Justin-T
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Joined: August 19th, 2009, 4:30 pm

September 24th, 2012, 4:27 pm #11

Well spotted Sue, I hadn't noticed the excavator updates.

The biggest news I can see is the change from a two-week recommended minimum to a required minimum of two weeks. Another change is the maximum for the season looks to be four weeks, instead of five in 2012. I can understand the thinking behind both changes, although it will make it harder for me to dig again; getting two weeks away will be a real challenge.

A couple of questions arise from the changes, could someone sign up for 3 weeks and do the two weeks have to be consecutive?
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Andy
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Andy
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Joined: September 11th, 2006, 2:15 pm

September 25th, 2012, 10:44 am #12

Hi folks,

The weeks are being organised into blocks of two weeks. The reasons behind this are both archaeological and logistical. The work we will be doing over the next SMC is far more technical than before so extra training/support is needed. It isn't worth doing this for one week, as by the time you have spent three days learning how to do it, then missed the odd day for the rain (hopefully not, but who can tell) you would be gone before having the chance to make that hard work real - hence the two weeks. Once we are locked into a two week cycle we need to keep it that way otherwise it becomes impossible to organize effectively, simply we don't have the staffing to do so (you can't do 3 weeks on that basis but you can do 4 :-). There will be 11 two-week slots next year covering the season as a whole.

There is a mid-season break from the excavations for volunteers on the main excavations site, in the week prior to friends evening. The reason for this is that the senior staff will need an extra recording and processing week mid-season, due to the nature of the work being undertaken to make sure that we are bang up to date on this important work, otherwise we can't continue in all conscience.

More folks than normal will be able to take part during the period of the north field excavations as was the case this year, so the teams will increase in size at that point (July).

In the end, what we are hoping for is a more personal, intimate and refined experience from the excavators side, and a more efficiently executed excavation from the Vindolanda side which will be needed to cope with the complexity of the job at hand. We realise that two weeks is a major commitment and will not suit everyone this year for very valid reasons. Even so, we have to ring the changes to make sure we deliver on the promise of the most exciting SMC that the Vindolanda Trust has yet to undertake in its 42 year history.

I hope that this makes sense.
Andy
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Justin-T
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Joined: August 19th, 2009, 4:30 pm

September 25th, 2012, 11:55 am #13

Thanks for the comprehensive and rapid reply Andy. I'm betting the changes will mean the slots will disappear much more slowly on Nov 1... It might take 48 hours instead of 24 for them all to be gone! :)
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Badger
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Badger
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Joined: May 12th, 2008, 1:10 pm

September 25th, 2012, 12:24 pm #14

'The work we will be doing over the next SMC is far more technical than before'

Any additional details?

TJW
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Andy
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Andy
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September 25th, 2012, 2:09 pm #15

Hi Justin-T,

I hope that the slots will move at a more sensible pace, but to be honest with you, I have been rubbish at predicting it in the past so I will keep my powder dry this time.

Hi Badger,

More technical because we will be running two areas simultaneously and one of those areas if not both will eventually have significant pre-Hadrianic elements, as set out in A3. The last week of the current SMC proved beyond any doubt that this can't be dealt with without significant training and extra supervision. For example, if 60 shoes come out one afternoon, and each needs to be carefully excavated without possibly damaging tablets or any other nearby artefacts, then this takes some getting used to by each team member. Not to mention each artefact needs to be adequately recorded and cared for immediately. Digging it up is just the start after all. The biggest challenge we will face is people listening and then following instructions carefully and to the letter. This will include where to stand, how to stand, how to move, how to move as little as possible in some cases, how to excavate quickly enough not to be defeated by water but not so that you miss things, signs in the soil, how to excavate and what not to do as much as what to do, and on and on it goes :-).

It is a different skill set, and it has to be learned and then executed more or less perfectly, and we will help people to do this. I know that not everyone will get it, and those that don't won't be placed in an area/situation where they could do more harm than good. So we need to nurture and assess people for these tasks more than ever before to make sure both people and site are ready for each other.

Of course, added to this, the recording will go up a new level this coming SMC as it always does for all areas. 5 years is a long time in archaeology, and we have to implement a consistent level of recording throughout an SMC so that each years results are comparable with one another, it is no good changing the system half way through. With the new SMC the level of recording will be a greater challenge than the previous one, this takes time to learn and time to manage. It is all extremely positive, as we get an awful amount of new data because of the changes, but, it places a greater burden on the whole team which has to be carefully managed. So next year you might find yourself taking and processing the soil samples as well as pottery and bone, you might find that you do this a lot because we have to take literally 'tones' of soil samples. You will doubtless find yourself involved in much more recording than ever before, new skills to be absorbed and taken on board :-). I think those that come along will really benefit from it, but of course I am biased!

Last edited by Andy on September 25th, 2012, 2:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Badger
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Badger
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September 25th, 2012, 2:50 pm #16

Understood.

Archeology is after all less about how things were than about how they change.

And that process never ends.

TJW
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Justin-T
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Joined: August 19th, 2009, 4:30 pm

September 25th, 2012, 3:42 pm #17

Yikes. This information doesn't exactly dampen my enthusiasm. I guess this gives me 5 weeks to complete Operation "Wear-the-spouse-down-into-conceding-it-would-be-a-great-idea-to-make-another-UK-trip-during-digging-season". If that starts to run into difficulties, Operation "Our-son-would-have-a-life-changing-experience-by-digging-as-well" might have to be deployed some time around Oct 20th.
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Sue Munro
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Joined: November 7th, 2006, 7:24 pm

September 25th, 2012, 5:48 pm #18

That makes a lot of sense and sounds like a great potential experience for diggers over the next few years.

I got the chance to 'play' with a total station with the guys from NMGM a couple of weeks ago and loved it, so relish the prospect of being able to learn and develop new skills.

Thanks for the explanations Andy.
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sarcanon
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Joined: May 3rd, 2010, 6:01 pm

September 25th, 2012, 7:39 pm #19

Well, I am positively giddy over these changes.

Setting the bar a little higher in terms of excavation skills is tremendously exciting to me, because it means learning a lot more. I never lack for fun on site, but I'm there to learn. Hopefully I will be able to catch on quickly enough to not get stuck with the remedial kids. :-)

For what it's worth, I approve heartily, Andy.

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Justin-T
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Joined: August 19th, 2009, 4:30 pm

September 26th, 2012, 3:48 pm #20

Just a quick note to say that "2013 Excavations" has now replaced "2012 Excavations" on vindolanda.com, and all the information that we've been discussing here is now laid out fully, including all the two-week excavation periods:

2013 excavations page at www.vindolanda.com
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