Perfect British July weather, overcast and miserable with wind ranging from annoying to downright inconvenient. The boat trip to Tean was however fast; the large boats, Firethorn and Voyager were out and we took the faster boat Lightening instead. This however meant that I spent the boat trip standing up, perched on the gunwales, trying to balance the EDM prism staff and keep my hat on whilst holding onto the boat. After arriving on the island and running to dry-ish land barefoot we managed to unload the kit relatively quickly. However no sooner than we had finished a team from the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust arrived and unloaded their boat in seconds using a landing ramp and human chain. Deeply envious we pressed on and scared the first year diggers by instructing them on the joys of Hogweed. Hogweed covers the island and this lovely plant terrified me in my first year when I was told about the man from the trust on Samson who accidentally put a strimmer through the stuff and spattered himself with the sap; which blisters skin and burns seriously in the presence of strong sunlight. It also looks very similar to the harmless cow parsley, as does hemlock. This explains why the stuff is so popular, little kiddies trying to make pea-shooters out of cow parsley stems can get blistered mouths in the comfort and convenience of their own homes.
Terrors of the shrubbery aside, we pressed on and after a mere three hours had nearly got the better part of a supply tent up before it fell over. After struggling on with weird tent plans and parts that failed under any stress or torsion, we finally got the canvas on the frame, weighed it down with rocks and set up a sweepstakes on when it would blow away (smart money says tomorrow) in time for lunch. Having finished with the mealtime entertainment (Rhys choking on a banana he tried to swallow whole) we moved on to the serious archaeology. The supply tent was up, at last, the toilet tent up and the associated pit dug, and we moved on to the abandoned farm house eagerly and ready to work. Promptly the brief sun stopped and driving rain set in.
The archaeology of Tean is quite interesting; lack of human habitation since the 1900’s has left the houses in an excellent state, including the slaughterhouse from the old farm. The early medieval (the phrase “dark ages” is out of fashion at the moment and rightly so, as it is amongst the most interesting periods in British archaeology) cist graves in some cases are still visible from the 1950’s excavation and generally well preserved. This is the sort of thought that keeps you passably sane by archaeology’s low standards when you are trying to hold the EDM staff straight so the total station can get a clear shot at it with water dribbling down your bad ear, in the driving rain, when you are soaked to the shoulders from wading through bracken, bramble and hogweed a mere metre from the autoban of a freshly cut path because you are blinded by rain on your glasses and confused by the weird demonic mutterings spewing forth from the malfunctioning walkie-talkie. All in all, a better than average day. We even rescued a shrew from the pit we dug.