Even the most immersive online archaeology doesn’t come close to the thrill of getting wet, muddy and exhausted on a real excavation

‘If you want to be a good archaeologist,’ said Indiana Jones, whilst being chased on a motorbike by Nazis through the quiet section for overdue fines, ‘you’ve got to get out of the library!’ Well. Never mind getting out of the library, what if lockdown dig life means you can’t even get in!?

Look, how can you possibly be a good archaeologist when even Malcolm Tucker, 10 Downing Street’s official spokesperson, has advised the nation:

Sure, there are of course lots of ways to do archaeology during lockdown (online, in your garden, or on that oh-so-popular Virtual Fieldschool), but even so, none of it recreates the hard, physical, sweaty camaraderie of actual fieldwork. What’s a digger to do?

Never fear, dear reader, because DigVentures is here with a step-by-step guide to help you recreate the grimy joy of all-weather, outdoor fieldwork in your very own home…

1. Wake up with a (mock) hangover

After a long session in the pub discussing the day’s discoveries, a small, but loud minority might begin their day with a hangover. This step can of course be equally achieved clean and serene, but you can still take spirit in Dean Martin’s professional opinion: ‘you’re not drunk if you can lie on the floor without holding on.’ Replicate the effect by forcing yourself to get up before you’re anywhere near ready to. The world stopped spinning? Awesome. Let’s GET UP AND GO!

2. Grab your shovel (and several buckets)

Every morning, archaeologists lug their kit across bumpy fields on the long, hard commute to the trenches. This can be simulated by carry lots of awkwardly shaped stuff back and forth from room to room, clocking up at least 10,000 steps from the imaginary tool shed to the imaginary trench. To capture the full emotional rollercoaster of this journey, and for added authenticity, realise around step 9,998 that you forgot your trowel and retrace your steps all your way back to the beginning. Advanced athletes might also want to occasionally drop something heavy on their foot.

3. Stand in the shower fully clothed

As the poet Ted Hughes was fond of saying: there’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing. But this is lockdown, and normal rules don’t apply – so here’s a chance to simulate both bad weather and inappropriate clothing. For anyone keen to bask in the glory of a typical British summer, ensure the dial is set to raining bullets of freezing. Then rinse and repeat.

4. Excavate the ‘everything drawer’

You know the one – the one with all the stuff. Candles. Batteries. Foreign coins. Lego bricks. Pills. Thrills. And Elvis glasses. Think of it as a moment frozen in time. The Pompeii of Draws. The Stonehenge of Utensils. The Pyramids of Gubbins. Wonderful things indeed, but is it ritual? This urgent question needs a Harris Matrix, comprehensive finds report and TAG presentation pronto. As per Step 5 below, don’t forget to issue a press release of the results: it will be illuminating…

5. Shed some new light

In normal times you can open any newspaper to any page, and you’ll find some hapless archaeologists or other shedding new light on something (8.5 Million Google results and counting…). But what about the actual shed? You’ve been meaning to shed some new light on the shed’s new light for ages (i.e. change the bulb). So take charge of the news agenda, whilst simultaneously answering the perennial research question: how many archaeologists does it take to change a light bulb?

6. Drink gallons and gallons of tea

So Neo, what do you need? Tea. Lots of tea. Lashings of the stuff. Poured liberally. Continuously. And insatiably. Really? Won’t all that caffeine drive you to the edge of red-blue pill sci-fi psychosis? Not at all. It barely affects me. Then why are you talking to yourself? I’m not. Yes you are. No I’m…. AHHHH!!!! MAKE IT STOP!!!!

8. And most importantly, take a deep breath, and remember: we’ll dig again…

If there’s anything that a subject who’s standard unit of measurement is 50-year blocks (at a push, as long you’ve got good dating samples) can teach us, it’s that this moment will pass. It is but an archaeological flicker of the eye. Andrà Tutto Bene. Everything will be all right. Furlough fun and lockdown-lols aside, diggers are a hardy bunch and resilient to the core. So stay fit, keep sharp, and make good decisions. Because as sure as night follows day…

We’ll dig again, don’t know where, don’t know when. But I know we’ll dig again some sunny day….

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Brendon Wilkins

Brendon Wilkins

Co-founder and Projects Director at DigVentures, Brendon heads up our field and post-ex team. Aside from field archaeology, his specialisms are cheese, tea and writing animatedly about himself in the third person.

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