Archaeology in your garden (leaflet)It started with a leaflet through the letterbox. Now I don’t know about you, but in this household leaflets through the letterbox tend to  get fast-tracked to recycling. But this leaflet caught my eye – possibly because it arrived on its own rather than as the usual mixture of offers from pizza parlours, Indian/ Bangladeshi/ Nepali  takeaways or pathologically optimistic estate agents. Hand delivered flyers from Polish cleaners or jobbing gardeners merit a brief glance and a moment of longing. But this was different.

This was really different.  This was an offer to have archaeologists dig a test pit in your  garden and investigate the findings. And if that isn’t  a  “once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity-not-to-be-missed-under-any-circumstances”,  then I don’t know what is. I volunteered.  A herd of mastodons charging  at full pelt from the majestically forested heights of Shotover Hill towards the unforgiving mud of the Thames Valley flood plain couldn’t stop me.  Of course I volunteered. I was first in the queue.

So on Thursday a member of the archaeology team popped round to explain the procedure and make sure that they wouldn’t be at risk of puncturing a gas main or slicing through a power cable. This prompted some emergency tidying up and, yes, I did stick the Hoover in the middle of the living room floor to create the impression that I don’t normally live like this.

Now, I had assumed that digging a small test pit would be the work of a couple of hours over the designated weekend. Au contraire.

Cist grave at Utbogården, Karleby, Västergötland, Sweden

When you said, “a small test pit” …

They plan to start at around 9:30 on the Saturday (apparently there is such a time) and dig all day Saturday and all day Sunday. They are digging in a total of six gardens, so this turns out to be quite a big exercise.

What will they find?

To be continued …

Links: East Oxford Archaeology website
Photo credit: Oscar Montelius, 1874, Swedish National Heritage Board, via Flikr Commons