Raksha’s Site Diary: Back to the Trenches


Back to the trenches for Raksha!

Yup, that’s right; yours truly has finally been let loose in the field again.

It’s been rather an eventful week at DV HQ, with our summer campaign, Saints and Secrets reaching over 100% in the wee hours of Wednesday morning.  More on this exciting news later!

After months of being cooped up in the office on Doctors orders, my wonderful consultant granted my wish and cut me loose on the archaeological deposits of London Town.  I must admit I was rather grateful that I had escaped the stuffy confines of the office, but had also managed to dodge the worst of the prolonged winter weather – (I hope!).

raksha1With Leiston looming I was eager to get back into the saddle, get back on mattocking form and make sure that I hadn’t forgotten how to dig.  Yes I know how silly that actually sounds, but I am one of those people who are constantly paranoid about being away from a trench for too long.  Even on Time Team I was always nervous after a long break, just in case I had forgotten how to dig, identify features or in case I accidentally damaged archaeology when machine watching.  Totally stupid I know, after 15 years it should be like riding a bike. In reality it absolutely is like riding a bike and it’s not the knowledge that ends up letting you down, it’s actually the battered old body.  After 5 months of fannying around at a desk, my poor body is not the finely honed archaeological machine it once was; it’s a poor pitiful, weak-muscled shell.  In short, its pants!

I’m currently assigned to an evaluation, on a so-called ‘easy job’, on the grounds of a hospital.  I’m not entirely sure if the hospital assignment is a joke placement or a safe bet just in case I have an accident.  Either way I’m not really bothered as it’s a nice job but it’s still hard graft.

The only way I can describe going back to work, is feeling like a retired athlete competing in the Olympics.  We are still in Post-Medieval dump deposits, so on a day to day basis we have to shift tons of waterlogged silts and clay – and boy does it hurt!  I want to erase from your mind the thought of archaeology being full of hippy-dippy types, carefully caressing the earth with trowels and brushes: this I’m afraid, is a misconception. Archaeologists are  more used to using heavy earth-moving tools such as mattocks, picks, shovels and hoes.  Only the more intricate work deserves the use of a trowel and even then, there are more vigorous ways of using it than a gentle scrape.

Needless to say most of this type of work is back breaking and arthritis inducing and after months of sitting behind a desk, my body is just not up to it.  Most afternoons I have been wandering home whimpering from twinges in my hips and back.  There is however, light at the end of the tunnel. Every day the digging gets easier, which means for you lucky, lucky Leiston diggers coming this July, I should be back to my usual mattock swinging prowess!  Come on now you didn’t think you’d get off that lightly did you?

So back to this week’s wonderful news that our DV campaign Saints and Secrets at Leiston Abbey is now fully funded.  Tuesday was really exciting, watching the bar rise from 94% to 99.44% and then finally waking up at 6:20am on Wednesday to see that we had reached just over 100%! We still haven’t celebrated at DV HQ, as Brendon and Lisa are still stateside, so it has been a virtual celebration between all of us!

The extra good news is that even though we have hit target, there are still places available for people who want to come and dig! And we are still welcoming all digital armchair archaeologists to the team, to watch the site progress online on a daily basis.

So I just wanted to say a big thank you on behalf of all of us.  I cannot explain what this means to us as a team and individually.  We all had a dream that one day we would be able to provide a real alternative for archaeology.  The fact that we did it with a global community is just heart-warming and wonderful and obviously we wouldn’t have been able to do it without all of you.  So thank you again for all of your passion and enthusiasm and for believing in three crazy archaeologists and their dog.

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Raksha Dave

Written by Raksha Dave

A long-time member of Channel 4's Time Team, Raksha Dave is one of the country's best loved archaeologists. Unequivocally, she has never, and will never, be married to Matt Williams.

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