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The field school

The Field School is a month long excavation at the Vale of Pewsey and provides high-quality training in a range of archaeological field techniques.
My name’s Amanda Clarke, and I’m an associate professor of Field Archaeology here at the Department of Archaeology at Reading. I am also the co-director of the Archaeology Field School. The Field School has existed since 1997 . And it’s developed a lot over those 20 years. It began as the Silchester Field School, Silchester Roman Town. Those were its early beginnings. And it’s gradually morphed into the Archaeology Field School. this is a landscape project. So it’s taking a little known archaeological landscape and trying to understand it through time. So from the earliest sort of settlement, in pre-history, right the way through in fact to modern day Vale of Pewsey. The Field School provides technical training. So it’s how you dig.
That’s what I know how to do and that’s what I’m teaching them how to do. So you get a lot of technical training in using a trowel, shovel, spade, mattock, whatever. It’s learning to read the soil beneath your feet. So you’re teaching observation skills, you’re teaching students to not be afraid of their hands. So you like to see them actually picking up the soil and feeling it, and trying to work out what it’s made of and how that all works. Field archaeology is not always the most glamorous of things to do despite what the media might have you believe. It’s hours in the wet, and the rain, and on your knees, and all of that.
So it’s teaching people to use their imagination to really engage with the past, to understand these are people that we’re working with, or investigating. I think that skill is quite important, being able to empathise with the people of the past. I think it’s interesting to realise that a field school is so much more than the act of physically digging. And I think academic projects, University projects, need to have a good underpinning strand of research. So the Field School is set up to do real research. So it’s exciting. I haven’t just got lots of students in a field learning how to dig just for the sake of learning how to dig. They’re all helping add to our knowledge.
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Archaeology: From Dig to Lab and Beyond

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