Left The first dig David Rudkin directed involved rescuing the remains of a medieval monastic grange from imminent destruction by quarrying at Buckminster, Leicestershire.
Below A young David Rudkin on honeymoon - working on a section through a tell at Sitagroi in Greece in 1979 on a joint Sheffield University/ UCLA excavation.
not even require an interview!
After Sheffield, postgraduate studies and a possible academic career beckoned, but having just got married David really needed a job. Upon completing a Museum Studies course at Leicester, he applied for, and was offered, a museum post in Portsmouth. It was the start of a long and rich association with the archaeology of The Solent area.
Fishbourne’s new director When the Fishbourne job came up a few years later, he almost missed it. The advert was obscure. The job was made to sound much less attractive than it was and he did not bother to apply. The main interviews were over when a colleague alerted him to what was on offer, and a hasty extra interview had to be arranged in a local branch of the NatWest bank to accommodate this most promising – but rather late – candidate!
It was 1979. Fishbourne had been excavated by Barry Cunliffe between 1961 and 1969 (CA 6). The Sussex Archaeological Society had opened it to the public in 1968, after the erection of a huge cover-building to protect the spectacular Early Roman mosaics exposed in the North Wing. The Sunday Times – then a quality newspaper – devoted half a colour supplement to the site. A quarter of a million visited that first year. In the ten years since, the site had been managed by part-time curator Margaret Rule, but she had just been recruited to the service of another of the region’s archaeological treasures, the Mary Rose, creating the vacancy that David now filled.
How did he approach the job? ‘I wanted to bring more life and movement to the site,’ he explains, ‘with special events, fun activities, re-enactors, that sort of thing.’ A Roman farming project run jointly with Butser (the Iron Age experimental farm) proved too much, however. Visitors liked to see the animals, but without a stockman it was impossible to control them. ‘We had a ram called Satan. He smelt the ewes in water meadows a third of a mile away and was off; I simply couldn’t stop him. We couldn’t take that sort of risk with a railway and a major road close by.’
Iron Age experimental farm) proved too much,
the Fortress Mosaic And research? ‘We’d had nine years of excavation in the 1960s, but a lot was still unknown. So yes, when opportunities to excavate came up, I took them.’
One such opportunity arose when a blister formed over the tail of one of the sea panthers on the famous Cupid on a Dolphin mosaic in Room N7 of the North Wing. It is a common problem. Mosaics, once exposed, expand and contract with temperature changes, and if they are unable to spread, they blister instead. Then, the remedy is to lift the mosaic and relay it on a new, stable bed.
Getting into Sheffield to do an archaeology degree – where Colin Renfrew was the leading prehistorian at the time – did not even require an interview.