I was welcomed on site and given a site tour. Two large trenches had been opened and straight away we dived in with spades and shovels shovelling topsoil onto the spoilheap. Puffing and panting we lasted until tea break having checked each spade-full for any pottery fragments.
After break the trench was cleaned and photographed. Until then I had no idea that soil could be so interesting. I even found out that archaeologists describe soils according to its colour, texture and content. What?! I kept peering down into the sand as Emma pointed out the subtleties to me.
Our next task was to trowel the surface of the trench and we soon realised that nothing in archaeology can be hurried. A tantalising half of what looked like an intact pot protruded from the side of our trench but despite pleas from ourselves (the amateurs), it was left in section for recording. Amazingly though we found pieces of 16th century pottery, and some very early clay pipes practically every few minutes. The site was so rich in finds! Each time a corner of pottery emerged, we held our breath. It was entirely possible that Rainford's equivalent of a Greek urn would be revealed beneath the soil. But it wasn't. The archaeologists logged each area, the soil conditions, the position of the pottery and contexted the layers.
Later on we got to wash some of the finds. We meticulously used toothbrushes to scrub each piece of pottery clean. I couldn't believe how rigorously trays and finds were labelled and cross-referenced. I thought archaeology was just about digging down, down, until some mysterious tribe decided to chase you out of tunnels and you escaped in runaway trains!
And then we struck gold (not literally). A tiny corner of highly decorated pottery emerged. In our excitement we were told we had found part of a cup lid which had been made during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. It even had tiny faces around the knop of the lid. The find of the day!