Starting a part time degree in archaeology at 26years old leaves me incredibly frustrated. Why did I not do this earlier? I could have so easily been somewhere different by now; instead I have 6 years of part time study to complete before I’m even a fraction of the way there to be seen as a serious archaeologist. All I know is I truly want to get there and am enjoying the beginning of the road so far.
To tell you the truth I’m probably doing everyone’s head in that I know because all I can talk about, and indeed think about is the past and my own discovery of its existence. I seem to have an incredible thirst for knowledge and I just hope it carries me through my studies and those long cold days in the field searching for all and nothing. For now I’m excited, I’m noticing a world around me that before seemed so small, so modern open up and widen in distance and time. This surprises me as for the longest time I had thought I knew history, but I was blinkered. Unfortunately this is partly due to historical re-enactments. I am a member of a medieval group specialising in the late 14th Century, and while I can probably talk for England on medieval social history and for the most part the material culture I feel my focus has been set too specifically in one place and I had forgotten everything that had inspired me in school. Sometimes I see the re-enactments I’ve done as a hindrance and can see the failings all the more clearly where we have failed in telling the story of medieval society. But I can also see the good in what we do too – those of us who experiment with our equipment trying our hardest to reconstruct things accurately, or try to learn old crafts or cook historical recipes have all experienced an element of the past and sometimes the reactions we give are in many ways the same as those we are trying to emulate. I will never forget the joy and surprise I experienced watching 2 doves fly out of a Grete Pye as part of a medieval banquet or the subtleties served to us in the form of a magnificent beast filled with jewels, ridden by its own armoured chicken. Bizarre? It was but that night I felt the closest I had ever been to the medieval mind, and perhaps I would ever be.
But now my eyes have been opened and as it should be we start at the beginning and this year we have been going through the chronology of human existence starting with the Palaeolithic some 2.5 million years ago, we’ve only got to the end of the iron age but I feel as if I have learned more about my past in a few weekends than I had been taught in the last 26 years of my life. Now I cannot go anywhere without looking around me taking in the landscape around me and getting far too excited about bumps in the ground!
And what of my medieval adventures? For now I will try to continue them, perhaps with a better knowledge of what we should be showing to the people that visit us. but I now have a really good excuse to push out into the realms of experimental archaeology and try my hand at medieval farming or go on a pilgrimage or even become lady of the manor, so if you ever see a lady wandering around the British countryside in a medieval cotehardie and hood, wave hello it could be me!