Victoria Clayton, Writer
Tales from the Trenches
I've been fortunate enough to excavate in a number of countries, including Syria, Turkey, Jordan, the Spanish island of Menorca, Tasmania and Victoria, Australia.
When I travel I visit archaeological sites. Come with me to a few of my favourites...
Archaeological objects or artifacts are important because they tell us about the people who made them. Not everyone in the past could read or write, but everyone uses things.
Archaeology has always been
my first love, my greatest fascination.
I've pursued my love of archaeology
through excavation and museums.
It is clear to me that I became a field archaeologist because we had a caravan and my father taught the history of the Earth.
My life-long love of archaeology began on a beach somewhere in Australia. Or on any number of beaches.
When I was a child, we spent long summer caravan holidays at the beach, swimming, surfing, lying in the sun and reading.
Or, we might be looking for trilobites in tessellated pavements, whiling away an afternoon chipping fossils out of the cliffs, or meandering through the bush, Dad breaking open lumps of rock with his geology hammer.
Searching for kitchen middens in dunes somewhere led directly to my work experience placement many years later at the Victoria Archaeological Survey. There, I spent a week separating shell fragments from burnt material no doubt extracted from a similar midden.
When I was a little girl, I loved going to Dad’s geology lab at the secondary school where he taught for many years. It had a wonderful, unforgettable smell of musty dusty ancientness. I pulled open the flat drawers of specimens with names like Old Testament peoples; ammonites, graptolites and belemnites.
Samples of polished stone in purples, greens and grays sat in tiny boxes of white card, neatly labelled with a dab of white paint and specimen number painted in black – just like the pottery in the workroom at Tell Ahmar. While he prepared materials for his next lesson I would play among the specimens, picking one up, holding it (talking to it, no doubt; I was an odd child) carefully replacing it among its fellows.
Caravan holidays also included visits to second hand bookshops ubiquitous in small country towns and I was always on the look-out for fifty-cent paperbacks of Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries to which I had long been addicted.
When I discovered that my favourite author had been married to Max Mallowan and accompanied him on his excavations at Chagar Bazar, Syria, my excitement went off the Richter Scale and Come Tell Me How You Live came to live on my bookshelf. It is a wonderful memoir of excavating in the Near East in the 1930s, described by Mallowan himself as ‘so happy a record of archaeology’.
I’ve been so fortunate to have created my own ‘happy record of archaeology’, excavating in Australia, Syria, Jordan and Turkey. My doctorate research focusses on baked clay figurines found during the excavations of 7th century buildings at the site of Tell Ahmar in North Syria. I began five years of research, including time spent at the Aleppo Museum in Syria, and also the British and Ashmolean Museums in England.
I loved archaeology but I have broad ranging interests and other careers called to me. Now I pursue archaeology as an independent scholar, reading professional journals, visiting museums and taking part in digs whenever and wherever I can.
And of course writing about it.
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