Over the past month I have been thrown in at the archaeological deep end; getting hands on with our industrial past at Normanton, excavating alongside an Anglo-Saxon church at Kirk Sandall, plus working my first away job on a rain-soaked site north of Birmingham.
However, I couldn’t help feeling that at the tender age of sixty-two and as the recently graduated new boy at Wessex Archaeology Sheffield, travelling to Llandudno with Emily, Emma and Beth to meet with some of North Wales’ most gifted sixth form students would be my biggest challenge yet.
After the great success of the Big Bang Fair in October, Lisa Connolly from Careers Wales kindly invited us to take part in the Beyond Seren Careers Event. As we laid out the Wessex Archaeology stand, featuring environmental, heritage and our unique edible approaches to archaeology, I began to wonder if the teenagers would be too smart or too cool to be excited by bones, beetle shells and marshmallows? More importantly, would they have tricky questions I couldn’t answer?
At 1.30pm, prompt, the doors opened and in they flooded. Within seconds Emily had our first customers; four bright young things keen to learn about core sampling, stratigraphy and alluvial flow, while getting hands on with the chocolate chips and sherbet - proving after all, big or small, kids are kids. Emma’s challenge to assemble the horse’s fore leg and the student’s own innovation of taking smart phone pics down the microscope for Instagram, #wessexarchaeology, soon brought a crowd to the environmental side.
Meanwhile, as a lifelong Sheffield Wednesday supporter (suffering is a hobby of mine), it was interesting to note the student’s reaction to Hillsborough Stadium being included in Beth’s controversial collection of buildings with heritage potential.
What followed was a non-stop flow of conversations and demonstrations, with 4.30pm arriving before we knew it. As the last stragglers left for their busses, we grabbed a much needed cuppa before packing up the car and heading back home along the now dark A55.
Were the students too cool? The one wearing yellow framed sunglasses all afternoon certainly was.
Were they smart? The ones I spoke with clearly were.
Did they ask questions I couldn’t answer...? Of course they did!