Meillionydd Field School Training Section
A question that has been posed many a time by members of the public visiting Meillionydd is: “How did you know the site was here? And why excavate it?” The pre-excavation training session will teach you how sites are discovered. In addition various survey processes utilised on possible archaeological sites, such as geophysical methods like magnetometer and ground penetrating radar (GPR) surveys as used at Meillionydd, will be explained. And finally we will discuss the pro and cons of excavating sites and the grounds on which the decision for excavations are made and give you an introduction to the site we will be excavating.
Health and safety talks
Before we let you loose on an excavation site it is crucial to brief you on general on-site health and safety. As this line of work requires the use of tools such as mattocks and shovels the need for safety awareness is crucial while working with other people in close vicinity.
In addition, the - in some cases - large and deep trenches as well as the strings which are set up for various reasons pose a trip hazard which is another important thing to be aware of. Where you walk and how you are working on the site is important to minimize the risk of serious injuries. Therefore, all aspects of on-site safety will be presented to you and everyone in a group before starting in the field.
Some might say that the most exciting part of archaeology is the digging process. Digging in the right way is crucial for preserving every bit of archaeological information that a site has to offer. Therefore, you will be put through a detailed training process with some of our experienced archaeologists. This includes basics like trowelling and mattocking techniques, the identification of different layers of deposits and structures within the ground and the recording of these. As a rough guide, the excavation process is an iteration of the following steps:
- Discover – You have identified a different colour or texture in the earth.
- Record – You fill out a context sheet and assign a unique context number.
- Photo – You proceed to photograph the feature (see photography and planning section).
- Plan – You draw the feature on scaled graph paper.
- Survey – You determine the exact geographical location of the feature using land surveying equipment (Total Station, GPS Rover, etc.).
- Sample – You excavate a bit (ca. 20 litres of volume) of the feature, which is stored as a sample for the material that makes up the deposit.
- Section – You excavate a part (e.g. half) of the feature to create a vertical section through it, which is also recorded, planned and surveyed.
- Excavate – Once you have fully recorded the section, you excavate the remaining parts of the feature, taking more samples and creating additional sections as required.
Planning and photography
As discussed briefly in the previous section, planning and photographing of archaeological features is a crucial part of the recording process. On-site you will be trained in how to correctly plan and photograph archaeological features. The planning process will entail drawing features both in plan and section to scale, using various aides like tape measures and planning frames.
You will also be taught how to photograph features correctly and train your archaeological photography skills on the features you excavate.
Aside from the usual 2D pictures for documentation purposes we will also take pictures for 3D-rendering. These give us the possibility to create 3D models of the trenches.
As part of your excavation training you will learn how to recover and record finds. This includes assigning a unique number on a finds register and documenting the exact location with the surveying equipment. All finds that are discovered will need to be bagged and labelled correctly along with being stored in the correct place.
Training with our GPS rover and total station will be available for taking survey points within the trench and finds recording. While the technical equipment may look complicated and highly technical at first glance, using the equipment is actually quite simple and straightforward, with our experienced surveyors making surveying easy to understand.
Post-excavation training (environmental)
Depending on the excavation’s needs, an opportunity may also be available to be trained on post-excavation processes, e.g. wet sieving. Wet-sieving will involve the processing of soil samples taken on site in teams of two through a water floatation device.
Supervisory training opportunities
For more advanced students we offer a special supervisor training. This includes the opportunity to take on various officer roles on site, for example, finds or recording officer as well as supervising others in the excavation process.
Opportunities to acquire academic credit may be available to field school students on request and dependent on length of stay. The additional accreditation costs need to be covered by the student. To enquire about prices and conditions, please contact co-director Katharina Moeller (firstname.lastname@example.org).
As the site is open to the public and a variety of public engagement activities are offered, for example, an open week for local school visits, opportunities will be available for taking the general public on tours of the excavation site. This will provide you with crucial outreach work experience.
Seems like a lot to take in?
Don’t worry. On site there will be various officers who are assigned to different roles such as finds officer or photo officer. These experienced members of staff will gladly help you with any questions. So if there is any doubt about anything there is always someone there to lend a hand and help you out. All you have to do is ask.