My name is Assad Sharif, I’m 19 years old.
To be honest I didn’t think at first that the project involved archaeology, I was thinking in terms of construction work and that I was doing it just for the mosque. When I came to the site I didn’t really know a lot about archaeology: I didn’t really know about stuff like Roman pottery and bones. I’d never had any experience before of an archaeological site and no great interest in archaeology other than the sort the general public might have. I did the training at PCA’s offices and I found that interesting and really helpful. Even things like asbestos which we were told about, how it was dangerous if you breathed it in and you could get ill. Then Neil and Alice started teaching me about different types of pottery and tobacco pipes and I found that very interesting. I didn’t think that archaeology would be like this: in training it sounded hard but once I was out on site it didn’t seem that hard. It’s not so difficult; it was useful to have that training beforehand as a preparation, including the Health & Safety and all that.
We started off we was just digging 5cm at a time and when we found the first small piece of bone I was going to pull it out of the ground but Neil said no leave it where it was until we could see more. And then I came back the next day and we continued digging and then we started to see two cattle and we found a well next to them. That well didn’t have anything in it but the other one further away had a lot of pottery. We found lots of blue pottery, we found glass, we found tobacco pipes I was impressed with the length of the pipes and everyone found them in bits and pieces but I found the longest one and four long ones in all. I knew they were made of clay because of the training. Also we found little ink and perfume bottles and bottles we were told were for alcohol. And we also found medicine bottles and jars and little cups and mugs, one of which had a message on it which something about going to school and they used the old type of English, like Shakespeare English, but I didn’t quite get it. They used the well for just putting all this stuff in, like rubbish. We were told that the cattle were buried because they were diseased. I’d heard that people used to get animals to fight, two dogs against a bear. Also, I think that we found dog bones and rat bones in the well. I also heard that the well can be dangerous to be in if you’re digging deeper than 1m without support to the sides.
My name is Delwar Hussein, aged 34; I’m a local lad and live down Elephant and Castle. One of the reasons that I volunteered was purely the chance to help out the mosque. I have a lot of spare time during the day as I work during the evening and I thought “Why not, do something for the community?” That’s one of the main
reasons that I volunteered. I was also quite interested in archaeology, I see quite a lot of television programmes and one of the programmes that I kind of watched now and again is called the Time Team on Channel 4, I always found it fascinating the type of work they do. And when this opportunity arrives I thought why not take it up and give it a go.
I’m one week into the archaeological dig and I found the training which PCA provided very interesting, they touched on various topics, and different things they do; to be honest with you it’s more in depth than I actually thought. When I initially used to watch them archaeology programmes on TV all I thought that they did was a bit of digging and pick up bits and pieces and send it over to someone else to do all the research and analysing the artefacts they find. I realise now it’s less about digging and more about the actual work they do behind the scenes, the number of different departments and people with different skills involved and not just the people on site. That’s been one of the eye opening things for me really.
So far so good, like I said before, it’s just on week into the dig, and I’m finding it interesting and I’ve still got my enthusiasm and the knowledge that I’ve gained. Quite possibly, in the future, I’m actually thinking about looking into going into this. I’m finding in social circles and the people that I meet I’m talking more and more about the history of my local area which I didn’t know before and which I’ve gained through this PCA training and digging I’m doing right now. The experience that I’m getting from this, like I’ve said, it’s opened up my eyes into the archaeological world and the local history and the amazing things that you can tell from just picking up a piece of pottery or what you find in the ground.