Gathered around was our dig director, Craig Barker (close your eyes, and he sounds like Russell Crowe), trench leaders with decades-long archaeological experience in far-flung locations, student volunteers, couples who had met on previous digs and gone on to forge lives in archaeology, lecturing and art (and bring their 4 and 2 year old children to the dig!), not to mention opera singers, writers, former teachers, scientists, policewomen and academics.
Over the ensuing days, in the still hot autumn weather, we worked along-side each other - digging and excavating in the morning, or grouped around buckets of pottery in the afternoon, scrubbing sherds one-by-one.
With our trench leaders’ exhortations in our ears, we were reminded to dig across, not down; go from the known to the unknown; watch for changes in context; and dig systematically. Friendly chats or moments of focus were most commonly broken by a shriek of excitement from an enthusiastic student coming across a find: ‘OMG, it’s so cool!’
And who could deny that frisson of excitement from the strike of your trowel off a hoped-for Roman road, the flash of colour from a Medieval pottery sherd or the realisation that you had found the magic number of rocks – three i.e. a wall!
Unfortunately I had to leave towards the end of Week 3 - I was told I would avoid the Week 4 blues, and the panic and closure of Week 5. But Paphos gets under your skin and like many others before you, you know you’ll be back.
My lasting memory will be of our first dinner, in the cool of the early evening, in the orchestra of the ancient theatre. You could almost imagine what it might have been like 2,000 years ago, relaxing and laughing as the sun set, being touched in the surrounds of this awe-inspiring building by the sublime.