xxii

Well, it’s probably fitting my birthday post is a few days late.

It’s been a busy few weeks even after finishing my degree and I haven’t really had time just to sit.  But, now that I’m back in Edinburgh, I’ve been using my time to read, sleep, and play Skyrim for the thousandth time.  I just beat Aulduin again last night.  You could call me the Dovah-Kenn (sorry that was a terrible joke).  I also went to see Avengers: Endgame.  I probably need to see it again considering I cried through half of it, especially when Carol did THAT!!! and Steve did THAT!!!

But anyway, here’s that belated birthday post even though I’m still *technically* 15 on my Kansas driver’s license.

I’m always worried about the weather on my birthday considering for the first 18 years of my life it rained buckets.  But, Edinburgh once again gave me the best birthday gift with a sunny, warm day spent in the Meadows and empty seats at the Argyle in the evening.

I’ve never been one to fuss about the day I hatched fully formed from an egg, but I do like to have my space to declare ‘I won’t do a damn thing’ and throw myself down on the ground.

As for words of wisdom now that I am entering upon the golden Taylor Swift Birthday, I’m honestly not sure.  19-year-old Kennedy apparently had a lot to say about the world so you can read what she wrote here.  Truthfully, I think she was pretty smart (albeit maybe a bit arrogant).  Most of it still applies with the addition of maybe one more.

If these past four years in Faerieland, have taught me anything it is: be willing to adapt but also be confident within yourself.  You never know when opportunity will arrive, but you can make sure you are ready to met it when it does.

So, anyway.  Happy Birthday to me.

 

back to edi

It’s the 25th of April (three days before my 22nd birthday in case anyone was counting!!) and I’m back to Edinburgh.

I’ve spent the last two weeks in America… not out right hiding but busy with moving back and enrolling for August.  In case you’ve been out of the loop, I had a choice between staying in Edinburgh for another year for a Masters in Human Osteoarchaeology or returning to the States for a Masters in Museum Studies.

I had a lovely meeting with the director and advisor for the Muse program this week and I have already enrolled in my courses.  This August, I’ll be taking a required course on Museum work, another specialising on creating exhibits, and a theory course on historical building preservation.  There’s actually a graduate certificate in Historical Preservation through the School of Architecture I could take alongside my Masters which I may look more into when I’m back.  After writing my dissertation, I’ve become really interested in that line of work and it would fall in well with my ~dream~ of working for UNESCO.

I am actually beyond excited for this autumn.  It’ll be a good change of scenery and a few years of familiarity before I bounce of to do something ‘stupid and crazy’ again.  Trust me, I have plans.

Things back in Lawrence have changed, but, as it it with midwest America, may things stay the same.  It’s a blessing and a curse.

A big change this time was returning with two less in the house.  In February we lost our 12-year-old Newfoundland, Mulan.  While sad I knew she had give our family her ‘true last measure of devotion.’  What was unexpected was losing my 6-year-old cat, Rory.

Prior to leaving Edinburgh at the beginning of April, Dad had called to let me know that Rory had been to see a veterinary heart specialist in Kansas City who had diagnosed him with a congenital heart defect.  Rory spend two days in the clinic and returned home with a blood thinning medication he was to take each morning.

Everything seemed well – until it wasn’t.  Three days after returning, Dad found Rory curled up and asleep in his favourite spot by the window.

I’ve spent the last three weeks trying to find a way to describe what the last six years with Rory meant to me. Each time I fall short, but those with animals know the impact an animal has and the hole they leave.

But, I can say I am glad to know he felt safe and loved.  He didn’t hide or grow scared but curled up and fell asleep.  That is all you can really ask for.

Which is why I think I can write about it now.

But anyway, I’m completely done with my degree and just awaiting the exam board in June to let me know what my classification is.  I get to see the new Avengers films with my friends tomorrow night and then bounce around during May before leaving on the EUMC Road Trip.  We don’t know where we are going but we’ll check the weather and see what looks nice.

After the Road Trip, I’ll be back at Bamburgh Castle where I’ll be working as the Assistant Finds Supervisor for the whole excavation season.  It’ll be yet another summer crying over Anglo-Saxon dirt and I. am. so. excited.

Graduation is in July and after that everyone will scatter to the wind for a while.  While I am beyond saddened, I also know there are so many new opportunities waiting.

 

 

Story Mode Complete

This afternoon, with a bag of frozen peas on my ankle (I face-planted off Calton Hill last night dressed like a 1980s calisthenics instructor), I submitted my final essay and finished my undergraduate degree at the University of Edinburgh.

After four long years of work and the last year spend writing my dissertation, it feels really, really good to be finally done.  After I submitted my dissertation last week, I went to get an ice cream and found a bench in the Grassmarket.  It was a sunny day and the castle looked gorgeous as ever (you almost forget they used to burn the witches 200 metres to the right!).  Then I left for the Bothy for the weekend and enjoyed the sun up north.

But, I’m not going to lie.  The end is also a bit sad.

I have truly fallen in love with this city.  My time here has shaped the person I have become and the person I will continue to be in the future.  My degree has taught me a lot more than just how to write historical papers or dig in the dirt.  The people I’ve met and the places I have been will, honestly, stay with me for the rest of my life.

Maybe, one day, I’ll write a book about it.

This post is shorter than I anticipated, but, truthfully, I can only say how much the past four years have meant to me in a limited number of ways before it gets contrived.

So, that’s me done.  I’m bouncing on holiday soon.  After that, it’ll be EUMC Road Trip and then at Bamburgh for the rest of the summer to help with excavations.  Graduation is in July.

twenty-fun

Yesterday was my Twenty-First Birthday.  I’m not a massive fan of big birthdays mostly because I hate planning them and secondly, I’m not a big fan of being fussed over.  I spent this birthday, like most before it, outside enjoying the weather with my friends.

As it has been on my birthday for as long as I can remember, it rained in the morning.  Sophie and Ellie came over early while the sky was still cloudy for chocolate chip pancakes.  Tuva and Erling wished me a happy birthday and hung around watching the pancake carnage.  They’re nearly done with their final essays.  Then, Ellie went to the library to revise and Sophie and I headed to the Anatomical Museum.  The University has a special osteology collection that is only open to non-medical students on the last Saturday of each month.  In this case, the date fell on my birthday.  Maybe it’s a little gross going to look at bones on one’s twenty-first birthday… but Sophie didn’t seem to mind.  She studies philosophy and she said she ‘quite enjoyed it actually.’

After, we went for coffee and then wandered around the Saturday market in the Grassmarket.  We followed the path along the castle, through Princes Street Garden to Waterstones.  I bought myself a new cookbook.  When we left Waterstones, the sun had finally broken out from behind the clouds and I send a text to the rest of my friends to meet us in the Meadows for birthday cake and gin.

That morning, my parents had surprised me with a massive birthday cake.  The delivery guy was equally confused when I opened the door in my Christmas pajamas with a ‘Who ordered this cake?’

Sophie and I returned to my flat to grab the cake, a picnic blanket, gin, tonic water, etc.  Then we set to the Meadows to find a sunny spot.  I would argue the Meadows is a liminal space.  It’s an eighteen acre park in the South of Edinburgh just shy of the main University campus.  During the winter it becomes a barren wasteland until it snows and then it becomes full of half-made snowmen.  During the Spring, and more so in the Summer, it is filled with people, barbeques, dogs, and fire-twirlers.  Yesterday it was less crowded than usual due to the rain that morning, but we found a nice dry spot close to the music being played from higher up Middle Meadow Walk.

Soon enough more friends cycled by and joined.  By eight o’clock both the cake and the gin were gone.  We headed to my flat to drop things off and then moved to the Argyll, the local just down the street.  As it turns out, the Argyll was hosting African Drum Night.  More friends came and went, all dropping by amidst revision.  It was lovely to see everyone and we all discussed plans for when we are all finished in May.  We stayed at the Argyll until late then all departed to our homes.

And so, my birthday came and went and I am so glad I spent it here and with those people.

I know it’s a broken record, but as a kid I wanted what I have now so, so, so badly.

I still remember the first day of High School, my English teacher had us read a poem by Walt Whitman.  He said it probably encapsulated what we were probably thinking:

A noiseless patient spider,
I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.
And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form’d, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.
And I think it still does in many aspects.  But, at least in this point in my life I don’t feel detached or in a ‘measureless oceans of space.’  I’m connected to this city and to my friends and I life I built here for myself.  Truly, built for myself and by myself in a brand new city and brand new country.
So now, as I move forward with the next chapters of my life I’m excited.  I’ve worked hard to get where I am today and I have had a lot of help as well.  So, thanks everyone.  I hope I won’t disappoint you.
But today, as I finish writing this in the sunny shade of the Meadows I am thankful.  Thankful for what I have seen, the places I have been, and the people I have met along the way.  And I don’t know what it will be, but I am sure I will be thankful for whatever comes next.

berlin: nein/10

This weekend I went to visit some friends in Berlin.  I turned in my last submission for third year – essay for Theoretical Archaeology and then skipped town for a few days

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Gregor is currently on placement in Hamburg and Sophie is on placement in Berlin.  They’re both architecture students are are working in architectural firms to learn about careers in the field and gain work experience.  But, with weekends off, they decided to put up with me for a few days.  Thanks guys!

I arrived in Berlin Friday evening after a bit of a delay in Frankfurt.  Getting to my AirBnB from Tegel was easy enough and only mildly annoying with my phone almost dying en route.  Gregor met up with me at the U-Bahn station and we joined Sophie and some of her work friends at a bar for some drinks.

Just to describe the scene a bit… the bar was located on the ground floor of an block of flats and must have been a converted shop or flat originally.  It was entirely lit by candles which cast shadows onto the red walls.  The ceiling trim was a frieze of vines and human faces.  It was a nice space of couches and chair with tall and short tables. The most incredible part was the bartender circling the room who appeared just when you finished your drink, ready to bring you another.  Not only that but he would take massive orders of drinks and bring each quickly without fault.  Incredible.  Honestly, the only explanation I could come up with was the bartender had to be Bacchus.

The next day all three of us met up for Brunch and then took the U-Bahn to see the Brandenburg Gate and the Holocaust Memorial.  Both are located in the center part of Berlin.  The Brandenburg Gate is quite famous and I’ve included a photo below.  The Holocaust Memorial consisted of raised concrete blocks which rise in height as you walk into the center of it.  The ground also rises and lowers like a wave as you walk.  It was actually really disorientating and created a true sense of claustrophobia, which I am pretty sure was the intended purpose of the memorial.

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After, we walked toward where Checkpoint Charlie would have stood (the real one was taken by the Americans and is currently housed in the Smithsonian… classic America.)  The weather was rainy in the morning on Saturday but cleared up by the afternoon.  We spend the rest of the afternoon walking about the center of the city and onto Museum Island.  Gregor pointed out the columns of the Neues Museum which still had evidence of machine gun splatter from the Second World War.

Maybe it’s just my American naivety but seeing the physical evidence of conflict really made me stop.  I grew up reading the history and I always knew about what had happened either learning from my father or in school, but I think it’s a different thing entirely to see the bullet ridden columns lining the portico of the Neues Museum in person.  However, while the scars of conflict are still there, the area around them is green with gardens and full of life and music.

On the Sunday, we visited the upstanding bits of the Berlin Wall, a few markets in the old Soviet part of Berlin, and the Altes Musuem on Museum Island.  The Berlin Wall has been turned into a canvas for public art and in one of the markets, an old Soviet storehouse and grain tower had been converted into an outdoor climbing wall and bouldering room.  Just 40 years ago, that area was blocked away and now people are creating art and climbing walls.

 

 

 

 

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Maybe it’s me being an annoying History student and reading too much into things, but I really do believe we need to understand and remember from which we came and be aware of the world around us to know what to do and where to go next.  The city also showed that from conflict can be growth, change, and education.  Gardens can grow again and walls can climbed and painted.

I am super thankful to Gregor and Sophie for putting up with me for the weekend and showing me around.

nearly done.

woah.  That’s classes for third year finished.  yikes.

I’m not totally done yet, I have my final essay due in next Friday and one exam in May.  However, I am done with set class times and lectures.  The University is officially on holiday for the coming weeks.  Haven’t figured out what I’m doing for my holiday but I have a few options and some ideas.

This semester was a little hectic with snow related university closures and a four week strike.  However, I really enjoyed my courses.  My favourite course this semester was Archaeological Illustration.  I’ve always really enjoyed art and graphic design and I loved learning how to create stuff for excavation reports as well as public outreach programs.

My only exam this semester is for Theoretical Archaeology, it’s on May 16.  After I have provisional plans to get back to the Bothy to finish works for the kitchen and such.  Hopes to get some walking in like year as well… I just will have to remember sunscreen this time so I don’t lose all the skin off my arms again.

The EUMC has a massive 75th Anniversary dinner and ceilidh coming up later in May which will be similar to last year’s dinner, camping, climbing, and walking (and drinking) road trip and party on Iona … only this time old members from the club will be coming back.  I recently spoke with an old bothy secretary from the 1960s Yummick era who was very excited to hear about the event and promised to bring friends and stories.  Should be lit.

Plans for the summer are shaping up, I have four weeks of excavation planned at the end of July into August with the rest of the summer set aside to work at the Gardens on my dissertation.  I have been focused on getting this semester done first and then I will turn focus onto research and talking to people.  Exciting.

The weather is slowly warming up and then it snowed again the other day… typical.  But, today is sunny and it wasn’t too cold this morning.

I’m just waiting for my laundry to finish and then probably going to get some coffee and cry over this essay about post-processual thought in archaeology.

 

xx.

I crack an egg into the pan and watch the clouds move over the castle.  It’s quiet here, just after 7 AM.  I had stayed with my mom last night after coming back late from dinner.  This morning, the cab dropped me off at my door and then took my mom to the airport.  I just got a text from her, she’s all checked in and ready for her flight back to America.

I had unlocked the door to my flat, took a shower, washed my greasy hair, and then set to make breakfast.  The pan sizzles as the egg scrambles.  I pick through the refrigerator and grab my sticky tub of butter, a clean packet of smoked salmon, and a nearly empty jar of blackberry jam.  The toaster pops up and I grab the two crispy pieces of bread.

I pause by the window.  The clouds move over the castle.  I spread jam on one of the pieces of toast and butter on the other.  I layer scrambled eggs and smoked salmon on the buttered toast.  Then I pour myself a cup of tea and sit by the window watching the clouds move over the castle.

I turned twenty this morning.  Similarly to last year and the year before and the year before that… I hope that I’ve grown as a person but not changed too much.

I’m not going to write a long post this morning because I generally don’t like being fussed over or creating a fuss but I will write about a few things as I sit here watching the clouds moving over the castle.

I will write about how lucky I am to be here.  I will write about how I am living in this lovely city working toward the goal I set in my mind when I first finished that museum with my grandmother ages ago.  Each day I walk to class I pass centuries of history and it still amazes me after nearly two years.  I will write about the amazing friends I have met here who have made me part of their own little new family.  I deeply adore each and every one of them and I still can’t believe they put up with my shit.

But, I guess most importantly I will write about how as I enter my twentieth year, I am happy.  Three years ago, I was a mess of anxiety and panic attacks.  Now, I’m still a mess… but at least I’m enjoying the mess.  I’ve traveled and seen so many beautiful things from around the world.  And, I have two more excavations this summer… I just have to get through exams first.

Happy Birthday.

 

 

 

 

 

Poulton Excavation

Hello all!  Today marked the end of the Poulton Research Project, the two week excavation of a medieval graveyard south of Chester.  The site is located five miles south of Chester in the middle of an agricultural field.  For your reading enjoyment (and because I’ve already written it) here’s my field journal.

April 9. 3.56 pm 

Took the train down from Edinburgh this morning.  Had a stop over in Crewe to change trains.  Read Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher while on the train.

Arrived in Chester.  Will be taking part on the Poulton Research Project for 2 weeks.  Staying at a lovely flat on the River Dee.  Just staying by myself, I really am going to enjoy the next two weeks.  And!  The place that the Parliamentary forces broke through the city walls during the English Civil War and a Roman Amphitheater are just around the corner from where I am staying!  I will pass them each morning as I walk to the bus stop!  I am going out now to sort lunch and buy groceries for the 2 weeks.  Very excited to be on this excavation – medieval skeletons! Need to be on site for 9 am tomorrow and then 9.40 form there.  On site until 4.30 pm each day.

April 10. 5.52 pm

First day of excavation complete.  Caught bus to the Straight Mile this morning.  Met at the milking parlour for debrief.  The site is on a very old landscape with finds from every period from Neolithic to Medieval.  A large Iron Age settlement is suspected in the region.  We saw the finished Iron Age trench (to be filled in next week).  It had 9 roundhouses.  Massive round-houses built over a period of 200 years.  They suspect it was some sort of tribal capitol.  The land during the Medieval period (12c-ish) was owned by a the Cistercian monks who build a large Abbey in the area.  The Abbey has still yet to be found.  The monks kept people off of the land, un-intentionally preserving the archaeology.  After 70 years, the Abbey was abandoned and the land laid bare due to increasing pressure from the Welsh border.  There was a series of Welsh/English conflicts in the 14c/15c.  In the early 15c, a Chapel (where I am excavating) was built by the Manley family.  The last time the Chapel appears in records was during the English Civil War of the 1640s where the Chapel was used as a look-out for invading Parliamentary forces as Chester had backed the Royalists.

The Chapel itself is built on the ground of a Roman building (possibly a shrine to a water-goddess).  After Roman occupation there are Saxon furrow marks in the soil.  A early medieval chapel was built on the site before the larger later one built by Lord Manley.  This is evidenced by the buttress on the inside of the Chapel tower.  A buttress was a feature used on the outside of a building to support the wall.

I am excavating in the southern graveyard.  There are six of us working in the graveyard.  We have been allocated into groups of two.  My partner and I excavated through the demolition layer which included charnel bone, teeth, slate roof tiles, sandstone, and building mortar from the Chapel.  We should expect to find an articulated skeleton by day three or four.  The side of the trench has the ball of a femur exposed so either this is a loose burial or a disarticulated bone.  Additionally, a geological anomaly created soil that was less acidic and in turn preserved bone much better than most sites around Britain.

The site is in a really amazing landscape with large potential as not many excavation have been undertaken in the area due to the boulder clay soil/idea that nothing was there.

April 11. 6.17 pm

Long day!  On site for 9.40 am.  Continued to take down demolition layer.  Still no sign of burial after a few false leads.  The femur head was just that.  I found a few other bits of bone but no stratified burial yet.  My partner discovered a bit of skull just before the end of the day.  Have been excavating quickly now to get down to lower levels but unsure.  We have however uncovered a piece of 10c Chester ware which backs up the Saxon connections to the site!

The site directors are very nice and I am learning a lot from them.  My knees are sore from today I stopped at Lush for some bath bombs and will take a nice soak after making dinner… I’m thinking salmon and veg.

April 12. 6.52 pm

We have a burial?  Or two?  Articulated vertebrae and ribs were found today!  The cranium found yesterday was actually a second cranium directly on top of our burial.  We have excavated down and are currently working to recover the rest of the burial by removing the deposition layer.

We have been assigned a context number for our burial now.  Context is an archaeology word for a ‘human action in time.’ A burial consists of 3 actions: grave digging, placement of the body, and backfill.  Our feature has three context numbers.

However, our feature has been a little strange.  It also has a spare C2 vertebrae and Maxilla (upper jaw).  Is there a second burial below?  Will be interesting to see if the burial is indeed a burial/double burial/ or a charnel pit.  Many questions.  The cranium is facing east, so that is a good sign pointing to an articulated Medieval Christian burial.

April 14. 7.34 am

Forgot to write yesterday.  Went out for drinks and a tour of Chester!  The city is super cool and was founded by the Romans as a fortress, you can still see the Roman grid system in the roads.  We met at a pub which was actually located in the old city crypts built in the 11c!

Anyway, excavation went well yesterday.  Our burial is very young, probably at least three but no more than four.  I exposed the vertebrae and we have recovered the right femur.  Still no sign of the right side which is a bit strange.  Haven’t been able to figure out how the second cranium fits in either because it is too close to the first and one would expect another stratified burial?

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April 15. 10.14 am

Just seated for breakfast on my day off.  Yesterday was a quick day on the site.  First, we gave short presentations about our burials and excavations thus far.  We have continued to clean down our burial.

Our skeleton is very young – probably three but no more than four years old.  There are two extra craniums alongside the burial.  I excavated the right side to reveal that the right arm (and so the left) have been crossed over the body.  However because the burial is so young, small, and fragile we have little hope of recovering finger and hand bones.  Likewise, while we have cleaned the ribs and second cranium (to be removed Monday as it shows no sign of stratification).  We have avoided cleaning the sacrum because a phD student from Durham is doing a study about parasites found in child burials.  Okay breakfast has arrived… will continue later.

Overall, the excavation is run very well and I believe I have truly learned much over the past week.

On Monday, we will be having an osteology course in the milking parlour at 10 am.  on Tuesday afternoon, we are getting to learn about medieval archery!  I have not expressed my massive interest in archery just yet – I fear it may make me look like a bigger geek that I already am!  Today I have the day off and will be exploring Chester for a good coffee house – somewhere to revise.

April 18. 8.24 am

Busy weekend off.  Glorious weather and exploring Chester.  On Saturday, I went to the the Grosvenor Museum and saw some of the material from Chester’s Roman fort.  Next to the Cathedral, the oldest part was built in the 11c!  On Sunday, I ate breakfast, went to the Jaunty Goat for revision and coffee and then took the bus out to see the Duke of Westminster’s Estate.  He had opened the gardens for the day to allow the plebeian riff-raff like myself a chance to see them.  The driveway was long (2 miles!) and no one stopped offer me a lift so I walked.

Monday was back on site but it was raining so we stayed inside to wash finds.  We had an osteology unit.  It was very cool and we got a chance to look at two different skeletons from the site.  I clearly had not gotten a first in osteology for no reason and I was able to successfully age and determine the sex of both skeletons!

It always amazes me what you can tell from a set of remains – nearly everything about a person… but really nothing about who they were…

10.18 pm

Cleaned up after muddy day on site and ready to sleep.  Today was a typical day will be photographing skeleton tomorrow morning.  Lifted 2nd cranium today but third (the one bisecting the right femur) is still a mystery.

Other groups: one intact standard burial near complete.  Another group started as a charnel pit(?) but turned into a child burial with potential of being a double inhumation!  However, while clearing, a cranium was found inside of a left pelvis!  Our supervisor was concerned that they had uncovered a baby in utero alongside the mother!  Thankfully, it turned out just to be two more charnel bones.  Whew.

Our skeleton is just as interesting however in its relation to cranium 3.  As it bisects the right femur, the only was it could have would be if it was placed in first there is a significant grave cut which truncates the child’s burial past mid-femur so there is a high probability that there is a second grave directly below ours. A mandible located close to the cranium 3 could belong to it… but no way to know.  Additionally massive amounts of post-mortem damage has affected our skeleton including bioturbation from the nearby hedge line and compression from years of walking over which has actually smashed the skull inward.

Additionally, an archery teacher came today to talk to us about the English longbowman because the site being on the Welsh border was an important one during the Border Wars of the late 13c!  The ones that Henry V was involved in during the reigns of Richard II and Henry IV.   They have actually found a burial on site which had a large bodkin inside of the sternum!

We got a chance to shoot the bow and although I hadn’t shot a bow in nearly a year… I guess it’s like riding a bike.  The archery teacher even complimented my technique.  Side tangent: I taught myself how to accurately shoot a traditional longbow and crossbow while researching a paper on the English longbowman during school to gain a better understanding of the medieval sources.

April 20. 8.25 am

Good day yesterday.  Photographed and took levels and measurements for the burial.  Used the dumpy level and took eastings and northings using the grid system.  Filled out context sheets and skeleton forms.  Now lifting the burial and should be complete by tomorrow!

8.34 pm 

Today I lifted the cranium of a small child.  Who ever they were, I would like to hope to think they were buried with love and care as they were wrapped in a shroud and lowered into the earth over 600 years ago.

We finalised our burial today, filled out more forms, will plan the cut of the grave tomorrow. I have truly enjoyed this excavation and it has given me huge insights into medieval osteoarchaeology!  The teaching has been very professional and well explained.  And the constant supply of coffee and biscuits is always a plus.  I have learned a lot and have been very inspired to continue my study of osteology.

This excavation has really given me more reason to further my study.  Excavating a skeleton has given a sense of gravitas to what I study.  As I lifted the cranium from the ground, I thought of the people who placed the body of the child into the ground.  I know we will never know for sure, but I would like to think that this child’s parents loved them as much as my own parents love me.  I am thankful to have been able to excavate them a get a glimpse of who they were.  This adds in a better understanding of who we are, where we come from, and where we are going.

However, I know that we cannot lose sight of the humanity of the field.  We have been given a unique chance to know our ancestors on an intimate level and I feel I have a better understanding of what sort of relationship that needs to be.  The site was very clear about respect for remains on day one.  For instance we are not to name the skeletons or take photos to be posted online (which is why there are not many photos in this post).  We always have to remember that these were once people who already had a name and a life.  We will never know their true name and so will only assign a number.

It’s a funny thing really.  We know nearly everything about a person by studying their remains, their age, sex, height, pathology, healed injuries, even DNA can give us eye color, hair color, facial features… we can recreate their faces and see the past with our own eyes.  But, who were they?  What was their favourite color, food, animal?  Who was their best friend?  How did they spend their days?  That’s the rub. We know everything and nothing about them.  It’s exceedingly frustrating but rewarding all the same.

I shook when I raised the cranium, but I knew that I had to be steady.  This child deserves to have their life retold and studied, but also respected.  Science has a no many ways of helping us to know that past – without studying human remains our history will become lost to us for a brief moment the people of the past have a chance to be relevant again.  However, we must always remember with what and with whom we deal.

April 21. 5.53 pm

Today was the last day of excavation.  We planned the grave cut and took levels and then spent the rest of the afternoon finds washing.  We cleaned a lot of the extra human remains that came from the fill of our grave including the second cranium and multiple extra mandibles.  I had a strange experience when I realised that I was brushing a medieval person’s teeth with a modern toothbrush but other than that it was a solid day in the field.

I’m a little sad to be finishing as I really enjoyed going out each day and working.  Field archaeology is probably my favourite aspect of my degree.  Sure it’s fun to sit around and read articles and debate theory but I always love a chance to lay on the ground in some contortionist position with my head stuck in the trench, dentist pick in one hand, and brush in the other.  Someone has to do the dirty work to collect the data sets for the academics!

I feel like you also get a closer connection to understanding the past as you truly get to experience the environment from which the artifacts come.

Anyway, I’m back to Edinburgh on Sunday and then my mom is actually coming to visit for the week because my birthday is on Friday and she’s that sort of mom.

It’s been grand.  Props to you for reading all of this.

 

 

 

semester 2 done, off on excavation…

Enjoy some folk jams as you read.  As of yesterday I am officially done with my lectures for the semester!  As of this afternoon, I am done with all my assignments!  I just submitted my last essay about Goat domestication in the Neolithic for Archaeology.

This week has been pretty decent.  On Wednesday I explored a bit around Edinburgh and found a really cool antique shop up in New Town.  It had a collection of stuff stored everywhere.  I ended up with a brass-ship bell with the handle shaped like Bamburgh Castle… much to the approval of my flatmates.  I also had a chat with the guy running the shop about a bunch of 16c cannonballs they just acquired.  I always went antiquing with my parents and being a human with a general interest in old shit I do really like finding antique shops with tons of stuff just everywhere.

Last night was the last EUMC social of the year: the Adventure Race.  It’s a race around Edinburgh with stops and challenges along the way.  The route this year ran from GBH (near Old College) up Calton Hill for drinking and marshmallow eating, then to St. Anthony’s Chapel (the 15c ruins in Holyrood Park) for swimming and more drinking, up to the summit of Arthur’s Seat for more drinking, then down Arthur’s Seat to the Meadows for drinking while slacklining, and finally finishing back at GBH.  Erling and I ran the race again this year… and we took third again.  At least you can say that we are consistent.  The last part of the race had us running through George Square.  I played ‘Eye of the Tiger’ aloud on my phone to the enjoyment(?) of everyone emerging from the library late on a Thursday night.

But, I am done for the semester… until exams.

This semester has gone really well.  I didn’t have as many written assignments as last semester so that was sort of refreshing.  Archaeology diversified a lot and I got a chance to work in the computer labs to create digital posters, charts, and site plans for assessment versus just writing another essay.

I am really pleased with my selection of courses and while I’m stressed for the exam (like always) I feel like I know the material and know what I need to revise.  My exams this year are on May 15 (Archaeology), 18 (Medieval Europe), and 23 (Roman World).  After my last lecture it’s off on the EUMC road-trip for climbing and camping wherever it is sunny.

On Sunday, I’m headed down to Chester to take part on the first of three excavations this summer!  I am so excited for this excavation as I will be excavating a medieval cemetery!  I’m also excited to be getting out for some fieldwork again… call it being from Kansas.  I’m currently doing a load of laundry of clothes that I will need for the excavation and then I’ll finish up packing tomorrow.  I’m also taking some books for revision and my laptop so I can work on the weekends as the excavation runs 9.40-4.30 Monday to Friday.

I’ll be posting updates about the excavation here on the blog, if you want to hear about the new old thing I’m currently crying over.

 

death monday is dead.

Today is the last Death Monday of second year.  Damn.

Hey, Uni?  Maybe slow down, please?

This morning I had an Archaeology lecture over Forensics and DNA which was really interesting.  It ran a little over and cut into my already limited lunch time… but eh, the lecture was cool so I didn’t mind.

For lunch, I grabbed a bowl of soup and went to eat in the Debating Hall in Teviot, it’s in the quieter part of the student union and I really like it because it looks like an old medieval Great Hall.  You know the type with the high wooden ceilings, mezzanine, and dark wood everything?  Yeah?  Yeah.

After lunch, I went to my last Medieval tutorial for the year.  It was over the Later Crusades after the fall of the Crusader states (circa 1291).  After, I had a Roman Empire lecture over the 3rd century AD and then I went to my last Archaeology lab for the semester.  The lab was over using data sets to create charts and stuff on the computer.

The weather has been stellar again and so yesterday I spent most of the day outside.  I went for a run in the meadows, meet up with some friends, and did some yoga.  My friends have commented that I have transcended my title of ‘Trash Child’ (I constantly trip over things, fall into bins or the gutter, and live in the Meadows in my hammock which one more than one occasion has been set up next to a bin.  I also lay on the floor for prolonged periods of time and whine.).  According to Ellie, I have become ‘Earth Child’ after my outdoor yoga sesh in the mud.  Truthfully, I still feel more like a ‘Trash Child’ but eh, I’ll take ’em where I can get ’em.

On wider notes, the Avengers have started filming again here in Edinburgh!  They’ve blocked off of much of the Royal Mile and yesterday night they blew up a truck in front of St. Giles!  I’ve walked by the set a few times and they have repainted a jewelry shop into a kebab shop and have massive rain buckets pouring water all over the street.  They only film late at night, so, no I haven’t seen any of the actors (and probably won’t). Although I could swear I saw one of the directors driving around Edinburgh last weekend!

This week is going to be spent finishing up my last two essays.  I’m nearly done with my Roman Empire essay and still have to write my archaeology report.  This weekend officially starts my Easter break and I will be heading south to excavate a Medieval graveyard and get a much needed two week break! More on that next week!!

My twentieth birthday is in 25 days so that’s terrifying.  I always thought that by the time I was twenty I would be a semi-functioning adult… but alas.