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Week Two of Euan O’Neill's Work Experience

 

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The timetable for my second week was Monday to Thursday digging at Rossington and Friday back at the Wessex Archaeology Sheffield office. At the office, I needed to return my PPE, do some environmental sample processing and write this blog.
 
On the Monday, I had to finish filling out my context forms and registering a few pieces of information about a ditch I dug the previous week (at this point we had moved to a different site sub division). I had forgotten most of this information but because we had to cross reference everything, all of it was recorded in different ways making it easy for me to finish what I had already started. Once I had finished that I was asked to dig a ditch slot similar to the previous one, however, it was part of a different ditch. I was getting a good idea of a professional working environment while learning new things.
 
I had to finish digging the section and cleaning it for photographs. When this was complete, I moved onto preparing my slot for photographs. I had to clear out the crumbling material with a trowel so that the difference between the natural and archaeological material could be seen. I also had to clear out loose material within one metre of the feature for the same reason. Once that was finished I then set up the camera to take some photos. I noticed that I was remembering everything I had to do and that hopefully I was improving. The pictures were taken and a register kept of the photos. After all the necessary tasks had been completed, I started digging another slot for another ditch that I would finish the next day.
 
It had rained for most of Tuesday night and it had begun raining again before I had set off to work. I met the other fieldworkers at the usual point around seven but we were waiting in the pouring rain desperate to get going, however despite starting on our journey to site the rain was too bad and we came back to the office. Back at the office we found other jobs to do such as the processing and quantifying of finds.
 
On Thursday I headed out to the Rossington site for the last time. I had enjoyed going out on site for many reasons. I had learned new skills and terms as well as a good idea of how I would do this in the future. We arrived on site only to find that pretty much all of the features had been filled with muddy water and that the material was very delicate now. This made it difficult to excavate but not impossible. I began finishing my ditch slot after first break. It had just started to rain during our break meaning some tasks such as the clearing of loose material had to be repeated. I was done with the feature just before our lunch break leaving me the remaining afternoon to finish my written tasks. During our break, we had a good long chat about my time on site and whether I had enjoyed it. In the afternoon all I had to do was draw my feature, fill out my context forms and record any remaining information. The others helped me where I had made mistakes, but there were much fewer than when I had first started and I was very pleased to hear positive comments from other staff. I had completed my work and proceeded to help the others in simple ways. The day then ended and I shook the hands of everyone there back in Sheffield saying goodbye before going home.
 
Friday was my last day of work experience and so I was a bit sad because I had really loved my time at Wessex Archaeology. I did like having a different timetable, two weeks without school specifically. I got to the office at around 9:15 and returned my PPE which included the hard hat, high visibility jacket, gloves and steel toe cap boots. I then spoke to Lucy who took me to the compound where the samples were stored and where they were processed. I had been there on Wednesday when we were rained off site. I was shown the floatation tanks and how they separate and analyse material from the samples. I learned how the light material such as seeds and charcoal floats, and how the heavy material such as stones, bone fragments and even debitage sinks. It was really interesting that they could tell about the environment years ago from the samples. I stopped for lunch thinking about how I would write this blog and what exactly I would put in. When Lucy sat me down at a computer, I was typing it out almost immediately. Work experience gave me a lot of things to think about. How important is archaeology? Might I think about a potential future career in the subject? What does it mean to be a professional archaeologist? Two weeks allowed me to think about these things and I learnt a new skill set that I might call upon in the future. I learnt not just about archaeology, but the importance of being able to communicate with others and present myself in a positive way to my colleagues, as well as getting along with them. I really enjoyed my time at Wessex Archaeology and I think that it has had an impact on how I think about myself. In the future when I chose my occupation, I will be confident in my own work.
 
I would like to thank Lucy, Ivan, Tom, John, Jess, Lizzie, Ciaran, Nick, Chris, Liz, Mike, Phil, Jamal, Alvaro, Richard and Sam for helping me when I was at Wessex Archaeology and for a great work experience.
 
By Euan O’Neill.
 
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