The Bioarchaeologist as a Young Boy
I remember the Burn’s Day Storm on January 25th and 16th 1990 very clearly, although I was only nine at the time. Several trees fell at my school during the day, and a neighbour’s tall pine tree fell into my parents’ garden in Yeovil, demolishing part of the dry stone wall dividing the properties. I was at home when the wall was rebuilt, probably a couple of months later during the Easter holiday, and I remember I spent a lot of time watching what the buiders were doing. I also salvaged some finds from the work.
The wall had been built when a public park was laid out in the nineteenth century, with land one side of the wall being reduced in level about two metres, rising up to maybe 1.5 metres on the part that was demolished. In what I would now know to call the construction cut for the wall, the builders found some bones. This obviously excited me a great deal, as I apparently attached enough importance to them for my parents to keep them! At some point, more recently, they were returned to me, and since I moved to London to go to UCL in 2004, they have been in a little box alongside some of my text books. I remember very clearly there was an oyster shell (one of the valves), but unfortunately that is not in my little box, so I suppose at age 9 I didn’t think shell was quite as good as BONE!, but I do remember my dad explaining how an oyster shell came to be buried in our garden, thirty-odd miles from the nearest sea, so perhaps that’s when the seeds were planted…
I fished out the box today, baffled by, and somewhat grateful to, my much younger self and my very indulgent parents who hung on to those bones. Below then, is a photograph of my first archaeological finds, a mixture of sheep/ goat bones and a larger mammal, presumably cattle, from nineteenth century Yeovil, Somerset, UK.