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24 September 2014

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You are in: Berkshire > Places > Places features > Digging up the past

A Reading archaeology student digging

A Reading archaeology student digging

Digging up the past

Every summer, tens of Reading University Archaeology students and members of the public head down to the ancient Roman town of Silchester. The six week field trip isn't for the faint hearted as BBC Berkshire quickly discovered...

Thanks to popular TV programmes like 'Time Team' and 'Pompeii Live' its become far easier to satisfy our natural curiosity about the past.

Archaeology has also been treated to a glamorous makeover and given a new 'cool' status thanks to Hollywood films like Indiana Jones, The Mummy movies and National Treasure.

Have a look at the pictures taken at the Silchester Archaeology site:

This is something Amanda Clarke, Silchester Field Director at Reading University knows plenty about. She runs the training excavation project at the Roman town site of Silchester.

"We began digging here in 1997.  Though the site is less than 0.01 percent of the whole town, the amount of information we are getting from it is incredible." says Amanda.

Amanda Clarke

Amanda Clarke

She adds, "I start preparing for the summer dig in January. It's almost an all year round activity. There is so much to prepare."

Amanda estimates there is five more years worth of digging at this site. Excavation will finish when they get down to the natural undisturbed deposits (soil that hasn't been touched by man).

From July to August the site is full of Reading University Archeology students eagerly digging for hours on end, finding and logging an array of Roman artefacts. Though the course is aimed at Reading University students, anyone with a keen interest in archaeology can apply for a place.

Silchester Archaeology

Throughout the week there are several structured lectures revolving around archeology. On certain days, the site is open to members of the public.

The Silchester site serves two purposes. The first is to provide a detailed understanding of a Roman town, its iron age origins, development and decline.

The second is to provide the excavators with professional training in archaeological field techniques.

However, the six week course is not for the faint hearted as participants are expected to work daily from 10am to 5pm, with only Saturdays off.  Due to its location, many opt for camping on site.

Though the Silchester site lacks baths and televisions it makes up for it in home cooked meals, hot showers and camaraderie.

For several years retired army wife, Leslie and her husband have been working as volunteer pot scrubbers and markers at the site. Each summer, they give up two weeks of their time to lend a hand.

Silchester archaeology

They meticulously clean the findings with a toothbrush. Once dried each piece is marked with a unique number, site number and the year it was found. Leslie says,

"Once it's all marked up it's ready to be taken back to the university for closer inspection.

 "We've found some great things. For me, the prettiest finds have been Roman glass".

Though it's too late to get your hands dirty for this year, they'll soon be accepting applications for 2009. Amanda is always looking for volunteers to help out on the site, so if you have some spare time she'd love to hear from you.

Have a look at the pictures from the Silchester Archaeology site:

To find out more about this project visit the website below:

last updated: 01/08/2008 at 17:16
created: 31/07/2008

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