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Will joined us in August 2018 in East Yorkshire for his very first archaeological dig. Will had just finished his A-levels, and he had been given a conditional offer to study Ancient History at a university in Manchester.
Will first became interested in Archaeology aged just 5 or 6 due to his family’s fascination with archaeology and the history of their local area. They took Will to see a dig at Arram where he had his first small taste of investigating history, leading him to share in the family’s passion, and he was fascinated by ancient history of all kinds ever since. He joined his local archaeology society, and found out about DigVentures’ excavation in East Yorkshire through them.
The third day of his dig with us in East Yorkshire fell on A-level results day, the whole team was overjoyed for Will when he announced that he’d excelled in his exams and had achieved significantly higher results than he had expected.
A couple of calls later, and he had secured a place at the University of Manchester, and there was an additional surprise too – he’d enjoyed the dig so much that he’d decided to go for a joint honours degree in Ancient History AND Archaeology.
Will credits the dig in East Yorkshire for sparking his decision to study archaeology as well: ‘One of my favourite parts of the dig was simply realising how much I enjoyed archaeology, before I hadn’t really considered it being for me let alone for me to take it at university, but being part of it, learning all the techniques and getting assigned my own area to excavate, although not finding a burial like we hoped, made it easy for me to see what I missed. I did get some interesting finds too which made it all the more exciting like some roman pottery and flints.’
Will has some advice for other young people considering archaeology, he says, ‘To any other young people like me who maybe hadn’t considered archaeology or are maybe unsure, I would say attend a dig like the kind that DigVentures provide, where you can get to know the basics and get a feel of a proper archaeological dig to see how exciting it is and if it is for you, if you don’t you could miss out on a massive opportunity and I’m glad took part.’
Looking to the future, Will says he would love to get the opportunity to excavate again, perhaps even abroad. He’d love to excavate in the Mediterranean, particularly at a Minoan site. He’s also particularly fascinated by Mesopotamia, and has recently been learning about underwater archaeology at university, which has captivated his imagination even further and is something he would love to pursue in the future.
Will Syson - Field Venturer
Simon Fielding joined us for our 10-day excavation at Jane Pit in Workington. Jane Pit was a brand new project for DigVentures, and all places were fully funded by Workington Town Council, enabling us to offer free dig places to local residents.
Simon was one of the local residents who signed up to the dig. He was born and raised in Workington, but he didn’t know much about Jane Pit or the wider coal mining industry when he joined us. He decided to support the project because he has been fascinated with archaeology since he found a clay pipe whilst digging in his garden as a child and his imagination was captured by the possibilities of what he might find lurking just below the ground.
Simon was very honest with us and talked openly about living and working with autism. We spoke to him about how DigVentures can ensure that people on the autistic spectrum are able to dig with us; his advice to others with autism who would like to join an excavation with DigVentures is that everyone on the autistic spectrum is different, and the best thing to do is to be honest about your condition and your needs.
He also told us that he has been an enthusiastic amateur field surveyor as well, and has been methodically recording his finds from walks on the beach, we were very impressed with his ledger of finds, complete with locations where each object was found, interpretations of what the object might have been and photos of the items he has collected. Being a part of the dig has changed the way he now records and collects artefacts when he’s out surveying. Simon said ‘[the dig] changed how I extracted and handled the finds with more care and attention, even when washing them for processing.”
We quickly learned that Simon is a fantastic digital artist. Our team was blown away by the art he created inspired by the excavation at Jane Pit. Here are the digital pictures he drew, inspired by the excavations at Jane Pit.
Simon Fielder - Field Venturer
We’d like you to meet Mrs. Ulioma Chidinma Okonkwo.
Uly joined us for the DV Dirty Weekend at the Poulton Research Project, and we think her story is pretty special.
We have some very dedicated Venturers who travel to our sites from all over the world, but Uly has probably travelled the furthest: all the way from Igbo-Ukwu in Anambra State, Nigeria!
At home, Uly is a legal practitioner, solicitor and property consultant, but archaeology has always been a part of her life. She is from Igbo-Ukwu where there is a high profile archaeological site that influences life in the area. Uly came to England with the support of her father, HRH, Igwe, Dr. Martin N. Ezeh IDU II The Traditional Ruler of Igbo-Ukwu to learn how we run our community archaeology projects at DigVentures.
Excavations at Igbo-Ukwu began in 1958 and revealed thousands of incredible artefacts including some stunning cast bronzes. These bronze vessels completely re-wrote the history books for West Africa. They are the oldest in the area and they show an unprecedented level of metalworking skill. The discovery destroyed the colonialist theory that West African metallurgy must have developed from the Mediterranean culture in North Africa. It also showed that the indigenous people of Igbo-Ukwo had a highly sophisticated culture several hundred years before any others in the area. It’s an incredible site!
Uly came to England to help move the Archaeological work in Igbo-Ukwu forward. She became involved with DigVentures through Pamela Jane Smith a research fellow and oral historian at Cambridge who was married to Thurstan Shaw, the archaeologist in charge of the original excavations at Igbo-Ukwu. Pamela is continuing her husband’s work in an incredible way: Each year she brings people from Igbo-Ukwu, especially descendants of the original excavation team, to England to learn from British archaeologists and gain experience and skills that they can bring back and use to preserve and promote their own heritage.
On site at Poulton, Uly said she really enjoyed excavating and getting some practical experience with archaeology. Her favourite moment was finding a cow’s tooth – a nice change from all the bits of fire cracked rock. This was her first excavation experience and she endured the mud and cold with a cheery smile. When we were in the pub we tried to get her to join in our complaints about English weather and she would only admit to it being “different” from home. It was thirty degrees in Igbo-Ukwu this weekend and six degrees in Cheshire – now that’s a sunny disposition! But what’s even more impressive is how glamorous she looks in the trenches compared to the rest of us grubby archaeologists. And yes, she really is that lovely in person.
In the future, Uly wants to learn more about community archaeology from the DigVentures team and form partnerships with archaeologists so she can help to start community projects in Nigeria. She has helped to start an association for Archaeology in Igbo-Ukwu. She hopes this will keep people informed about local heritage and maybe make them interested enough to want to become involved. There is much more archaeology to be uncovered in Igbo-Ukwu as well as a lot of conservation work needed for what has already been uncovered. Uly is working to ensure that her community has the resources available to them to properly care for their heritage.
Ulioma Chidinma Okonkwo - Dirty Weekend Venturer
Joan Sutherland - Field Venturer
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