As an undergraduate student I have never been on a field school before and I had no idea what to expect or what I was in for. Little did I know, when I was assigned to the A-team who (foolishly) put our hands up to excavate Trench B at Magpie Creek Ruin, that it sealed our collective fate for the rest of the week. In this case ‘B’ definitely did not stand for ‘best’. As we were later to find out, if any trench is to encounter difficulties during an excavation it will likely be Trench B (or so the cynics told me).
Trench B was covered in rocks. Not small rocks, but large ones which had to be moved before we could start excavating. In fact, as we progressed from removing the top layer of rock fall to beginning to remove the soil, it became clear that most of Trench B was rock and rubble, most likely as a result of a collapsed interior wall. There was so much of it in Trench B that it took us three days to remove Context 0001 – our first layer. A little daunting when our neighbours in Trench A had hit their seventh context and our friends in Trench E had finished their trench and made a start on Trench F. And we hadn’t even touched a trowel: it was still all mattocks over in Trench B.
It was not until day four that we finally succeeded in removing our first context and were greeted with three shiny new contexts! Actually, they were not shiny and they were definitely not new. But to our team, after three days of rubble, it was akin to finding gold. While the weather turned nasty, it was sunshine and smiles in our trench as we sieved what we believe to be the occupation layer which contained more finds than any other we had removed. It was also what would turn out to be our final layer before we hit the natural soil. Well, it was good while it lasted.
For all that Trench B presented us with a physical challenge for the week that we spent in it, it also revealed some interesting information. As the rubble was removed the structure of the exterior and interior walls was revealed to show that the walls shared common stones, indicating that the entire structure was most likely built in one stage, rather than having the interior walls added once the exterior was completed.
So, as we covered up all our hard work on the final day and reflected on our progress, it was clear that this Trench B had done its best to live up to the standards of those that had come before it. And while I may never again put my hand up when I hear the words “Trench B”, this particular Trench B has a special place in my memory.