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Sophie Feilder's Work Experience


When I arrived at Wessex Archaeology on the Monday morning, I was given a tour and was struck by how big the building was. Having had lunch and having been familiarised with my timetable, I was shown how the Survey department works by a lady called Roberta. She explained how GPS can be used to record the positions of sites and the features found in them, with 5 cm accuracy. She also showed me how to record the coordinates of different features of the carpark, using GPS. After this, I was shown how the information is processed and used to make maps of the site. This was interesting as the diagrams focused more on the positions and shapes of the features, and less on what they looked like.
On Tuesday, I spent the day with the Finds team. Here I was given a bowl of water and a toothbrush with which to wash pottery and animal bones from a site in Winchester. I enjoyed this as it was interesting to see patterns on the pottery emerging from the dirt. I was also shown how to mark the items I had washed with their site and context numbers using a quill and ink. I now know that this is important because it tells those analysing the finds exactly where on the site they were found. 
On Wednesday morning I visited the Coastal & Marine department. A lady named Peta told me that the department was responsible for dealing with archaeology underwater, such as shipwrecks, and preserving artefacts that had been accidentally brought to the surface. During this session, I was also told about photogrammetry and was given a camera with which to photograph a 19th-century relish pot. These photos were then downloaded into a computer program that was able to construct what it thought would be the 3D model. Although only half the pot could be seen, the program had been able to picture that half in surprising detail. 
On Wednesday afternoon, I visited the Heritage department where I was shown how to investigate the history of an area by Naomi. She explained how to match old maps to new maps, and showed me many websites that can display the protected sites in any area. This was interesting as I was able to see the protected parts of the village in which I live, and find out what it was that made them historically valuable.
On Thursday, I visited an archaeological site with an osteoarchaeologist named Kirsten. She explained why it was they were excavating and showed me around the site. I then worked with a team of other volunteers to bag and clean the various skeletons needed for analysis. I was surprised by how good a condition some of the skeletons were in and how much of them could be recovered as they had been buried hundreds of years ago. Kirsten explained how the ages of some skeletons could be determined by the circumference of the skulls, arthritic joints and which bits of cartilage had turned to bone. I was also shocked to see the terrible condition some of the teeth of the skeletons were in. 
On Friday, I visited the environmental department. Nicki explained to me how much of their work is geoarchaeology, and consists of looking at how the ground has changed over time. I was also shown several boreholes, which are long tubes of plastic that contain layers of soil from various time periods. By inserting these tubes up to 18 m into the ground, they could see the structure of the ground in as long ago as the Ice Age and how that structure has changed to form what it is today. After this, I was given a microscope and was shown how to identify different seeds, as these can also show what the ground was like and what took place upon it.
Overall, I learnt many things during my time at Wessex Archaeology. I saw lots of fascinating things and was taught by many friendly people. Archaeology has certainly become a more likely career path and should I choose to study it in the future, I now know which departments to investigate.
By Sophie Feilder, Work Experience


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