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February 2018

Posted by admin on February 9, 2018

This month we get a very different perspective from Clare, whose varied role in the project still defies a name! Within her remit lies everything from ensuring there’s kitchen equipment to organising social events. She takes us through the logistics involved in maintaining the camp and feeding the archaeological workforce, as well as musing on what continues to make Teffont a special place today.

My involvement with the Teffont Archaeology project goes back almost to its start. Having successfully graduated from studying archaeology at York with David (who runs the project), I headed home to work out what on earth I would actually do with my life.  “Proper” archaeology as I affectionately refer to it was not for me (dry mud on my hands turned out to be my kryptonite) and I needed a break from academia (amusingly it turned out teaching was the career for me).  

Naturally after a month or so of freedom I was pleasantly bored and trying to find meaningful reasons to avoid my parents’ calls to “get a job”. David on the other hand had used his time a lot more productively and with his fellow graduate Paddy Morton had set up his own fully staffed dig!  His phone call asking if I wanted to come lend a hand seemed the perfect distraction. So off I went, with a sleeping bag, a box of cakes and absolutely no idea what a wonderful archaeological family I was entering. 

I was only really involved in the end of the 2009 dig, turning up for the last few days of manically recording as much as possible before the trenches were filled back in. Luckily my issues with dry mud weren’t a problem, as the weather conspired against us, raining for what felt like every minute of the day. It got so bad that we even took a day off and sat inside drinking tea and eating sugared almonds and chocolate biscuits - this may be unfathomable for more recent diggers, who have learnt that, at Teffont, the archaeology stops for only pretty serious weather! ...Bring a hat, bring a coat and even if there is a heat wave we will just keep digging (occasionally with ice lollies and extended lunchtimes in the shade)! Thankfully in 2009 the weather eventually died down and we spent our last day sponging the trenches dry and using waterproofs to protect the electronic equipment as we recorded the last few points. As we packed up and went home it honestly never crossed my mind that I might end up back at Teffont, after all I wasn’t really a “proper” archaeologist. 

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Out in the field, doing some "proper" archaeology

Over the next few years I continued on my meandering path into teaching and David continued to scrape away at Teffont, which had grown year on year; sadly Paddy left the project after 2011 to pursue a career beyond archaeology, although has occasionally popped back since for visits. I was also invited back occasionally, doing odd bits of field walking, geophysics and flying social visits. By 2012 I was a fully-fledged teacher with a full 6 week holiday, and David was as adept as ever at convincing his friends they really wanted to live in a field for a few weeks. So, back to Teffont I went, with another box of cake, a sleeping bag and this time two air beds (try it, you won’t be disappointed)! My role this time was not archaeological at all, and consisted of a few vague jobs and one explicit one - helping Tom, the project chef, to cook. I think that this is the year that my role in the project was really cemented...although none of us can name the role still. [DR - I keep calling Clare the project’s Camp Manager, but her remit goes well beyond this in reality!].

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The evolution of the camp mess hall from the early years (left) to 2014 (right)

I fill the gaps between recording the archaeology and feeding the archaeologists, hopefully gelling things together and making the Teffont experience safer, richer and more enjoyable for everyone. My Teffont season starts much earlier than most peoples’, negotiating prices and placing orders for the various campsite and kitchen equipment we need, then picks up as we approach the actual dig. I do all sorts, including but not limited to: checking toilet roll levels, moving hay (I forget why), maintaining the showers, taxi runs, newspaper deliveries, social events and the all-important scheduling of portaloo emptying! If it’s not about archaeology I probably have some role in it. 

The upshot of this is that I have a rare perspective on the project. I’m one of the few people that gets a chance to interact every day, not only with the archaeologists but also the local community. On any given day during the project I will speak to David, the project specialists and supervisors, the diggers, Jasper - who runs the farm we are based in, at least one of the Keatinges, various local business or land owners, people living in or visiting the village, local trades people - like the butcher in Tisbury, the gentleman who begrudgingly empties the portaloos (he needs a cup of coffee first, and then he’s a great laugh) and bemused supermarket cashiers - “what are we doing with 20 lettuces, 4 packs of toilet roll and the Guardian?”. In other words, I get to hear the current theory about how Teffont fitted into the wider landscape in the past, but also see what its role is today. 

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A key responsibility: The tuck shop

I can’t offer many insights into the archaeology we find, but I can offer some idea of what continues to make Teffont a special place today. People come here for so many reasons: farming opportunities, housing, history, its idyllic tranquillity and its many walking routes. They stay because of the slower pace of life, the transport links to bigger towns and cities and the trade links - if you wanted to you could source all the ingredients for an entirely local meal here without much effort. Most importantly however, I think that people are drawn to this area because there is a genuine community spirit. People are invested in protecting, maintaining and bettering the local area. They will stop and spend a few minutes of their day finding out about the dig, drivers will offer to drop strange archaeologists to the next village and expect nothing in return, and locals come together to celebrate, plan and share important information as I suspect has happened here for many centuries. 

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Relaxing in the mess hall during a rare quiet moment

What next for Teffont? Well, I’m an educator and that’s where I feel the project’s true value lies. It has been strongly rooted in developing archaeologists of all ages and abilities - and has benefitted from the many returning students-turned-master. I think everyone should have the chance to come here and learn with us, the more the better. The more perspectives that are cast on it, the more we can learn. Be warned though, Teffont will find its way into your heart, and you will hear it calling you back for many years to come. 

So Mike, #TEF29 - bigger than ever.