Ask the Expert

Julian Richards is best known as the TV archaeologist from Meet the Ancestors and Blood of the Vikings. He loves Stonehenge and is potty about pots. He is the Guest Curator of our current Pottery Exhibition “A potted History Of Britain”.


Here are some questions and answers

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No, I have never found any jewels in all the years I’ve been digging. That’s probably because I’ve spent a lot of my time digging up sites from the Stone Age – and they didn’t have any jewels! I have found beads made of amber though when I was working on a Saxon site – do they count?
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Yes, I’ve excavated lots of human burials. We can tell how old someone is by looking at their teeth and looking for signs of wear in their bones. As you get older your joints start to wear out and they are a good sign of how old someone was when they died. Its not so easy working out how they died. Sometimes it’s very obvious from the bones, for example if they have signs of a huge sword wound in their head then that’s probably what they died of. But most of the time the things that caused them to die haven’t left any signs in the bones. So, then it’s a mystery.
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No, I have never found any dinosaur bones (although I do like dinosaurs). That’s because I am an archaeologist and archaeologists explore the times when humans lived on the earth (even if some of the early humans weren’t like us!). And even though that goes back millions of years, it’s still a long time after dinosaurs died out. So, I leave looking for dinosaur bones to the palaeontologists. We’re both ‘ologists’ but look for different things!
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The most interesting thing I have ever found was a big pit full of rubbish, broken pots, flint tools and lots of animal bones. That might not sound very interesting but it was 6000 years old! All the rubbish gave me clues about how people were living at that time, what they ate and where their food came from. So, perhaps not the nicest things to look at but wonderful clues. And they came from close to Stonehenge!
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We use all sorts of ways to discover where to dig: photographs taken from planes or drones, collecting finds from ploughed fields and using special instruments that can see through the soil and show us where there are buried walls, ditches or pits. This is called ‘geophysical survey’ and these days we can carry these instruments on quad bikes or tractors and cover huge areas very quickly.

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