Pressed down in the clay, almost completely covered by the dirt, lies an object. Could be a piece of Roman pottery, perhaps some glass. To the untrained eye it could just be a piece of ordinary rubble. [the whole thing]
"It is ordinary rubble," says archaeologist Andrew Birley, loading it into a wheelbarrow, which will then be dumped by the side. Unlike me Andrew does have a trained eye. Indeed he has two.
They're trained in the exact art of spotting artefacts from when Roman soldiers held sway over great parts of the North East.
Former Haydon Bridge High School pupil Andrew is one of five professional archaeologists working at the Vindolanda site, near Haydon Bridge in Northumberland.
The area was home to Romans from 85AD for hundreds of years, in fact longer than America has been in existence as a nation.
"The Romans were here until about 410AD and around 150 years later it was abandoned completely," says Andrew, standing on the site. "It's very hard to say who the people were who lived here after the Romans, but we know they were a Christian community.
"We have found lots of religious artefacts and the remains of a church dating from 400AD, which is older than Hexham Abbey. We do know the name of one person who lived here after we found a tombstone. `Brigomaglos' was probably the big chief and as far as we understand was the leader with a band of Welsh raiders."
All that from a tombstone.
Andrew is overseeing a team of volunteers who have come along to Vindolanda for this year's excavation season.
Every year the Vindolanda Trust, the registered charity which owns and runs the important site, holds a six-month excavation programme, inviting volunteers to get on their hands and knees and literally scrape away the present to reveal the past.