Tim Beelen

Student
Summer excavation 2017

Tim is a history/philosophy student at University College Roosevelt (UCR), a Liberal Arts and Sciences college in Middelburg, the Netherlands. He lived in a small town in Limburg (the south‐east) named Horst all his life, until he went to study in Middelburg at age 18. In 2017, he was a third‐year student at UCR, and planning to pursue a master abroad.

Through UCR’s Dr. Helle Hochscheid and Vickie Haverkate, he joined the 2017 WU summer excavation as a student volunteer, working in 4 different digging groups through the two weeks: “I helped with digging (duh), provided some working music (rock) and did all sorts of other stuff related to archaeology to learn what happens at an excavation. While I am not technically an archaeology student, I do have an interest in the profession. Waterloo Uncovered provided a splendid first‐hand experience of what being part of an excavation team entails. Furthermore, it is at Waterloo: how many people get the opportunity to not only see that most famous battlefield in European history in person, but also get to dig there? Lastly, the combination with rehabilitation for veterans at first glance seemed very interesting and unique to me. I was curious to find out the stories of the veterans, since I don’t get to converse with army personnel that frequently.”

The work I did during the excavation can basically be summed up in one word: diggin’. A simplification, but no less true. I spent a lot of time digging, from trowelling up small objects in the Killing Zone (where I found my first musket ball!), or digging up a pile of stones, to searching for a mass grave in a potato field. The days were relatively long (because a lot of work needs to be done), but since you could take a breather at any given time, and you were working together with friends, it was more than bearable.”

As he dug, Tim found archaeological artefacts, but also new skills: “I found a lot of musket balls (figures, right?), but I also found a silver chain and a button (both unfortunately turned out to be re‐enactor), a copper thimble, a coin, pieces of metal… and potatoes. I must say the thimble was my favourite, because it was unique and had all kinds of cool decorations that were still visible. In two weeks, I learned a lot. I don’t think I could’ve learned as much from books about excavating as I have from actually doing it myself. Besides some very interesting facts about the battle of Waterloo itself (thanks to Tony’s brilliant lectures throughout), I learned some valuable information about archaeology itself. How the context in which an object is found is maybe as important as the object itself. I learned various skills ranging from how to set up a trench with perfect angles, several features such as ditches etc., how to photograph objects, how to work with GPS equipment and programs to visualise the battlefield, and primarily that digging with the guys and gals is just a whole lot of fun.”

After the dig, Tim went back to university, and has been “Studying and studying and studying. I’ve been doing an individual research project about the Flushing Remonstrance, for history. And of course, I have been telling people about the amazing experience I had, and how it’s made me aware of a few new things: Firstly, the technical side of archaeology: when I read a text about archaeology now, I recognize aspects and technical terms. I read a report (of another excavation, in Zeeland) last week and it was very cool to see that what everything collected and sorted out looks like in a formal report. Secondly, the hard work that goes into it. Only when you do an archaeological dig do you realize the amount of work that went in famous excavations all over the world, and do you learn to respect it. Because it is hard but honest work. And finally, how important the rehabilitation process is for veterans, and how instrumental special ventures such as WU can tremendously help them in this process.”

Asked about his favourite part of the dig, Tim replied: “Apart from the experience of an excavation (which was great), I must say it was the teamwork, the digging together with people I had never met before but that became friends over these two weeks. Even if you dug a hole for 3 days and all you found were potatoes, it was still good fun and that made it a worthwhile and amazing experience. Would definitely recommend it to anyone with an interest in history, archaeology, or just hanging out with veterans!”

Tim Beelen