Treasure trove no more –  my final days on the Auckland excavation

Molly Bird

In my last post A treasure trove in trench twelve I recounted my first week of excavation at Auckland Castle including the multitude of interesting finds we unearthed. If you haven’t already, you should read that post first for the whole picture. To summarise though, last week provided much more eventful in the finding side of things with each day only uncovering more. My final week instead provided more eventful in other ways, the finds becoming more scarce as the week progressed.

Promising starts

To start the week, Monday was still kicking up plenty of finds but not to the same quantity or interest of the week before. It was largely more pieces of bone and glass. The main objective for this week was instead to get down to the next context using mattocks – which the weather was certainly better for despite the rain. Because of some of the finds, the mattock work carried on into Tuesday morning with yet more rain but by lunch, we had found another context underneath our chocolatey-fudge soil made up of rounded stones which we cleaned up with trowels after lunch. This called for a context sheet and photographs of the area before further excavation. After which we were back working to remove the sharper stones from the southern end. With the amount of progress we made, we were certainly off to a promising, yet less glamourous, start to the week. Wednesday was sure to change that.

. The trench as it had been left after Monday’s work

The turn

If you took a moment to look out your window or were outside at the mercy of it on Wednesday, you would have seen the snow falling in streams of white. Snow which we stood in taking levels of the stone in our trench to work out their depth. This was an interesting and informative experience but freezing temperatures and snow certainly weren’t ideal. Fortunately for us, this only took about an hour to learn and carry out before we could mattock again to warm ourselves up.

Originally, geophysical surveys were planned for the day, but these were called off – after standing still in the snow for the morning I was somewhat grateful for this if not a little disappointed. When the snow eased, we were granted an extended lunch to warm up and figure out the plan for the rest of the day which resulted in an early journey home. It was disappointing to cut the day short but with the weather conditions, I was looking forward to a warm shower when I got home. Thursday was then also cancelled and Friday was made optional. Between the volunteering, excavating, and the weather, I had decided alongside other students it was in my best interest to stay home and recuperate further whilst other students braved the conditions to work on Bek’s Chapel.

The final walk home along the river.

My final day and what comes next

Returning to the site on Monday with the warmer conditions and sun peeking out was somewhat surreal after how we’d left the site on Wednesday, and I was looking forward to my final day excavating my area of the trench. Just as we had left off, we began excavating the stones from the south end with mattocks, finding pieces of bone and pottery along the way. Before we could get very far, I was notified by Dr Tudor Skinner that the geophysics would be going ahead and, alongside other students, we made our way with the equipment into the deer park. It was a very different experience from the rest of the excavation, providing a more relaxed pace. Though we didn’t find the Roman Bridge we had hoped, it was a fun experience. With that, my time at the Auckland Excavations came to a close and I am looking forward to learning about the finds the next group of student archaeologists find in the summer at Trench 12!

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Molly Bird

Hi, I’m Molly, a second year Anthropology and Archaeology student at Josephine Butler. Apart from being fascinated by the study of humans, I also have a passion for all things creative and am a member of the Creative Writing society and my college DnD group! I’m also an aspiring fantasy author and have begun to write a series. You can follow both my writing and university progress on my twitter (@Mollie_Grace_) and my personal website (

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