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Dig The History – a Volunteer’s Experience

by Sarah Lamden

 

“Standing in a hole in the ground, boots weighed down in mud and taking a break from wielding a mattock (pickaxe), I wondered how I had got into this situation. It had been forty years since I last scrapped soil with a trowel so when I responded to the request for volunteers to ‘dig’ at Fulham Palace, I did so by stating my useful involvement would be  pot washing and recording finds. Why then was I in a world of hard graft loosening impacted historic building rubble, shovelling up broken bricks and pushing heavy wheel barrows up slopes?

Curiosity was the key; what could be discovered from this mud and rubble, why was the soil different colours and could I physically rise to the task?  The finds started to emerge and as we began to touch the past, the love of history was rekindled. There was guidance from both the professional archaeologists and experienced ‘diggers,’ so techniques were learnt and the introductory class information started to become even clearer when put into practice.

Just as I was (literally) getting into the swing of it, I found myself entrusted with recording the full skeletal remains of a dog.  To create a scaled drawing ‘in the field’ was another new experience. Gone were my drawing board, set square and scale ruler. This became a matter of counting squares on slippery graph paper. No sitting in a warm drawing office, this was damp earth and drawing from an oblique angle. Who could believe (other than a vet) that a dog had so many bones?

What were the best moments? Going home with a sense of achievement in a new skill learnt and sharing the excitement of a find with a really great group of people are the best of memories. Would I do it again? Of course I would!”

Dig The History – a Volunteer’s Experience
Dig The History – a Volunteer’s Experience
Dig The History – a Volunteer’s Experience
Designed at Richard P Chapman Design Associates

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