Kieran Mason, Fieldwork Archaeologist with Wessex Archaeology, has recently started a 6-month secondment to gain experience in environmental archaeology and archives management. Kieran gives us an insight into how he has found the beginning of his placement at our Sheffield offices:

Journey into the archives

Having worked in field archaeology for nearly five years, the secondment is a big change in my career, and it has been exciting to apply my skillset in the office.

Typically, my two days per week working with archives are spent processing the completed site paperwork and drawings as they come in fresh from site: sorting, counting, and stamping them, before scanning and boxing them away for use by other staff members who will use them to write reports. These records are eventually sent to museums, so it is vitally important to get all this correct!

Kieran Mason Processing Environmental Archaeology Samples

Sieving dry residues

Environmental Archaeology in action

The rest of the week I spend working with our environmental archaeology experts. Coming from the field, I am much more familiar with this aspect of the placement, as nothing excites me more than investigating depositional processes!

 

A common task is to sieve dry residues from soil samples, separating the larger rocks from the fine silt, and picking out any artefacts. Occasionally a very nice sherd of pottery or a small chunk of building material will pop up, to keep me on my toes.

Prehistoric pottery for reboxing Environmental archaeology samples

Sieving and sorting Dry residues and reboxing prehistoric pottery

I’ve also been tasked with wet sieving cremated human remains and, having worked on the site they came from, this has been doubly intriguing. Seeing the whole process from initial excavation to processing was eye-opening and allowed me to understand why we excavate and record graves in the way that we do.

Modern glass decanter being reboxed

Modern glass decanter being reboxed

As a fieldwork technician I think this experience has provided me with an invaluable insight into the workings of post-excavation, and how the work produced in the field helps create a quality product for Wessex Archaeology’s commercial clients and partner museums. While I’ve only been in my secondment for a few weeks, I’ve learnt a lot. The jam-packed schedule has taught me a lot about what, why, and how of environmental archaeology and archives processing, and the importance of this work in understanding and preserving our heritage. While it can be an information overload, I am lucky to work with some wonderful colleagues who are happy to assist in teaching me best practice in my new work – for which I’m extremely grateful!

 

By Kieran Mason, Fieldwork Archaeologist and Environmental Archaeology and Archives intern