What do you love about your job the most? What is the most interesting thing you have ever found?
Camille Jones, aged 11
Hi Camille, those are tricky questions, it’s so hard to pick my favourites!
I think the thing I like best about my job is that I get to learn something new every day, I love finding out about new archaeological sites and discoveries that help us better understand how people in the past lived. Working at the CBA is also great because I get to help other people get involved with archaeology through our projects and events like the Festival of Archaeology.
The most interesting thing I have ever found is probably a Bronze Age settlement I discovered when I was doing some fieldwork in the uplands of the Isle of Man. I recorded a site that was made up of a circular building and a series of banks that created an enclosure in front. I was lucky enough to be able to dig a section through the building and we were able to see how it had been built with large stones, earth and turf. There were no finds at all but it was great to think that we were the first people recording this site and adding it to the archaeological record.
Hi, I live in Mumbai, India, how can I become an archaeologist?
Adwaith Komban, aged 8
Hi Adwaith, thank you for your question.
The best thing you can do to help you become an archaeologist is to see what there is in your local area. You will learn lots by visiting any heritage sites or museums near you and if you speak to the staff they might know if there are any local societies or organisations that run activities you could go along to. The Archaeological Survey of India has lots of useful information on their website and you could contact them to see if they run any activities for young people.
At school history and geography are great subjects to study and depending on what sort of archaeologist you would like to be you might also like to study the sciences. There are lots of books about archaeology around the world that you could read and there is also loads of information on the internet. And don’t forget there are also great activities on the YAC website that you can try at home.
How do you know where to look?
Noah Otte, aged 6
That’s a great question, thanks Noah! There are lots of different ways to look for archaeology that help us find out more about a landscape and give us clues about where to dig.
One of the first things to do is have a look at old maps and photographs, and to look in your local museum, library and archive to see what information they have about the history and archaeology near you. These will all give you clues about where there might be some archaeology.
After that it’s time for some fieldwork and I think the most important tool of all is our eyes! Archaeology is all around us and it’s amazing what you can spot when you’re looking out for things in your environment. If you go for a walk in the countryside look out for lumps and bumps in the fields which might be related to farming, or could be evidence of an old settlement. In the town you could look out for old buildings and see if you can find out what they might have been used for.
Archaeologists might use special equipment to do geophysics to see if they can find out what might be hidden beneath the ground, or they might carry out some fieldwalking on some ploughed fields to see if they can spot any finds like flints, or pottery.
And don’t forget to use the YAC website’s brilliant A-Z. There you’ll find out about lots of tools that can help us discover archaeological sites like aerial photography, geophysics, the historic environment record and heaps more.
Do the 2 inner circles at Avebury have a connecting causeway or pathway?
Cecilia, aged 73
Hi Cecilia, thank you for your question. As far as I’m aware there is no evidence for a causeway or pathway between the two inner stone circles at Avebury. That certainly doesn’t mean there wasn’t one, just that archaeologists haven’t found anything to support the idea yet. One of the problems is that the two inner circles are separated by the modern road. This means that evidence may have been lost and it is difficult to investigate an area that has so been so developed over the years.
Avebury is a very complex site which archaeologists are still trying to fully understand. The site is made up of a huge circular bank and ditch with four entrances and inside this is the largest stone circle in Europe, which is thought to have had around 100 stones and is 330m wide. Inside this large circle are the two smaller circles and each of these also have features inside. The northern circle has three large stones known as The Cove (only two stones are still standing), and the southern circle had a single large stone known as The Obelisk. Recent research has also discovered an earlier square megalith located underneath the southern circle which is thought to be one of the earliest features on the site. You can find out more about it here.
We were on a walk in the woods near a stream a week ago and found old pots and brick and an odd shaped thing with holes in the bottom. How can I find out what they are?
Ben, aged 11
Hi Ben, thanks for your question. It’s great to hear about the things you’ve discovered on your walk. I’m not sure I can tell you what they are from your description but I can tell you how you might be able to find out.
The Portable Antiquities Scheme which helps people identify and record finds from England and Wales. If you go their website you will be able to search through the database to see if you can find anything that looks like the objects you found. If you can’t find anything similar you can email your local Finds Liaison Officer with photos of your finds and they should be able to help you identify them.
Have you ever found a follis?
Robert, Aged 13
No, unfortunately I have never found a follis when digging. For those of you who might not know what a follis is, it’s a Roman coin made of bronze or copper. The first follis were minted by Emperor Diocletian around 294AD.
If you visit the Portable Antiquities Scheme website and search for follis you’ll be able to find out about some of the coins that have been found around Britain, and this website give you some information and pictures of all the other different types of coins used by the Romans.
When did the Clovis culture flourish?
Jan, Aged 16
I’m afraid I don’t know very much about the Clovis culture but I have been doing a little research and hopefully I’ll be able to help answer your question. During the excavation of a bed of mammoth bones in New Mexico in 1932, archaeologist Edgar Howard discovered a large stone tool embedded in one of the mammoth bones. This was the first evidence of the Clovis culture, named after the nearby town of Clovis, and since then similar stone tools have been found across North America. You can find out a little more about how they made their tools in this short video.
Evidence for the Clovis culture in North America dates to around 13,000 years BP and their material culture is present in the archaeological record for around 400-600 years. For a long time they were believed to be the first humans to live on the North American continent but research has now proved that there may have been early groups of people with different styles of tools who arrived on the continent around 14,000 years BP, at least 1,000 years earlier than the Clovis culture.
Thanks for sending in such an interesting question, I hope my answer helps.
Recently I have been studying the legend of El Dorado and Francisco de Orellana. Do you know if the two have anything in common? I know Orellana was an important conquistador that explored the Amazon River and El Dorado was the chief of the Muisca Indians.
Jacob M Dean, Age 15
Hi Jake, unfortunately, all my experience is in the archaeology of Britain and so I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to your question. I think I’m going to have to go away and do some reading!
The British Museum’s online collection of South America has some great photos of artefacts that you might find interesting, including some objects from the Muisca cultures. Their curator, Jago Cooper also made a TV series called the Lost Kingdoms of Central America which you can watch on YouTube. In episode three he looks at the Muisca culture, perhaps you’ll find some answers there.
What is the greatest dig or greatest artefact you have found you have ever been on?
Eliza Jennings, Aged 11
That’s a tricky question as all the sites I’ve worked on have been fascinating. I think if I had to pick one, the greatest may have been the Time Team dig I worked on at Speke Keeill in the middle of a golf course on the Isle of Man.
The site was in use for a long time with Bronze Age activity and burials from the 6th and 7th century surrounding a small chapel, called a keeill, which was built after the 9th century when the Vikings were living on the Island.
The keeill was built of stone and turf and was a one roomed building, probably home to a monk. At one end was an altar and around this we found lots of smooth, round white quartz pebbles that may have been left as offerings, collected from a nearby beach, perhaps because they were believed to help heal sick people.
Another discovery was a stone slab carved with an ogham inscription, this was found next to a stone lined or cist grave. Ogham is an ancient British and Irish language and was written by creating different strokes off a continuous line. It is really difficult to translate ogham today but the inscription might say something about a group of 50 people.
My absolute favourite find from the site was inside another cist grave. The grave contained the burial of a woman in her twenties and what was really rare and unusual about the burial was that her plaited brown hair survived.
The picture below shows us working on the excavation of the keeill and you can see a stone carved with a cross inthe middle of the picture. I'm the person kneeling on the ground talking to Time Team's Phil Harding.
If you’d like to find out more and see all of the things we discovered you can watch the episode of Time Team on YouTube.
Image © David Radcliffe
What kind of World War 2 things have you found?
Xavier, Aged 11
I’ve only ever worked on one site from the Second World War and that was an RAF airfield at Jurby on the Isle of Man. We had to dig some extremely long trenches before part of the site was redeveloped but unfortunately, we didn’t find a thing! The best bit about digging there was getting to have our lunch in the control tower every day where we had a brilliant view of the runways and hangars. I have done some work on a First World War internment camp and you can find out a little more about what I discovered there if you read the answer to the 'What other things have you discovered' question.
There are many ways to investigate the Second World War using archaeology, the most obvious is to excavate and study battlefields, army camps and airfields like the one I worked on but there are also archaeologists who specialise in looking at sites where aircraft crashed or ships sank. There are also lots of buildings that still survive such as pill boxes, bunkers and Nissen huts and war memorials that were erected following the end of the war.
I’ve included a picture of a pillbox below as you might be able to spot one when you’re out and about as there are still thousands remaining all around the country. You can also find out more about life in Britain in the Second World War on this BBC website. You might also be able to visit one of the Imperial War Museums around the country, or take a look at some of the information available on their website.
Image © Chris Kolonko
What kind of material did early humans have to make things?
Eloise Adams, Aged 4
Hi Eloise, what a great question!
People used all sorts of different things they found naturally in the world around them to make everything they needed including clothes, shelter and tools. Perhaps the most obvious, as they survive so well, are stone tools. One of the most common types of stone to use was flint and this could be worked to make arrowheads for hunting, blades for cutting and scrapers which could be used on softer materials like wood. Flint could even be used to make sparks to create fire, while large flat stones were perfect for cooking food on.
Wood was another great material and was often used to make handles for stone axes or the shafts of arrows. It could also be carved to make boats or smaller objects like bowls and spoons. Soft, bendy wood could be woven to make fences and a technique called wattle and daub is one of the oldest ways of building dating at least as far back as the Bronze Age. Strips of wood were woven together to make a wattle wall and the daub was a mixture of clay, straw and earth and was used to cover the wattle and fill in all the gaps to keep out the wind and rain.
Wool, plants like grasses, and leather from animal skins were used to make clothes and dyes to colour them could be made from all sorts of different plants. Flowers, vegetables and even mushrooms would be used to make a rainbow of colours. Leather could also be used to make bags and this YAC activity shows you how to make your very own leather purse.
You might like to watch this BBC video which tells you a bit more about the Stone Age and flint tools.
What other things have you discovered? Are there any pictures of the things you found?
Lucia, Aged 9
Thanks for your question Lucia!
Over the years I’ve found all sorts of different things on lots of different types of sites. One excavation I worked on was a medieval monastery on the Isle of Man called Rushen Abbey. While we were digging we found all sorts of things relating to the monastery from roof slates and window glass to beautiful French pottery and even the graves of some of the monks. My favourite find from the site was a piece of carved bone with a very special purpose – one end was pointed and used to clean your finger nails while the other was a tiny spoon used as an ear scoop to clean out your dirty ears! You can find a great picture of it here.
I was also lucky enough to find part of a soapstone bowl when I was digging at Westray in Orkney. Soapstone is a really soft stone that the Vikings often used instead of pottery to make things like bowls and lamps. I the piece I found was in the middle of a midden or rubbish heap and I think the owner must have thrown it away because it was broken.
Another of my favourite finds was from Knockaloe First World War internment camp, which is also on the Isle of Man, where thousands of German civilians lived the during the First World War. I didn’t do any digging on his site but I was lucky enough to do some field walking after the farmer had ploughed one of the fields. One of my favourite finds from the site is part of a teacup from the London & North Western Rail Company. I wonder if the owner kept it after having a cup of tea on the train journey to the camp! My other favourite find from Knockaloe is the very first one we found. It’s a toothbrush that came all the way from Germany. The last word on the brush, Pforzheim, is the town where it was made.
Here are pictures of these two objects:
Can you tell me a bit about the different areas of archaeology that I could study?
Katie Knight (age 16)
Great question! There are lots of universities around the country where you can study archaeology. They will all teach you the basic principles of archaeology but each department will offer different courses and specialise in different areas.
Some departments will focus on archaeological sciences where you can study things such as the analysis of human remains, metal production or food residue left behind on pots. Other departments might focus more on landscapes, places and buildings or have lecturers who specialise in a particular period or area such as prehistory, the Romans or something much more recent such as the Second World War, graffiti or even space archaeology! One of the best things about an undergraduate degree is that it gives you the chance to try lots of different things and spend times with a wide range of people who work in archaeology.
When I was an undergraduate at the University of York two of my favourite courses were on human remains and industrial buildings. They couldn’t have been more different but it was great to have the chance to try out lots of different things.
The choices on offer are endless and the best way to find out more is to take a look at the different universities websites as they will have lots of information about the courses they offer and the things you could study. You can find out about the different universities offering archaeology on the Unistats website.
You can also find out about the different areas of archaeology through the different activities on offer at your local YAC branch.
Thanks for your question.
Is archaeology boring? I was reading an article and came across a comment that archaeology is very boring. I want to become an archaeologist. And is it all about travelling and stuff?
Celsa Fernandes (age 18)
Archaeology definitely isn’t boring! One of the great things about archaeology is that you never know exactly what you’re going to find when you’re digging. Sometimes it takes a bit of time before you discover anything but that’s a great opportunity to practice your excavation skills and get to know your fellow diggers a bit better.
There are also so many different things you can do in archaeology, if digging isn’t for you then perhaps you’ll enjoy something like geophysics, finds processing or conservation, buildings surveying or working in a museum to help present and display what has been discovered. The best thing to do is give it a try and see which bit of archaeology is the most interesting and exciting for you.
If you enjoy travelling there are certainly lots of opportunities in archaeology. All the digging I have done has been in Britain but I have friends who have worked in all sorts of exciting places like Egypt, Qatar, Tanzania and Iceland.
Thanks for your question,