Q&A with site supervisor Murray Cook

(Rampart Scotland, Balbithan Landscape Project)

What qualities do you look for in a digger?

The most important quality is that they want to be there, they are keen to explore the past, to be the first to see or touch something in hundreds or thousands of years. However, they should be physically fit and used to the extremes of the British weather!

What items of equipment would you say are essential for a novice to bring along themselves?

A sense of humour and willingness to learn! The key things are a range of clothing, you have to assume the weather will be everything from cold, windy and wet to bakingly hot, so this means everything from full winter gear to sun hats and sun tan lotion.

What things should a novice digger say to the site supervisor when first arriving at the dig?

“I don’t understand….” – always be willing to ask questions, no one ever gets it right first time and no one minds, we all did our first dig once!

What things shouldn’t a novice digger say to the site supervisor when first arriving at the dig?

I should be supervising the others!

And finally: what has been your weirdest/most intriguing/favourite find?

The weirdest thing I ever found were the arms of four children aged 9, with the misshapen skull of an adult and the burnt teeth of a 4 year old all in the same burial cist….a rescue excavation in Linlithgow!

The most evocative thing I ever found was the remains of a burnt Roman wheel in an oven in a marching camp in Aberdeenshire, this had been burnt to stop the locals who were being invaded at the time getting access to Roman technology. A legionary burnt it just before breaking camp and heading northwards into the unknown almost 2000 years ago!