MOLA archaeologist excavating the wattle pit

What’s the most exciting thing you’ve ever found?

Cat Gibbs

When I tell people that I am an archaeologist I generally get asked ‘what’s the best thing you have ever found?’

In response, I say: I love my job and every day I get excited about the possibility of uncovering things that haven’t been seen for hundreds of years, even though these things are often quite literally historical rubbish. This could include fragments of pottery, ceramic and animal bone, which have been discarded or lost, or the remains of buildings.

So what is the best thing I have ever found? Having yet to discover anything revolutionary or of substantial monetary value, the best thing I have found is knowledge of people in the past. Archaeology is less about the artefacts themselves, and more about what they can tell us about the people that owned them. It is this knowledge that I hope is passed on to everyone through the site reports, monographs and books that are written.

I do however find tangible things that I can get excited about, the most recent example can be seen in the photo above. I don’t yet know how old it is, either Roman or medieval (but what is a millennium between friends), but it is very well preserved and a perfect example of an artefact skilfully but not complexly crafted.

If you can’t make out what it is from the picture, it is two intercutting wattle (woven wood) lined pits. The fill that we excavated from the pit was ‘clean’ (meaning we didn’t find anything in it) which is why we can’t be sure of its purpose, but storage is a possibility. The older pit had supporting cross struts and this may be an indication of its use and something we hope to determine with more research.

Archaeology is exciting, and I certainly don’t want to diminish the excitement in others when they ask me about what I have found.

It may be harder for people to get as excited about knowledge as they do about treasure but hopefully my passion for a wattle pit, and the challenge it presents in terms of trying to unravel its story, is catching, but it is my favourite…at least for now.

  • Roman
  • Excavation
  • Medieval
  • Artefacts

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