Confessions of an amateur archaeologist

Sophie, a volunteer on our project, has written this honest account of how being involved with the Medieval Abberley Revealed project has re-awakened an old passion!


I’ve got a problem.  

It’s not a new problem. I’ve had this problem before, when I was a child. It kind of went away, all by itself. This time, I have a car and I don’t have to ask my Mum first.

Two digs with Medieval Abberley and I can’t get enough of scrabbling about in the dirt.

The most recent dig I attended was on Abberley Hill. Strictly speaking we were looking for a medieval castle. The site did seem like a good place to have a castle. I was mildly amused when it became apparent that a number of the test pits were placed exactly in the area where we defended our imaginary castle, as children, with bracken spears. In later years, the same location was utilised to hide out and evade detection by interfering grown-ups.

Sadly this location didn’t yield any signs of a real castle, just places where there probably wasn’t a castle which, as pointed out to us by Andy and Rob the archaeologists, was actually a finding in itself. These were “sterile” test pits.  Sterile?! Had they not seen the state of my finger nails?! These particular pits did however yield excessive roots, so that gave us something to document.  Despite the distinct lack of anything interesting within the pits, an unopened can of SKOL lager was found nearby with a best before date of 2006. A date of around 10 years earlier and I probably would have wept with nostalgia.

On the second day I was deployed to a test pit further up the hill, but that was OK as there was cake half way up. Funnily enough it was another popular location during childhood; a favourite for building dens and ambushing passing parents. Not a location used in later years. It was further up the hill and we were teenagers and so couldn’t be bothered.

Again a pit of excessive roots and …………….

Rocks. Lots of rocks.

As far as I and my co-workers were concerned, this was certainly the edge of a mighty, medieval castle wall. On digging deeper we were sure to find various courtyards, towers, dungeons, human remains and artefacts. We would forever be able to inform people “I was one of the ones who found it.” Deep down, we knew this was unlikely but begged Andy the Archaeologist to just humour us for an hour or so, in order that we could taste the dream. He didn’t really.

After a thoroughly enjoyable couple of days, where I learned top tips like how to distinguish between pottery and stone (pottery feels warmer than stone) and had qualified experienced archaeologists to quiz about things I’d found/ seen over the years (they even seemed interested; and they must be pestered by people like me all the time), I was sorry to have to stop. That sorry feeling was nothing compared to later……

A piece of flint was found in the very test pit I had been working. My co-worker, Sarah explained how it was found, “Just after you left; such a shame.” It’s very likely she saw it earlier but waited until I had gone until it was “found”. We don’t speak any more.

Joking aside, the digs were fascinating. The experience has reawakened an interest which had lain dormant for years. I no longer just go for walks. Every hump and bump in the landscape could be hiding something. Every stone is assessed for signs of having been “worked”. My parents think I’m helping with the garden. I’m not.

Like I said. I’ve got a problem.

2 thoughts on “Confessions of an amateur archaeologist

  1. Fabulous blog Sophie. It was about the process and adventure rather than any hoard. I expect to see you wandering the hill forever more. I loved hearing about your positive experience, thank you.

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