[personal profile] marieldraconis
July 21st: Harry Potter and the Day Off
Saturday is the day off at SHARP, for reasons lost in the mysts of time—it is said that twelve years ago, the local towns still closed the shops on Sundays (this is a fairly rural area), so they felt the day off should be when people could actually go buy things. And thus, Saturday became the day of rest for SHARP archaeologists. Were you expecting an epic tale?
I helped the girl in the tent next to me pack, and got to keep her duvet and a pillow that she wasn’t going to take home. The duvet was more useful than I expected, and not just in keeping me warm, but more on that later. Then, at around 9:30 am, everyone began dividing into cars to go to breakfast.
Think about that last sentence. Now do you understand why I hate it when people say “all doors are not opening at the next station”? (Yes, I’m writing this on a train which I got to by Metro, and it’s a pet peeve of mine).
On the way to breakfast, we stopped at Tescos—sort of the local version of Food Lion/Giant/Safeway, but with a Walmart-like reputation. I had a purchase I needed to make, so I went in and picked up Deathly Hallows as well. Then we went to breakfast, where I tried brown sauce, an apparent combination of vinegar and brown sugar that’s actually quite good on meat.
After we returned to the site, I read Deathly Hallows, then packed up to do my laundry and read at the same time. David, who’s a bit odd, met me outside the tent and asked if I had the book, then seemed to want to hover near my tent while I went to the Old Village Hall to do laundry. In the end, though, he left and I went.
I finished the book there. If you want my opinions, all you have to do is ask, but I’m not going to comment on the book overall or give a detailed review here. Just suffice to say that I like parts of it a lot, but that first week I was very unsatisfied with the ending. It needed time to sink in, and a good reread. So then I played a good few games of cards, and the dryer still hadn’t dryed my clothes and some of the supervisors were waiting to do a load. So I had damp clothes for the rest of my time on-site, although I felt that the mud made the damp irrelevant.
In the evening, we had the SHARP orientation for the new people who arrived that day. During the orientation, it started to rain, such that I decided to stay behind when they went on the weekly site tour. At the same time, they were supposed to be setting up the barbeque. In the end, as it rained harder, they put the vegetable grill inside the marquee, along with all the extras, and only grilled burgers and sausages outside. It wasn’t the monsoon-like rain it had been all last week, but it was pretty bad.

July 22nd: Cleaning the Dirt
Once an archaeologist has dug through a layer, they need to remove the loose dirt in order to draw it, photograph it, and take measurements before they can go to the next layer. This is what the volunteers last week spent Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday trying to do with the early Saxon layer. Sunday, it was my turn.
Our tools: trowels, buckets, kneelers (to keep from disrupting the soil and keep the mud off your knees—not very effective), and sponges which couldn’t absorb half the water we were dealing with. I started the day in a higher spot, working with Coralie and David, and was cleaning fairly well. I even found an animal tooth. After tea break, we hit the part of the layer that was below water level. Clearing away the excess is hard to do when water keeps flowing in so you can’t see to distinguish the excess from the parts you want, and you can’t stand anywhere for fear of damaging artifacts you also can’t see. We did our best (David was on lunch prep, so we had someone else helping us by then), but I wasn’t happy with it.
Around 4 pm, I was reassigned to working on clearing a flat, triangular section which had apparently been left until last the previous week. It rained intermittently, and I scraped away to remove the entire layer. I had help, and our job was to get rid of this and clean the remains and the adjacent part, which was mostly mud. We were helped out when one of the volunteers dug a drainage channel along the side, through which all of the excess water from the water table could go. We were right up against the edge, so I could perch on the bit of wood dividing the dig from the drainage channel, dig, and watch the water flow. I really enjoyed this on the 23rd, when I worked on the ledge all morning.
On a side note, I had a nasty headache all day. I was concerned about dehydration, and discovered two things that helped: pineapple juice and, surprisingly, the tuna-and-corn sandwiches that appeared at lunchtime.


July 23rd: Not in Hot Water
Woke up, heard water on the top of my tent, and got kitted out in full rain gear: rain jacket, waterproof pants, waterproof boots. So, of course, by midmorning it’s warm enough that I ditch both jacket and my sweater while digging.
Went back to the triangular section in the morning. It turns out it was probably a midden pit. I found what I believe to be both sides of the lower jaw of a sheep-goat—apparently the difference in teeth is slight. We also found a lot of rock that looks like pottery (normal for rock in the area), more animal bone, and a flint tool that probably washed down the hill.
I took over Coralie’s shift on lunch wash-up, because she’d had four shifts last week while I’d ended up excused from the two I’d been signed up for, I only had one shift this week, and Coralie was in the middle of sketching.
The hot-water generator was out, which complicated the process of washing dishes, but we managed by continually heating pots of water until we had cleaned everything. When I got back to the site, progress had reached the point where there wasn’t enough digging-space in the layer for me to help with, so another digger and I were sent to the evaluation trenches across the road, where they’re looking at Saxon and Roman ditches. There was no space there, either, so we went to the Finds hut to clean artifacts.
Now, cleaning artifacts requires a toothbrush, a small pick, and water. We don’t clean the oyster shells (they are weighed and then thrown out). Bone and metal must be dry-brushed only. We had quite a few jaws, so I ended up brushing a lot of sheep (and goat, and occasionally cow) teeth. There’s something odd about that.
Pub quiz went fairly well. I had Casey and three new people on my team, including a girl from Finland (I think) who has been to most English-speaking countries and rolls her own cigarettes, and Sophie, the French girl whose English made me worry about my ability to cope in France next year. We only got 25/30, possibly in part because Sophie couldn’t follow the questions well enough to help and partly because we were all around the same age this time.
I left the pub a little early because I felt odd—a combination of hyper and creative and claustrophobic all at once. Interesting feeling.


July 24th: More Toothbrushing!
The person in charge of Finds was out sick, so I was sent there to help out with cleaning more today. I processed cow, sheep-goat, and pig bones. Fun, but not very exciting.
In the evening we had a lecture in the church on an excavation being run by the Norfolk County Archaeologist Department, many of whose members are former SHARP volunteers. The lecture itself was unimpressive—it was hard to keep a sense of time, and the speaker spoke about the artifacts and kilns as if they were unconnected to the people who built them. I wished I could have been there for next week’s lecture, instead—a body was found in a kiln on SHARP’s site last year, and I wanted to hear the preliminary results, but I was going to be on the plane by then.


July 25th: Earth and Water
I was set to cleaning a section of the trench today. There appears to have been a wide line of rocks cutting across the trench. Since the trench is as wide as two modern houses, we wondered about the purpose of the rocks. I was thinking it might be a path. Other people suggested a foundation or a terrace. We have been yanking the rocks in sections. After cleaning this part of the trench, I was to sketch it. I had the first half of it done, but needed to move my grid to sketch the second half. For this, I needed depth measurements and coordinates of part of the first half, and the EDN (used to get depth, latitude, and longitude) was misbehaving.
I had lunch prep duty at 11:00, right after tea break. I only needed to stay an hour, but felt that to go back, find where I was supposed to work next, and set up and clean-up would take up most of the half-hour remaining and I wouldn’t get any constructive work done, so I stayed to help out. I won’t deny any allegations that I was staying to look at the caterer’s cute little baby (Bobs by name).
Right behind where I had been working, Coralie was trying to take measurements of a Roman trench that, when found, had been sealed and contained a Victorian-era machine gun. Interesting.... anyway, my work at the end of the morning had been getting in her way, but after lunch I started work on sketching and she was done there anyway.
At the end of the day, I practically had to drag David off-site. Health and Safety regulations decree that you can’t be on-site alone, but David wanted to finish what he was working on and was sure he’d be done by 6:30. That meant ninety minutes alone on-site and missing dinner, which I had no interest in doing. I finally convinced him to leave.
Most of southwest England was flooded by that point. My sweater mentioned Tewkesbury, so people had taken to pointing out that Tewkesbury abbey had flooded (for the first time in 700 years). Despite all the rain, we were lucky—nothing important had flooded, and my tent, at least, was still dry.


July 26th: Day of Monsoons
Finished drawing the portion of the rock path this morning. The EDN was still misbehaving, so another volunteer and I were set to hauling rocks while we waited. We had to stop early before lunch when the rain got torrential, so we cleaned finds in the marquee for about an hour until lunch. I ended up working with a tray of bricks—annoying to clean, but not very hard. When lunch came out, clean-up was a bit haphazard, so we had trouble associating artifacts with their trays. This is bad because if we lose that information, the artifacts become worthless to us (over a millenium after they became trash for everyone else). Fortunately, we later managed to reassociate all the artifacts.
During lunch, the rain stopped, so I got to finish hauling rocks, and then went to help Coralie with the still-nonfunctional EDM. In the first trial, the EDM was only 1 cm off. Not bad, but it could be better. The next try was 100 m off. Before we could figure out the problem, the rain set in again. It sprinkled, but quickly became heavy enough to return to the marquee and unpack the finds, half-an-hour before tea break. We did the reassociation, settled back in, and I worked through tea break. The rain stayed torrential all afternoon, so at ten to five we went to reclaim our buckets and shovels from New Trench, then ran back to the trench in the rain.
After dinner, we had a discussion called “Should SHARP Continue Excavation?” We discussed the site’s budget, its research question, and whether or not it could keep the dig going full-time. If anyone’s interested, I’ll pass along the details, but I’m not sure any of you want to know how to plan an archaeological excavation.


July 27th: Final Clean-Up
I cleaned the section I was working on for the final time, then began to hoe it before morning tea break. The layer I was clearing was between two habitation periods, so no artifacts were there to be damaged. Our next goal was to reach the Roman-occupation layer before it rained again.
For the D&Ders out there: I need ranks in Use Wheelbarrow. The first time I took the wheelbarrow to dump, I think I hit myself with it three times, tipped it once, and nearly tipped it another time before I got it to the dumping site. After some experimenting, I and the girl I shared the wheelbarrow with concluded that two buckets of soil was enough to dump it. In the afternoon, I switched from hoe to mattock, and my neighbor got two helpers, so the dirt moved faster. I alternated between nausea and bursts of mattock-whacking energy for the rest of the afternoon, which ended at tea break because it was Friday.
There was another site presentation, with a site tour this week because it was actually sunny this day. I skipped out early with a nasty headache, but felt better by dinner. We spent the meal and a lingering discussion afterwards saying goodbye to everyone and waxing eloquent about hot baths and real beds.
I skipped the punch party tonight—I needed to get packing. For me, the hard part of packing or unpacking is being distracted by my books—Deathly Hallows in this case, if only because I didn’t dare unpack the Shakespeare again.


July 28th: The Return to King's Cross
I finished packing up in the morning, and David helped with the tent. Then Terry took four of us to King’s Lynn train station. We arrived a half-hour early, so some of us went to get sandwiches and drinks for the journey. I’d had a Mars bar back on site, but didn’t think it was enough for breakfast. I also got a puzzle-book.
The train reached London about 11:30 am. I was supposed to meet Joe at the hostel, but not until 6 pm, so I was in no hurry. It’s amazing how long lines at the train station, nearly going the wrong way when getting off the Underground, and not knowing where the hostel actually was didn’t bother me when I had nowhere to be. I dropped off my luggage at the hostel, although I couldn’t check in yet (note: hostels generally have an earliest time at which you can check in, but they have a luggage room to stash your stuff in if you don’t want to carry it around).
The hostel was across from the British Museum and down the street from Regent’s park. I went to the park to finish my drink from the train. Afterwards, I’d been planning to go to the British Museum when I ran into Joe while crossing the street. So we rendezvoused a bit earlier than planned, went to a pub for a latish lunch, and roamed the British Museum for a couple of hours.
Afterwards, we went back to the hostel and met a couple of girls who were in our room. They invited us to go clubbing later—Joe said yes, I said maybe, but later decided not to because I was tired and my feet were sore from the dig. But first we went to the London Dungeon.
The Dungeons are a series of theme parks (Joe went to one in Edinburgh) which use local legends and medieval concepts to entertain and frighten. There was the trial in which everyone was convicted of crimes against fashion and the like, the hall of mirrors in which a skeleton kept screaming and shaking bars, etc. The Edinburgh one was apparently better done—the hall of mirrors was based on a story about a city in the sewers, etc., and the London Dungeon was overheated, but it was fun.
We hurried back to the hostel, stopping to eat at a Korean restaurant and then getting lost before we found our way back. The girls Joe was going out with took forever to get ready, drinking a mixture of Red Bull and vodka all the while. The effects of an energy drink and an inhibition-lowering drink in combination are...interesting, to say the least. I don’t recommend it.


July 29th: In Which there are Crossbows
Sunday there was a production of Othello at the Globe. Joe hadn’t been able to reserve tickets, so we were going to use our experience in Stratford and go to the Returns ticket line. First we found a cash machine (Returns had to be paid for in cash), and then we had breakfast in a café. The plan was to make it to the Globe at 11:30 for the 1 pm show, to give us plenty of time to wait in line.
We stayed in the café until then. I taught Joe how to play my version of Rummy, which was a combination of Linn family rummy and what I’d read in books. Note: Linn family rules for any card game are extremely biased in my dad’s family’s favor. I may have inherited those card skills. However, Joe beat me in rummy up until we started scoring.
We continued the rummy game once we got to the Globe. Around 12: 20, a woman came out with a lot of tickets, and we managed to snag two 5-quid groundling tickets. Then Joe took me to get what he calls the best gelato outside of Italy (he should know—he’s been there) before the show started.
Othello was great. If you ever get a chance to see something at the Globe, do everything you can (including standing hours in a returns line) to do so. Iago’s performance, in particular, was stellar. He’d put on the appropriate sad/mournful/serene face, wait until everyone was off-stage, then he’d smirk and you just knew he was thinking “I got another one,” or “guess who’s next.”
Othello was good, but not as good—it’s hard for a good actor playing Othello to outshine an equally-talented actor playing Iago. This time, Othello was good, but Iago was brilliant, even if they’d been in other roles. Othello lacked the gravitas to pull of some of his more spectacular speeches. The problem scene was Desdemona’s death scene—she has lines a good few minutes after she dies. Joe and I concluded that this was the Bard’s fault—Shakespeare screwed up. That said, how else can you do a bloodless death (required by the lines Othello gets) that would make sense for a warrior leader like Othello?
The best scene was the final scene, where Othello kills himself. All the guards charge in with crossbows, and I practically squee. Then Othello’s sword is taken, and he needs to get a weapon to kill himself with. I’m expecting he’ll grab a sword, but instead he grabs the crossbow and shoots himself with it, point-blank. It was very cool.
We went to a pizza place for lunch/dinner afterwards. More rummy ensued—I think I got Joe addicted. Can card-playing run in the blood?


July 30th: All Around the Town, or, Easily Amused (maybe this explains the card thing)
We wandered into Westminster Cathedral in the morning. I wished I could have spent more time in some of the rooms with Latin inscriptions, such as the room of Queen Elizabeth I and Mary [and the two princes who were murdered in the Tower], but the room was crowded and the line moved too fast. The room of the Ladies of Henry VIII had seats with crests on them. We didn’t think it was likely that the Wakeman coat of arms would be on one of them, and there were too many to search one by one when we didn’t know what the crest looked like, but we wanted to know if it was there. We asked, and were sent to the library. The room was full of old books and the floor and stairs were rickety and...I was only in there five minutes, but I almost switched vocations then and there. I want to work in a library like that! It turned out the Wakemans wouldn’t have been of sufficient rank to appear in the Ladies of Henry VIII room, which may have been a good thing, because photography was strictly forbidden and if the coat of arms were there, we would have had to bring Mom a picture somehow.
In the afternoon, we went to a different part of town and roamed the Science Museum. We wanted to see a Lord of the Rings exhibit that was supposed to be there, but our guidebook didn’t mention it was closed already. So we wandered the museum. First, we were in the space exhibit, which didn’t have many hands-on displays and largely was lacking in new knowledge. Then we saw an IMAX on dinosaurs, or rather, a 3-d film claiming to be an IMAX. It was very interesting, although not entirely factually accurate (this is a museum for little kids, remember). Then we wandered into the ships section of the museum. This being England, it was very comprehensive. That said, we couldn’t find anything to explain the difference between ship ratings, no matter how hard we looked. Then we found the Materials section and the Energy section and a lot of games for the easily amused—design a t-shirt which minimizes energy and water use, save the town by performing various video game tasks until the power comes back on, etc.
After the Science Museum, we found dinner, then a pub, then we went back to the hostel. We called to confirm our travel plans. Then we watched Spaceballs and packed in preparation for the morning.


July 31st: The Day in Which we Go Home
We had a 1 pm flight, which meant we had to be at the airport by 11 am. Due to a combination of being ready early and a shorter Underground ride than expected, we arrived before 9:30. It was hard to find a proper breakfast place in Heathrow airport, but in the end we went to Cosi’s. We read and played rummy and a new game called Nine Man’s Morris until it was time to go to our flight. The flight itself was long--I watched a movie, read, and addicted myself to the Beatles. Maybe I should have done that last while still in England? Oops....

And that was the tale of my journey to England. It is done, unless I figure out how to stick pictures in here.
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marieldraconis

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