The past year and a half in the world of public archaeology has had its fair share of challenges, with coronavirus thoroughly putting the brakes on community-led projects. Freshly graduated in the class of 2021, this summer I found myself thrust into the world of job-seeking – a daunting prospect for a student with an entirely theoretical knowledge of archaeology after universities turned to digital learning under the pressures of the pandemic.
In the hopes of bolstering my archaeological experience I began hunting for training schemes and community projects, and in doing so I discovered Past to Present Archaeology and their call for keen volunteers at their Prehistoric Suffolk project. As the product of long-term research, archaeologists would spend two weeks exploring a landscape filled with archaeological promise including a potential Bronze Age barrow cemetery and Roman enclosures. Interest piqued, I eagerly signed up for the project and arrived onsite in late August.
Past to Present’s field school offered an exciting variety of experiences for enthusiasts, from hand excavation and drawing to feature photography and geophysics. As the field school proceeded, we uncovered a series of ring ditches and pits, recovering worked flints as well as metal finds from across the years with help from our metal detectorist. The idea of being part of the team first breaking ground on a historical site always excited me and following the process from uncovering to final recording allowed me to really appreciate archaeology’s importance to understanding the human experience. Holding a flint tool in your hand that you know someone many generations before you has created erases the time between you completely; while you can never see their faces or know their names, the enduring products of human ingenuity help create a sense of connection
between today’s populations and those who came before us.
The Prehistoric Suffolk project not only developed my archaeological skills massively – finally giving me the hands-on experience I needed to kick-start my archaeological career – but it also gave volunteers the chance to work with the company’s incredible staff. Friendly and passionate about their work, they provided ample support as and when volunteers needed it. Their patience and skill in teaching enthusiasts cultivated a fun and inclusive environment for us not only to work in but also to live in while we camped nearby.
My summer was vastly improved by the two weeks spent on the field school and I look forward to returning next summer to continue the valuable work there. After all, there’s always plenty more to discover!