Fishing for knowledge (Reflections of a volunteer – part 2)

by Hannele Parviala

A bit over a year ago I was sitting in the auditorium of Alandica conference centre in Mariehamn being blown away with new and interesting knowledge about Vikings, Fimbulwinter and paw symbols. It was no wonder then, that when at the end of her performance Kristin threw out her invitation to the audience to participate as a volunteer in the next year’s excavation, I was instantly hooked.

My background is in art education, so when it comes to archaeology I’m a total amateur. Now after spending two weeks at Kvarnbohall’s site I’m ready to state that to some extent at least archaeology reminds me of fishing. Fishing for knowledge in the stream of time to put it bit more poetically perhaps. 😀

The atmosphere of yet unknown possibilities and expectation lingers in the air while the crew digs, scrapes, hauls and sieves the dirt in the hope of coming across of something interesting and relevant. And when that happens and someone finds some bit or piece of value, everybody gets exited and dig their own spots with added enthusiasm. Wondering maybe what will be the next catch and if perhaps that might be theirs to make. Hours turn to days in peaceful and steady work and mind roams free to ponder the secrets of time. It is simply just mind boggling to think that some small items have been silently rolling around in that same small field for a thousand years!

During my stay I had the possibility to see different stages of the project. When I arrived the field was green and fresh, there were couple of squares already worked on but otherwise clover and grass still ruled their peaceful kingdom. When I left two weeks later, the field had undergone a total change, squares had multiplied many times over, paths of yellowed grass worn by boots criss-crossed the green and the excavator had stripped half of the field open. As the project advanced from one step to the next it was very interesting to witness how things get done. The amount and meticulousness of the thinking and planning in advance to the actual hard physical human work on the field made a truly lasting impression.

I’ve always had deep interest in history and respect for archaeology but after this experience those feelings have amplified. To plan out, execute and finally analyse such vast projects as the Kvarnbohall you truly have to be strong both in mind and body.

I feel very privileged to have been able to take part in this particular project. Thank you for the opportunity and also for the warm and welcoming camaraderie within the crew!

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