunderstorms stayed away, so we roasted in the peaceful sunshine instead, but that was definitely preferable to lightning. The only shelter available would have been the aforementioned plastic portaloo - room for one, or perhaps two at a considerable squeeze - or a metal portakabin, which would not have been my first choice!