Introduction to Archaeology

Welcome to a New Year on Blog around Britain! My name is Caleb Hubbard and my passion is the past – particularly Archaeology. Archaeology is the fascinating study of ancient discoveries and treasures; and treasures isn’t always gold and silver. In fact, some of the most informative and interesting artefacts are found in the ancient’s rubbish pits! These can really show us how people before us lived, and also really open up their lives to us.

  To start, I want us to get hands-on, and learn about the history that has taken place in our own back gardens. Who knows who lived there before us? Perhaps a Celtic lord, Anglo-Saxon warriors, or a Victorian rubbish dump was once situated there!

Sutton Hoo burial helmet

  The simple truth is that anyone can be an Archaeologist, because all that is required is a curious mind and a sharp eye. My hope is to get you interested in the lives of the people who lived before us. So, to begin, we’re going to be digging a test pit, and everyone can join in, provided you have at least a 1m2 plot of earth – get permission if the land isn’t yours!

  Test pits are carried out in order to become more familiar with the history and Archaeology of an area. We will start by cutting away a section of turf, then, using a trowel, scrape away the dirt to reveal previously undiscovered artefacts from the past. Don’t expect Indiana Jones style treasures (!) but you may find clay Victorian smoking pipes, Stone age stone axes, or even a brooch or other jewellery piece. As a rule of thumb, the further you dig down, the older your artefacts become and the further back in history you go.

  One of the most important things to do when working on a test pit is to work carefully. Only dig down 10cm at a time, then stop, record your finds in a notebook and take a photo of the test pit before carrying on. Use a trowel to scrape around the earth so that you do not miss artefacts. If you use a spade, the artefacts may be thrown out with the soil. Below is a list of items you need to collect before you start:

  * trowel

  * garden sieve

  * camera or phone

  * notebook for records/sketches

  * tray for artefacts

  * small, plastic bags (e.g. Freezer bags)

  * labels/slips paper to go in bags describing the artefact

  * Measuring tape or ruler

  * spade to remove the initial turf

This really is all you need to begin. And next week – we’ll get digging!

Stay Curious!