Ken's Bamburgh Journal
Fieldwork 2006

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Very frustrating the past three days: delicate digging at hard clay with dental tools in order to extricate bits of skeleton from the soil matrix. Despite good-looking bones, the skelly's just falling apart as it emerges. All the large bones come out in at least three or four sections. The longest pieces to come out intact are the finger bones. At this point all that's left is the skull, which will be pulled out within a block of clay, for finer, more controlled excavation in the lab. Mine is not the only skelly coming out badly, but still, it's disheartening.

On top of the difficult digging on hands and knees, we have thunderbugs. When the weather turns hot and humid as over the past few days and/or the local farmers harvest their wheat and barley fields, swarms of tiny, tiny thunderbugs take to the air. And then land on us. These things are too small to photograph - a hundred might fit on your thumbnail - but sheesh, you can feel them crawling on you. This creepy-crawly feeling does little to enhance one's time in the trench while poised over the skelly with small tools, trying not to shrug or brush away the bugs because you might accidentally bump the bones and destroy them.

Social life on this project is excellent, given the number of people and weekly changes - always someone new to talk to. One recent arrival - who used to be professional chef - showed me how to hit a head of iceberg lettuce on a table in order to break out its stem completely, which saves a lot of time when making salad. Whoudda thunk I'd learn how to make salads faster while on ar archaeological project?

My skelly's skull on a block of soil, for lifting first thing in the morning.

My skelly is to the left; to the right of it are a couple new graves opened recently; to the far right are three more marked out for excavation - they packed people in here, many times cutting into existing graves, thereby greatly confusing the whole layout for us

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