So, the first blog post that isn't to do with me trying to get a job in archaeology (see earlier blogs for more details)...
I have just finished my last exam of my degree, so I am free to write about what has happened in the last year or so, and to keep everyone informed about my future. I have only had about 1/2 of my final year marks back, so I am not aware of my full marks until next month, which is when I also graduate.
So, what have I been doing for this year? Mainly my dissertation! I have been geophysically surveying Stanwick Oppidum in North Yorkshire and writing up the results. In academic terms, it is strictly speaking "A Late Iron Age Fortifications". So what does this mean? Well the term is rather misleading. Stanwick is today nothing more than a set of massive earthworks that cover an area of a small town, which has been described as the capital of the "Brigantes" in Northern England. Despite numerous excavations, we have found a grand total of 3 roundhouses, a skull with a sword puncture wound and other bits. That is all. To give a comparison, the Roman town of Cirencester in Gloucestershire is about half the size, yet it has been almost completely excavated or has remains on the ground that can be visited, and there is a lovely museum with all of its finds displayed in rooms.
So imagine my surprise when I found what could be 3 new round houses on the site! This was after a week or so of intensive surveying of waterlogged ground. Further to this, I have noted that this could be a rare example of a "shifting settlement", or in other words, a series of houses that are built one after another when their use life has been finished. No such sites exist in the area, and I think that these are much more common than we think, but we haven't found many across the country. In addition, my landscape survey of North East England (using lots of databses, none of which are complete!) has shown that Stanwick actually may only be one of many similar sites in North Yorkshire and County Durham, although these don't have earthworks surrounding them. As I say, I don't know how well the dissertation has done until next month.
I was also President of Durham University Archaeology Society (ArchSoc) for 2012-2013. A big responsibility, and while I underestimated how expensive it is to hire out Durham Cathedral, but it has been a reasonably successful year for ArchSoc. I set up a joint project with the North of England Civic Trust, known as Heritage Skills in Education; this has given teams of students the chance to survey historic buildings and how to conserve them, all for free! In addition the teams of students have made professional reports for Darlington Borough Council and Durham Cathedral, so in a few years time, our work will be used to assess the risks to the buildings, and what should be done to conserve them properly. On the social side, there have been bar crawls and Indiana Jones Nights, and a free tour of Durham Castle. In addition, I have also helped to set up the position of Public Relations Coordinator, Durham University for the Post Hole Journal, run by and for students. Have a read, it is well worth a look (http://www.theposthole.org)!
My other activties this year have mainly included cross country running, with some notable successes for Durham University Athletics and Cross Country, as well as Durham City Harriers. The countryside around County Durham and Northumbria is simply beautiful and well worth a stroll. I have competed in 3 national University Cross Country championships during my time in Durham (BUCS Cross Country Birmingham, Cardiff and Leeds, for those in the know).
I also have a part time job as a tour guide for Durham Castle (until I graduate), which has been a excellent source of income, as well as giving an insight into the world of tourism. This I will deal with the relationship between tourism and heritage on another day.
So that sums it up! The next few blogs will include my free trip to Italy for an Etruscan Excavation, what the public really wants to/should learn from heritage, and perhaps the one I look forward to most, the north-south divide in the UK. Photos will be uploaded of the activities I have mentioned!
Alistair "nighthawk" Galt