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In the beginning...

Recognise this field?

Here are a few clues: delete the poplar trees, add a marquee on the right, scatter the far end with colourful tents and dig about 30,000 tonnes of soil out of the foreground.

Yes, it is the Boneyard, the last winter pre-SHARP. Some of you may recognise the Enviro Tree-to-be, which even then had its characteristic drunken lean.

Here it is again in Week 1, '96, when the poplar trees were being felled. The photo is grainy and the colour is saturated but you'll see the stakes that delineated the original 20m x 30m Old Trench. Yes, it was stripped off by hand. Archaeologists were harder and fitter (and the Project was poorer) in the old days.

Here's Old Trench, likely around the end of Week 2 or 3 '96. Though some promising patches have revealed themselves, with possible features running through them, still no sign of the expected burials, despite a couple of sondages sunk on the eastern baulk. A lone sad figure on the right wonders where all the skellies are.

And here is our first view of the campsite. More on that to follow. A glimpse of the Enviro Tree again shows that, until the season just gone, it has always draped its gentle shade (and its sap and crap) over SHARP's Boneyard campers.

In case you were wondering how, in those pre-drone days, we captured such an elevated view of the field, the next photo reveals the first in SHARP's proud tradition of dodgy, rickety and generally regulatory undesirable scaff towers.

As the season went on - and the skellies finally started to reveal themselves from Week 4 - the trench settled into what has become a well-rehearsed routine of trowelling, cleaning, bucketing and barrowing.

And where did those barrow-loads end up? Here's the first photo of another long-gone but once-famous Boneyard occupant: the Spoilheap. It gets an initial capital because in its day it was worthy of its own postcode. Once upon a time it was possible to stand on top of it without a day's trek and the assistance of a team of Sherpas.

It's interesting to see that archaeology has not changed much in the past 21 years. Only the lack of people taking smartphone photos and posting them on Facebook - and about 300 metres - separates these images from our last season.

Sorting and washing finds - another task that doesn't change - though no comfortable Finds Hut to work around back then. Note the tray half-filled with ubiquitous oyster shell. There was lots of that. Lots.

While some of us were swanning about on Boneyard, a small crack team - the archaeological equivalent of special forces - was attacking the Reeddam and excavating a series of test-pits.

This photo beautifully shows the legendary 'grey marl layer', which still seals the bottom of this man-made wetland where reeds were once grown for use in thatching.

And here is SHARP's lunch break, 1996-style. Make-your-own sandwich and eat it sitting on anything you can find. The menu? Any or all of cheese, pickle, tomato and ham on white or brown bread. Every. Single. Day.

Last but not least, here is the '96 campsite. No Marquee, no cabins and very, very small tents.

In Sedgeford some things change and some things stay the same, but there is always Boneyard.

(Photos courtesy of the SHARP online archive. If you recognise these photos as yours - or yourself in them - please let us know!)


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