Rosie Howard

Student spotlight details

Rosie Howard found herself retired and with no particular plan for what to do next. It was then that she discovered Archaeology at the Department.

'In the end it was the empty nest that decided me. I had coped reasonably well with turning sixty and the associated retirement, but it was when I looked into the nest and found it devastatingly empty that I knew I had to do something.

'My husband was still deeply involved in his job and our son had left to study Classics in Oxford. What, I thought, shall I do with myself? For so many years I had, as had so many others before me, juggled the twin demands of job and home, and now both had lost their urgency. What would I do with all that time? Sport? No. Embroidery? Ditto. I needed something that would really occupy and stimulate my mind, and bring me in contact with like-minded people.'

A course of action:

'It was a leaflet in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, on one of our frequent visits to that lovely town, that decided me. It advertised a two-year Undergraduate Certificate in Archaeology run at Oxford University Department for Continuing Education, and suddenly I knew that that was what I wanted to do. And so, with the full support of my husband and son, and with very kindly referees, I found myself in contact with the Course Director and was admitted to the course.

'I had done some academic study in recent years, and so the routines of study were not new to me, but archaeology was. Time Team make it look so easy, with all problems being solved, despite the rain, within three days. The reality, I found, was much less predictable.

'Along with my new-found colleagues, as we met for two hours each week, evenings, at Rewley House, Wellington Square, I learnt the importance of the basic disciplines: stratigraphy, typologies, good practice in terms of conservation and museum activities.'

The breadth of discovery:

'Prehistory gradually took on a more cogent form as I discovered the development of human activities from the Palaeolithic, through the Mesolithic and Neolithic ages. I realised that there had been more than one Ice Age; indeed that there had been a series of them, and it was only after the last one that Britain became separated by rising sea levels from its Continental neighbours.

'I marvelled at the cave art of the Upper Palaeolithic; I wrestled with the unanswered problems surrounding the development of subsistence practices (the so-called Mesolithic/Neolithic transition) when hunter-gathering and a largely nomadic lifestyle gave way to farming and a more settled existence; and I finally got the ‘Ages’ in their right order, Stone, Bronze and Iron, the last one running more or less concurrently with the rise of the Roman Empire.

'I looked at landscapes, hill forts and megalithic monuments like Avebury Circle and Stonehenge. I attended an excavation and got my hands muddied right up to my armpits when examining very small finds in a process called ‘flotation’. I spent hours in Oxford’s famous libraries to which, as an accredited student, I had full access, and - of course - I ran the gauntlet of stress and pressure as essay deadlines approached. At times I felt like giving up, when the pressure seemed unrelenting and I tried to remind myself that I was doing it for pleasure. But I was not alone in my angst: most members of my group experienced it at one time or another, and we encouraged one another through, invoking the support of the Course Director (who was always helpful), when the pressure became too great.'

Success:

'And so now, four years on, I have completed both the Certificate and the Diploma in British Archaeology, and I am about to launch myself into the one-year Post-Graduate Certificate in Archaeology.

'I never thought I would get this far. It has been exhilarating and exhausting, delightful and stressful. But it has been one hundred percent worthwhile. I don’t know how far I will go: I intend to do my best and take each year as it comes.

'But would I recommend it? Yes, one hundred percent, underlined. It is the best thing to do and you don’t have to wait until you're sixty, or have retired. Among my colleagues are medics, teachers, pharmacists, botanists, scientists and IT specialists. Together we belong to a community of learning which is sensitively and efficiently administered by the team at Rewley House.

'Why not look up the Certificate or the Diploma on the website for more details. Or call in to Rewley House and pick up a prospectus. I promise you that you won’t be bored, and you never know where it may lead.'

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