What Does Archaeology Mean to a Lay Person?

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Stuart Barron (volunteer)

What does archaeology mean to a lay person?

To me, it meant people digging holes and sometimes finding bits of old pot, iron or perhaps a few animal bones. Then along came Time Team.

Time Team changed my perception of archaeology from the day I first saw it on television until I knew better. Was this the real thing? Was it just a case of getting a digger, digging a massive trench, and celebrities just happening to find lots of things? Surely it wasn’t that easy. How did they know where to dig, because they always seemed to find something of importance? I could understand if they had dug in the city I was brought up in, if they were allowed, but most of the sites they were on were in the middle of nowhere! How did they find them? I didn’t have any idea.

 

How did my interest in Archaeology start?

I have always had an interest in history. When I was at school, we had the opportunity to visit various museums housing artefacts that were spread across the centuries, from the Iron Age all the way through to the 60’s. It was then I realised that I would really like to get involved. However, I travelled, had a family and worked shifts. All these things, I said, got in the way of my interest in how people lived in times gone by. I tried to keep up but did not really start taking an active part in archaeology until I started working days and was able to use a holiday and the odd weekend to really get involved. This is when I started to increase my understanding and seek the answers to my questions.

"I have recently had the opportunity to be a volunteer working with experts from NAA in their specialised fields of archaeology. I found them to be good teachers who work in various weather conditions in order to get to the bottom of what has been left behind."

It’s a Learning Curve

I managed to learn how to use a trowel, that a digger isn’t the first thing that is called to site, that a test pit is more normal that a 100-metre trench, and that treasures aren’t always found. However, what we do find gives us an insight into how people lived and died in the past.

I have recently had the opportunity to be a volunteer working with experts from NAA in their specialised fields of archaeology. I found them to be good teachers who work in various weather conditions in order to get to the bottom of what has been left behind. They have given me the chance to use equipment that I have only seen on television and answer the questions I didn’t dare ask before.

I now know how to use a plane table, how to draw plans, how to carry out GPS plotting and geophysics. It’s been a hard but very interesting journey from the test pits in Bainbridge, back to Bainbridge via Thornton Rust, Green Side and Hawes, made much easier and more enjoyable by the hard working and friendly staff from NAA.

If my short story inspires anyone to volunteer, even in a small way, I am sure they will experience a totally new way of looking at archaeology and make friends with a similar passion.

All text supplied by Stuart Barron. If you have volunteered with us in the past and would like to share your experiences, or if you are interested in volunteering with NAA on future projects, get in touch at community@naaheritage.com

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