Hello, my name is Anna-Mae and I am a BA Archaeology undergraduate having just finished my second year at Durham. Being an Archaeology undergrad comes with many opportunities and roles, however I will focus on the excavation work done alongside the Auckland Project at Auckland Castle.
As a BA Undergrad Archaeology student, I had to undertake 2 weeks of excavation work, which would be done at Auckland Castle. This was done to provide students on certain archaeology degree paths with a set of skills that would go towards a CIFA (Chartered Institute for Archaeologists) accreditation and better streamline us for future careers. More importantly than this however, it provided many of us students with our first taste of both excavation and post-excavation work. The experience united concepts we’d been taught such as landscapes, the importance of stratigraphy (soil layers), artefact location, and how these artefacts are processed away from the dig, in a real world setting.
Prior to the dig, we learned about the previous history and archaeology of Auckland Castle and its long past in relation to the Prince Bishop, to aid in giving a greater understanding of what we were finding and the significance of the site.
I worked on trench 11 with a variety of partners from within my covid bubble (the entire group on site was split into 4 bubbles). Our section of the trench was interesting in that we found masonry that hadn’t been anticipated by the excavation leaders. Indeed, what these structures were and how they related to the rest of the site was questioned by many on site.
I was lucky in that my section was absolutely filled with finds. We were removing post-medieval topsoil, but quite a lot of earlier (such as medieval) material still made it in. For example, sherds (pieces) of green-glaze pottery, which was a distinctly medieval type of pottery and always delightful to find shining out of the surrounding earth. However, we also found shells of mussel, whelk, clam, and oyster in addition to fish, sheep, and cattle bone which had all accumulated both within the soil and rubble walls separating it. Occasionally finds would be uncovered that warranted particular care and a designated number, for example iron nails, lead pieces, and worked stone (see below).
One feature that stood out to me was a square hole within one of the walls we were clearing. When we cleared it out, we found not only that the hole continued internally into the wall it was found in, but contained a partial chicken skeleton. We had no idea how it got there and the last I asked of the site leaders, they had no idea either.
As well as uncovering and bagging these finds, we had to understand how to process them. Away from site at the Durham Botanic Gardens, we learned how to properly clean each object and categorise them in a way that would be useful to laboratory workers and anyone else who may need to handle them. These days also served as a good way to relax a bit more and take a proper look at what we had found on site.
What has been outlined above was my personal experience of working on an excavation, more information on both the Auckland Project and what has been found/done at the site can be found below:
About the Auckland Project
Durham Archaeology Auckland Castle Excavation 2021 Twitter page: