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Thomas Passam’s Work Experience Diary

 

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Monday 19 June
I was met at Reception by Rachel Brown, the Senior Community and Education Officer. From there I was given a talk about Health and Safety and was shown the Fire Assembly Point outside. After that I went on a tour of the building. I was really surprised by how many different departments there were in the company.
 
Next I was taken to meet Roberta Marziani from the Geomatics Department. She spoke to me about 3D imaging and showed me examples of parts of buildings where 3D mapping had been done. I then took photographs of a Saxon pot from every angle using special software and then created it on the computer as a 3D object.
 
After that we went out outside to plot an area using GPS. This accurate method of measuring is used a great deal to map out the archaeological sites on a dig.
 
In the afternoon, I was in the Finds Department and I was cleaning the skeleton of a Saxon male. What was interesting was that he had broken his leg badly at some point during his life. The bones had never reset properly and stuck out at an odd angle; he must have carried on with his life in great discomfort. 
 
Tuesday 20 June
I was doing sample processing in the Environmental Department with Tony Scothern. When I first arrived, I was given an overall and gloves as I was going to be filtering through the soil samples that had been brought in. The soil was in large plastic tubs that were labelled with dates of collection, sample number and site number.
 
A small amount of peroxide plus water had been added to each of the buckets and these were left overnight to help the break-down of the soil so it could be analysed. I washed the soil through a large filter first then it flowed on through to be caught by another filter. Here any solid materials that had previously been missed, were caught in with the solution. Then what was left was put back into a sieve and put into a low-temperature kiln. After that we took out two sieves containing dried-out materials and recorded what was in the sieves and separated the different materials into different bags. There were several pieces of pottery and some burnt flint, as well as some charcoal.
 
After lunch I was working with Jacqueline McKinley, Principal Osteoarchaeologist, where I was taken through the entire skeletal structure of a Saxon male that I had been cleaning the previous day. She taught me about the bone structure, how the male and female skeleton differs and how to calculate the age of a person by looking at how the bones of their skeleton have fused.
 
Wednesday 21 June
On Wednesday I went out with Rachel and Andy Crockett to a site at Bulford. The site has lots of archaeology from different periods and previous excavations revealed many Saxon graves. The remains of about 150 people have been discovered, as well as different artefacts. I met Phil Harding and he gave me a tour of the site which was really interesting. Mechanical diggers and other modern machinery and equipment are used at the site to help to clear the area and remove soil and rubble more quickly.
 
This area was also used to test out anti-tank weapons during World War II to help the Allied Forces to defend themselves against the German tanks.  
 
In the afternoon, I went back to the Finds Department and washed some pieces of Roman pottery with some of the volunteers. 
 
Thursday 22 June
Morning: Marine & Coastal Department
I spoke to the Marine and Coastal Staff working in the offices upstairs and they showed me how the finds are tagged and identified as well as how they analyse their location. Afterwards, I was shown around the large warehouse where many of the large finds are stored. I was shown by diver Joaquin Callejo Gomez the different equipment that was used on a dive. This ranged from oxygen tanks all the way up to different photograph devices. I was shown how the large finds are recovered: a balloon is used to lift the weight of the object up to the surface of the sea. From there it can be lifted by a pulley or crane onto a boat and transported back to be analysed.
 
Afternoon: Heritage
The Heritage Department uses various techniques to see if any famous historic events took place and to identify landmarks and places of importance.I was working with Naomi Brennan using software that had been pre-programmed to allow me to see what historical activity had occurred in my home area over the last few centuries. I found out that several battles had taken place within a mile or two of my house, which was very exciting. I then did some work updating old maps to make sure that the data was correct.
 
Friday 23 June
Photogrammetry
This Department manages to create a clever image by using roughly 70 photos with different flash to enable you to see very fine detail. I collected all the necessary equipment from Bob Davis and then set up the tripod. I was photographing an ancient axe-head and I was also doing the same for a very good quality copy of the axe-head which had been made in recent years. I worked in a systematic manner photographing the pieces in an umbrella-shape. I took over 70 photos of each piece which took a long time. I had to make sure that every photo was precise.  
 
In the afternoon, I used software to make the final image. I was very impressed with the image and the way that the light could be altered in various ways to enable me to see different details. 
 
I really enjoyed my week with Wessex Archaeology and learnt a lot about archaeology and the history in this area, as well as about office life and working in a team. I would like to thank Rachel very much for organising and coordinating my work placement and to everyone at Wessex Archaeology for their help in making my week so interesting.  
 
By Thomas Passam 
 
 
 
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