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Wessex Archaeology Work Experience Week

Monday 15 August
In the morning I was given a tour around Wessex Archaeology where I discovered all the various departments to the place, I was surprised by the size of the company. It was interesting to learn about how the modern technology is used to help the people working here. For example, in the afternoon I spent time learning how images were made using GPR, photogrammetry and laser technology to 5 cm accuracy.  Roberta and I went around the Wessex car park mapping the place via its coordinates which later showed up on the computer in a professional format. Furthermore, I was made aware of 3D photography being used here in order to depict a realistic 3D image of what objects are seen as they would by the human eye. I really enjoyed learning about this in particular. 


Tuesday 16 August
I started work on Tuesday in the Heritage department. I typed my post code into maps of different historical periods (in chronological order since the 18th century) to see how my area had changed over time in terms of its land use, which was very interesting as I hadn’t known it before. Using a programme I was able to see the historical structures or whereabouts of any area – each had a grade (1, 2 or 3) depending on their age or of their archaeological importance. Furthermore, I was taught that you could use satellites to help detect changes to the surface of the landscape, which could tell you if there was a possibility that something was lying underneath the ground. In the afternoon, I spent time in the Coastal & Marine department. Peta showed me around Unit 2, a place where all the diving equipment and finds are kept. I used 3D photography to recreate a mine detonator on a software programme, which came out really well! I learnt how the marine archaeologists do their work to help conserve the finds underwater, and do not actually bring up many of their finds because of disturbance or purposes of respect. Many of the finds they were studying were very interesting – including sunken U-boats from WW1.
Wednesday 17 August
First of all, on Wednesday morning, Andy gave me a quick debrief of the prehistoric history on all of the sites around Boscombe Down, where I was to be later visiting. When I got there, I was fascinated to see the team of archaeologists digging and cleaning various parts of the land which had been used by Iron Age peoples. Susan helped me to pick a place to dig.  It was a tree-throw hole which turned out to be a natural feature. Nevertheless, it was great to get out on site to see what an archaeological dig was really like up close. Later in the afternoon, I was back at Wessex, listening to a talk given to the volunteers by Lynn. It was very interesting! The section on the Bronze Age Capri Shield was particularly intriguing. 


Thursday 18 August
On Thursday morning, I went to the Graphics department where Kitty showed me how to construct a drawing of some pieces of Roman pottery. Although I am not great at art, I was very surprised to see how well my drawings had come out after a long process that led it to be scanned onto the computer. I had to take measurements and do lots of drawings, to make sure it was to scale and that it looked professional. Later on, I was doing finds processing. I cleaned bits of pottery and bone that had come in from a site in Winchester. I was later shown some fossilised poo! How it had been preserved so well I do not know!
Friday 19 August
On my last day I spent the morning in the finds department again. Yet this time I was labelling the cleaned finds so that they could be referred to in future purposes. In addition, I was also taught how to store finds in boxes or cases so that they were protected; so that they didn’t decay or deteriorate in any way. Silica gel was put in there as well as the artefact so that no or very little moisture was trapped inside the container. Just before I was to leave, I got a chance to meet Phil Harding! Growing up watching Time Team, you can understand that he is a role model for me. To meet him was great, and he offered lots of useful advice on how to make a successful career, particularly on how to become an archaeologist.
By Edward Timperley


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