“Did the Egyptians used to crucify people? I’ll ask you because you will know”

This is just one of many ridiculous questions we have been asked on the site I am currently working on.

I am currently studying a BA in Archaeology. I have been on placement with the York Archaeological Trust for the past 9 months, working on the once in a lifetime site at Hungate, one of the largest and most complex urban excavations in the UK with a wide variety of archaeological features, including Victorian culverts, Medieval rubbish pits, Viking sunken featured buildings and a Roman graveyard.

For the first month, I assisted the supervisors in providing training to the Bradford first year undergraduates for their field module, before I played a small part within ‘Archaeology Live!’ A training dig that has been running every summer for 11 consecutive years, providing professional training to anybody with a general interest in archaeological excavations at affordable prices.

Once this finished I worked alongside the commercial team who have been working together on this site for the past 5 years, until excavations were complete  in December.

I then worked on post excavation (finds processing, scanning and digitising, making sure paperwork was up to scratch etc.) up until the end of February, which was supposed to be the initial end of my placement year.

However, the project director asked me to come into his office where he offered me a 7 week fully paid contract for a small project across the road from Hungate! How could I refuse?! So, as of now, I am into my 5th week as a professional field archaeologist working with the veterans from Hungate. And because of the significant archaeology that has been recently uncovered, this project could potentially be extended for another 2 months.

I think as an archaeology placement student, I have been pretty lucky in what I have worked on, where I have worked, and who I have worked with. Not many in our department can find a placement out on the field, let alone be offered a contract on a plate in front of you. Nobody I know in within our department has found a paid placement nor those in previous years save for one or two.

Placement year does indeed put a severe strain on financial stability, people on the dole get more than what we get from Student Finance. I was worried I may not have made it to work for the last few weeks of my initial placement, the contract has certainly saved my neck. And if it wasn’t for a fellow placement student (You know who you are) giving me lifts there and back for the first six months, it probably would have been impossible for me to complete the minimum 9 months.

But the invaluable experience I have gained, the people I have met, and the finds my trowel has uncovered, outshines the darker side of placement year, turning it into one heap of spoil. And as I soon draw the curtain on my placement year I can look back and say ”that was one heck of a ride’,’ and I would love to relive it all.