Tag Archives: Paleolithic.

10 Things I learnt from my first Archaeology dig

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So 2 weeks later, I have finished my first Archaeological excavation as part of the Rathnadrinna research project in Cashel, County Tipperary, directed by Richard O’Brien. It was a truly unforgettable experience and one I will fondly remember for years to come.

As part of it I have wrote down the 10 things I learnt from my first dig

1. Shoveling/Mattocking is addictive

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My new drug

Forget the Trowel, nothing beats the feeling of working using a shovel or a Mattock. It’s hard work, but you feel manly as hell doing it and you sleep like a baby afterwards. One of Natures legal highs.


2. Archaeologists love their jobs

All the Archaeologists on the site really, truly loved what they did; many of them loving it so much that they were volunteering to do something they would normally be paid for. Working with people who love what they do makes for a brilliant atmosphere.

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Worked flint with an unusual curve to it, not allowed to go into too much detail on the finds just yet (saving that for another blog post later), but here’s a little taster. It was very successful though


3. Archaeologists hate their jobs

It’s sad to see the hardships most who pursue Archaeology as a career go through, work is hard to find and many were retraining to find other work. The work is mentally and Physically tough, you work in all sorts of conditions, often being required to travel at a moments notice, the work is contract based so you have little job security and the pay’s not great.


4. Accidents can happen
First day of work, one of the girls sprained her ankle, another hurt her back next week and me and another person got to experience what it’s like to take a Mattock to the knee. It can be tough work at times.


5. The work suits me

I don’t think I could ever return to office work, I love working outside (even in the rain) and I sleep so well after a days work that I needed 2 hours less sleep than usual. I would happily do this as a job if I could make it work. I am dreading returning to my Market research job 😦

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Me and Tom, hard at work troweling

6. You can’t escape the dirt

Hostel goers are generally pretty messy people, but Archaeology hostel goers are dirty on a whole new level. No matter how hard you try, you can’t help but get dirt everywhere. Eventually you get used to walking home covered head to toe in dirt and start to wonder why people stare as you walk through the hostel in your muddy boots. It got so bad that they started to open up the side passage to let us into the hostel while minimising the amount of dirt we spread.


7. I have so much still to learn
Although proud that I now know how to handle a archaeological context sheet, there’s still so much I don’t know. Mick (the site supervisor) has an almost supernatural ability to read the soil and spot stakeholes (the remains where wooden stakes of buildings punctured the ground)  where all I could see was dirt.

Also until you have ever tried to clean dirt (yes, clean dirt) , you will never appreciate just how difficult a task it is to do.

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I need to get better at cleaning the dirt before we take photos


8. My trowel sucks

Kinda glad I lost it, it was awful and everyone else thought so too, it was too big and not sharp. I need to go get a new one. Some of the people on the site were still using their first trowel even after several years of excavation work; some of them had been used so much that they were worn down. Oh well RIP  my first trowel.


9. All work places need a dog

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Flaherty, the site dog

The site had the coolest dog, “Flaherty”, who would go from person to person at lunchtime, trying to get food from us.

10. Leaving is hard

I met so many amazing new friends at both the excavation and the Hostel who I will really miss. The great thing about Hostel life is that you meet so many wonderful people, but unfortunately such moments are fleeting and sooner or later we must all go our separate ways. This blog post goes out to Damien, Rene, Mickaela, Kevin, Micheal, William, Femke, Liudas, Richard, Robert, Murt, Liam, Mick, Zoe, Grace, Heather, Tom,, Sarah, Ashleen, Rachel and all the other fantastic people I got to meet.

Best of luck with the rest of the dig, wish I could have stayed for it all.

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The gang at the end of week 2

*All photos taken by and used with with permission from Richard O’Brien