Archaeology South-East


ASE Takes Stock: Alice Dowsett, Geoarchaeologist

29 April 2020

Alice's varied role pre-lockdown involved test-pitting, boreholing and sampling in the field, recording lithologies, analysing microfaunal samples in the lab, deposit modelling, undertaking palaeoenvironmental reconstructions and writing reports (phew!). So what is she up to now?

Alice looking down a microscope in her home office

Current work and situation

Given the current coronavirus situation it’s not possible for me to go out into the field, but I still have plenty to do from my desk at home. I’ve got an ASE laptop with me which has deposit modelling software on it, so I’ve been creating a model for a site in Surrey that I recently worked on. I was even able to process a small sample for microfaunal analysis at home and take a look at it under my microscope to see if the sediment had good preservation potential- it didn’t!

The wonders of deposit modelling! Here we're looking West through a landscape and its different depositional sequences.

Looking back on last year

My favourite project from last year was a boreholling job I did in Arundel. The town has such a rich history and it was exciting to drill there because we were expecting to find some interesting sediments relating to the history of Arundel. We actually recovered several meters of sediment from the past River Arun. It is really unusual to find artefacts in a 10cm diameter borehole but we found a surprising number of cow vertebrae and pieces of ceramics, which allowed us to broadly date the riverine silts and clays as spanning from the Medieval to Post Medieval periods. The concentration of anthropogenic material alone indicated to us that this stretch river likely would have been full of activity, with people dropping materials into the riverine silts from the Medieval period onwards, likely resulting in changes in the character of the riverine environment.

One of the young drillers on the job also happened to be a part time musician and he entertained us by playing the fiddle on our breaks, he was great!

Looking forward to post-lockdown

Mostly seeing all my superb colleagues again! I miss being able to drop by people’s desks for a quick conflab. For now I’m getting used to chatting more over the phone or on messenger apps.

I also can’t wait to get back in the field and start taking samples again. It’s one of my favourite parts of the job!

Alice out on site


Note: Alice is currently furloughed; her this post was written before then and refers to her working-from-home situation as it was.