Your first winter in commercial archaeology is usually the worst and those who survive it will more than likely continue in their archaeological careers for many years to come. There is however a knack to getting through it.
Whilst the UK doesn’t have the coldest winter’s per-se it does have some pretty wet, nasty and downright miserable ones. It’s also worth remembering that January and February tend to be much worse than November and December with January often bringing snow and heavy rain and wind. So, for those who find themselves struggling with the reasonably mild temperatures on the run up to Christmas, unfortunately it is only going to get worse before it gets better. But remember, everyone on site is cold, some may be colder than others – we all run differently. Personally, I have terrible circulation and lose feeling in my fingers as soon as the temperature drops below 5 degrees, I often can’t feel a thing (or answer my phone properly) between the end of October and the middle of March. So far my fingers haven’t fallen off and this will be my fifteenth winter in the field.
So, as a commercial field archaeologist how do you survive the winter? Here are my top tips:
Ultimately we all have to find what works for us and yes we are all going to be cold for a significant portion of the day – especially the poor person stood watching the machine strip the field, (snot icicles are the worst) Just remember not to warm up too fast, increase your exposure to heat gradually, your joints, muscles and blood vessels will thank you for it. And remember if you really are cold and shivering, don’t keep it to yourself – tell someone, the average temperatures in the UK mean it’s unlikely that you’ll get frostbite or be hypothermic, but we all have different circulation and different tolerances for high and low temperatures. Don’t suffer and put yourself at risk, there may be a different task that could be done.
If you have any better tips, or there’s something I’ve not covered, please add it in the comments. I’m always hunting for advice on staying warm!
S. M. Porter
Professional archaeologist and author, S. M. Porter loves history, adventure and digging in the mud. Her career is in ruins - just where she wanted it to be.