I have dug at Catcote as a volunteer every year since 1998. This rim shard of fineware
was uncovered by me on the very last day of the 2006 season. So shiny and green did
it appear that I took some convincing that it was indeed Roman - a fragment of
Moselkeramik black slipware from the Trier region.
By 2006 the project had been running for ten years. Over the years we have had very
mixed fortunes and very mixed weather. Frequently too we have had to contend with
the local population, especially children from the nearby housing estate who were
fascinated by what we were doing and enjoyed the challenge of provoking us. Their
greatest challenges were the site huts, which they often attempted to break into or set
One year (1999, I think) the farmer was still working the fields around us. Some kids set
fire to the stubble in the field. There was a sudden shout of, 'fire!' and we all stood up to
see lines of dancing flames advancing across the field towards us. Richard Annis, the
site director, rose to the challenge and immediately organised us into chain gangs. We
grabbed buckets and hared off across the field to the distant boundary where Richard
assured us there was a stream of water. It had been a hot June. When we got there the
so-called stream had more or less completely dried up and it was virtually impossible to
fill the buckets. We did what we could with the little muddy pools that we found. But with
beating and dowsing we somehow managed to put out the fires and avert disaster.
We have also had atrociously wet conditions to contend with. In 1998 it was so wet the
trench became completely waterlogged. For days we struggled with planks, slithering
around, often losing boots in the liquid ooze or upsetting barrows when we tried to push
them out of the trench. But again Richard was not to be defeated. One day I arrived on
site to find he had had a complete moat cut all around the circumference of the trench
which drained off the worst of the water. We continued on working by means of gang-
planks over the moat.
I think that was the year that I tried to excavate what I fondly imagined was a piece of
bronze jewellery only to find it was electrician's wire.
I have seen site directors and supervisors come and go. I have met hundreds of
students, many of whom have gone on to enjoy successful careers in archaeology (and
a few who would never make the grade). It has been a wonderful training for me as an