Thursday, 27 October 2011

The emptiness of a field

It is the time of the year when the community groups and research projects are fieldwalking over some ploughed fields up and down the country and all over Europe. I recently spent a morning in Loddington to see what is happening there with the Leicestershire community archaeology training fieldwalking project. I did my official training day last year in order to learn from the father of community archaeology and the systematic practitioner of the traverse and stint collection method Peter Liddle himself. It seems that I am not the only one to revisit Loddington since by coincidence there were two of us that had been doing exactly the same on the same day one year ago – and she was even then just coming to see what was happening and enjoying a chat with Peter, Paul, Richard and others.

p>Loddington on the Rutland boundary is actually interesting because the find levels ARE NOT very high. This suggests that this area may have been relatively peripheric during the pre-modern periods even if in places there are find concentrations. Unfortunately, not on the field the fieldwalking of which I participated in. This field was so empty one started to wonder if one’s eye sight has taken a turn to the worse once again. In addition, the really nice finds – i.e. two fragments of Roman grey wares and a nice blade core – were made by those guiding the ‘newcomers’. May be this was for the better since they had already covered one half of this field the day before and looked pretty miserable in the morning with the prospect of covering the other half. Or was it just the effect of the Leicestershire council consultation period to cut the costs further…

For the amateur archaeologists and the fieldwalkers the empty fields are a disappointment and very boring. However, for the people processing the finds professionally they are a partial delight. The processing goes quickly and you end up having real differences between different fields so you will be able to spot concentrations and land use changes between periods. However, there is very little to cheer about if you try to learn to recognize material or sort it out as an exercise. Luckily, a cultured walk over a field is also very good gentle exercise for you.

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