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Last weekend, I attended a one-day conference organised (and fully funded) by Wessex Archaeology at the Greenwich University Medway Campus on 12th September 2015. The theme of the conference was ‘Celebrating Prehistoric Kent’.
The programme was set out as follows and despite some minor overruns, all went very smoothly, ably m.c.’d by Wessex Archaeology’s Regional Team Leader for London and the South East, Mark Williams.
9.30: Welcome (coffee and selection of teas provided)
10.00: Paul Garwood (University of Birmingham): Seas of change: the early Neolithic in the Medway valley and its European context
10.40: Sophie Adams (University of Bristol): We dig what you dig: exploring later prehistoric bronze working from the excavated evidence
11.20: Break with coffee and selection of teas provided
11.40: Phil Andrews (Wessex Archaeology): Digging at the Gateway: the archaeology of East Kent Access 2
12.20: Andy Bates (University of Kent): Investigation and Survey of the Oppida at Bigbury and Oldbury
1.00: Lunch (not provided) displays etc
2.00: Jacqueline McKinley (Wessex Archaeology): The Late Bronze Age-Middle Iron Age mortuary landscape at Cliffs End
2.40: Ges Moody (Trust For Thanet Archaeology): Prehistory in our place and our place in Prehistory; Thanet and the Trust for Thanet Archaeology
3.20: Andrew Mayfield (Kent County Council Heritage Team): Public perceptions of prehistory
4.00: Discussion & Close
I tried to take notes throughout the day, and I hope I haven’t misrepresented what was said by anyone in the following summary. Please comment if you were there and feel I’ve got anything wrong.
Paul Garwood kicked off the day, talking about the Medway Valley Megaliths, “discovered, forgotten, rediscovered etc. but not quite fitting in”. He postulated a two-phase Neolithic: The ‘Formative’ (4000-3750BC), which included the spread of farming to previously Mesolithic cultures, and the ‘Early Developed’ (3750-3400BC) which included the long barrow culture.
Evidence from each of the megaliths in the Medway Valley, which we’ve visited before, was examined in turn. As the size of the monuments increases (4000BC for White Horse Stone, Kits Coty etc) up to large enclosures such as that at Burham Causewayed Enclosure (3700-3500BC), this indicates a time of huge social change and activity, and suggests a new chronology for the British early Neolithic period.
Sophie Adams then ran through a wealth of evidence for Bronze Age and Iron Age metalworking in Kent, and provided several samples and reproductions to be passed around the audience. The evidence for metalworking usually consists of ingots, crucibles, moulds (often made of clay) or smithing tools.
There are many metalworking objects recorded with the Portable Antiquities Scheme from Kent relating to the Bronze Age, plus a lot of Iron Age coins.
Some 25 sites in the county provide evidence of metal working. This is a high number for such sites in a single county in Britain. Sophie examined the finds from several of these sites in detail, such as Holborough Quarry, Mill Hill in Deal, Highstead Chislet, and the Boughton Malherbe hoard.
After a short coffee break, Phil Andrews took us back to 2010 and the largest excavation in Britain, where over a period of 9 months some 48 hectares of land were stripped from a rich archaeological landscape for the East Kent Access route. The project was overwhelming but the road was completed on time. The site was divided into 25 ‘zones’ for ease of reference.
Among the earliest remains found were a palaeolithic flake from Telegraph Hill, along with Mesolithic axes. Zone 6 included a concentration of Neolithic Flint in pits, while zone 14 exposed pits with pottery. There are a large number of barrows in Thanet, almost all of which have been ploughed flat. There were at least 12 large barrows under the course of the road.
One ring ditch barrow produced up to a dozen burials at Cliffs End near to a possible henge – a 50 metre wide monument. A total of 8 late Bronze Age hoards were all found on the Ebbsfleet peninsula as part of the excavation.
Zone 6, over 300m long, also produced evidence of a very complex Iron Age site, with trackways, ditches, roundhouses etc. The settlement grew through to Roman times. The most significant discovery? A possible link to Julius Caesar in the form of a very substantial ditch, part of defences dating from around 100 bc or so. The ditch was recut in 100 AD, and investigation continues.
Andy Bates then described his work, surveying two under-researched hillforts in Kent, those at Bigbury and Oldbury.
Bigbury is an are dominated by gravels, much of the area has been quarried, some of the surrounding fields are being surveyed using metal detector, magnetometry and resistivity geophys, with some encouraging results including an intriguing rectilinear feature which bears some resemblance in form to a possible shrine found on Cadbury Castle in Somerset.
Oldbury, one of the largest hillforts in Europe, has been largely inaccessible to geophys due to being heavily wooded to the south with agricultural use (orchards) to the north, but an opportunity opened up for some survey work in a northern field. Not much showed on the geophys here, some features but all were very disturbed.
After a lunch break Jacqueline McKinley described some of the major findings from the Cliffs End farm site (see the article in Current Archaeology issue 306). This was a very busy mortuary site, with burials from the late Bronze Age, middle Iron Age and some Anglo-Saxon burials too. There were no bones in many of the graves, due to the acidity of the soil, but fortuitously in one area of redeposited soil, 14 articulated burials were preserved. This find increases by around 30% the number of articulated bodies found in Kent to date. Unusually, the majority of the bones were from teens.
The main find was the burial of a Bronze Age woman, found with two lambs on her lap, holding a piece of chalk to her face, and her other hand pointing to a central enclosure. Two youths were also buried with her, one with their head resting on a cow skull. The woman had died from four blows to her skull with a bladed instrument – a violent death, but possibly a sacrifice?
Ges Moody then gave us a brief history of Thanet, the Trust for Thanet Archaeology and the background to many of the antiquarian (and more up to date!) archaeological investigations in the area.
The Trust recently completed their ‘VM-365’ project, with a blog post every day for a year looking at Thanet archaeology and many of the finds available in their ‘virtual museum’. An interesting site, well worth a visit.
The day finished (for me) with Andy Mayfield giving a lighthearted look at how the public view prehistory. he then went on to explain a little about his work as a Heritage Environment Records Officer in Kent (what a H.E.R.O.!), and a review of the enormous amount of prehistory available in the county.
After the meeting, an invite was extended to all to continue discussions in a nearby pub, but as we had a long trip home in front of us, we left as the organisers were packing up the display materials.
All in all a very entertaining, interesting and educational day, and Wessex Archaeology are to be applauded for covering the cost of the event. I’ll certainly be looking out for other events in the future. Maybe they could consider covering each county in turn? Personally I’d like to see a similar review of archaeology in my local counties of Hertfordshire and Essex (hint hint!)
By Alan S.
As mentioned in the writeup for this year’s Megameet, the very first megameet (and the origins of Heritage Action) occurred on the same date back in 2003, 12 years previously. Following that meeting, as was my custom then, I wrote up some fieldnotes of the day’s travels and the sites we’d seen. Reading them now, the notes show a level of naivety that I hope I’ve shrugged off in the intervening years, but I think it’s an interesting insight into the day as a whole, and a good indication of how thinly I used to spread myself back then.
Bear in mind that there was no such thing as ‘Heritage Action’ when I first wrote these notes, and I have had to update several of the links as the original links (and many of the pictures) are no longer available. And so I present my notes from:
TMA Picnic Day – 2003
July 26th, the day of the Modern Antiquarian (TMA) picnic.
M. had identified a craft shop in Calne that she wanted to visit first, so we made a relatively early start and joined the holiday traffic on the M4. It was difficult passing the turn offs, first for Uffington, then Marlborough and Avebury, before dropping south to Calne (why is there a statue of 2 pigs in Calne?)
Oh look, there’s the A4 – Avebury is just up the road! And so after a brief retail break, off we set.
As we passed Cherhill Down, I saw a sign advertising trial flights in a microlite. Now that would be a good way to see Avebury. I must enquire about prices one day… (ed. I never did.)
I’d hoped to take a look at the Beckhampton Longbarrow marked on the OS map (SU087691), but despite a trot down the Wessex Ridgeway, didn’t see it. Either I didn’t go far enough, or it was hidden beneath a copse. I got to check out the Longstone Cove again though, peeping above a quite high crop where last time I was here there was none. And so into the village, and some more retail therapy: John Michell’s ‘Sacred England’ (reduced as it was the shelf copy), ‘Discovering Hill Figures’ (Shire Books), and ‘Unusual Aspects of Avebury’ by Lamont & Hedderman. Some light reading there. M. purchased a Tree Ogham booklet.
We drove down West Kennet Avenue, and I would have stopped again, but there was a herd of dreaded COWS grazing in the field! So it was on to West Kennet Longbarrow. I recalled that I was last here some 7 or 8 years ago as I pulled myself up the hill. I was quite wary, as I’d barely been able to park in the layby and was anticipating a crowd, but by some miracle I managed to have the place to myself for at least 10 minutes after a small group left. I’ve been away from here too long, and must resolve to visit more often.
Back to the car, and the weather started to close in. I was already late for the arranged start time for the meet at Uffington, and the question now was: hill or pub?
I’d tentatively planned to stop on the way at Ogbourne St Andrew, but put that plan to one side, and diverted via Liddington Castle as we made our way up towards White Horse Hill. The weather still couldn’t decide whether to convert to a full-on downpour, so I decided the hill was the place to meet, on the basis that “it’s only a few spots of rain”.
And I proved to be right. We parked above the Manger, hoping that M. would be able to make it rest of the way on foot, but to save her energy, I did a scouting trip first. Some scout! I’d completely lost my bearings, and instead of aiming for the head of the white horse, I ended up in Uffington Fort! Correcting myself, I found the head, but no other TMAers were to be seen. Or was that Treaclechops? Unsure of approaching a possible stranger myself, someone approached the two women on the groundsheet, obviously having just returned from Dragon Hill. I heard the magical incantation “TMA” spoken, and dove in. Yes, it was Treaclechops with Miriam, I just hadn’t recognised her from behind at first, and the absence of Jane had confused me. Moth was introduced, being the one having just returned, then Jimit, Baza and Jane also returned from their wanderings, introductions were made and the group for the day was complete.
I returned to the car, but M. felt it was a hill too far for her to manage, and she decided to wait there while I returned to socialise with the group.
A couple of young tourists (for want of a better phrase) had decided to walk the horse, until Treaclechops raced down the hill, screaming in her best RSM voice “Hey! Get off, that’s a scheduled ancient monument you’re walking on!!” Boy, did they get off quick!
An hour later, we made a collective decision to move over to Wayland’s Smithy, where hopefully M. would be able to walk on the flat to join us. And so, a convoy of five cars made their way up to the Ridgeway and Wayland’s.
The last time I was here, the fields were cropless, and I’d gotten very angry upon finding the remnants of a rave party were packing up and leaving. Throbbing music and (to me), a total desecration of the site, right next to the sign that says ‘No Camping, No Fires’.
I’m pleased to report that today’s visit was the total opposite, bar the evidence of a camp fire right in front of the monument. The crops were high, and we had the site pretty much to ourselves for most of the afternoon. Jane started sketching whilst photos were taken, and the ‘entasis phenomenon’ of the mound was investigated. I’d had to have this explained to me, but the visual effect is quite outstanding once you know what you’re looking at!
The rain started. We’d sheltered under the trees, so avoided the worst of it, but the afternoon was getting on and a call for beer went up. So, after a couple of silly group photos, we decamped and made our way back to the cars.
Jane (the local) led the procession, twice getting lost and turning us all round, before TC leapt out of the car, running towards me (that RSM voice again) “Give me your bloody map!” Needless to say, I complied, and we duly arrived at the designated hostelry in question. Which was shut. Twenty minutes standing in the rain, and the doors finally opened, whereupon we were suitably refreshed whilst browsing through Moth’s copious photograph albums. He has some quite stunning shots there.
An hour later, M. and I decided to head home, but I couldn’t resist one last stop for the day at the Blowing Stone where, in the teeming rain, my camera jammed and refused to recognise the memory card with the day’s photo’s on it. Thankfully, all were ok once I got home (nearly 10pm), but I’ll have to return for a shot of the stone another day.
A truly memorable day. Sadly, Treaclechops is no longer with us, but on a happier note, after meeting for the first time on that day, Jane and Moth were happily married the following year, as were myself and M. Back then, M. still had a degree of mobility although she tired very easily. She now has to use a wheelchair and I currently can’t envisage undertaking such a busy day as that again with her.
If you have your own fieldnotes from a truly memorable day, why not share them with us here? Just tell us why the day was particularly memorable for you, which sites were visited, and maybe share a photo or two too?
It was wet, it was cold, it was windy. But that didn’t stop a loyal band of Heritage Action members from congregating at Avebury, twelve years to the very day since a group of megaraks met at the Uffington White Horse to plan what they could do to help combat damage to prehistoric sites. Many of the same people and a whole bunch of others came together at the weekend for the umpteenth (we’ve lost track) ‘Megameet’.
Admittedly, several Founder members couldn’t make it this year but they were replaced by a number of new attendees, some very young, which bodes well for the future. But considering we’re in July, I’ve never seen the circle so devoid of people generally on a summer weekend!
Those who did turn up met with old friends, had an enjoyable lunch in the Red Lion and discussed all things megalithic until the weather cleared enough for some to attempt a brief circumambulation of the henge, including the obligatory ‘selfie’, courtesy of artist and founder member, Jane Tomlinson.
But we weren’t the only people to brave the weather. At the far end of the West Kennet Avenue, an archaeological excavation is taking place over three weeks. The Between the Monuments Project – a collaborative research project between the University of Southampton (Dr Josh Pollard), University of Leicester (Dr Mark Gillings), Allen Environmental Archaeology (Dr Mike Allen) and the National Trust (Dr Ros Cleal & Dr Nick Snashall) – is attempting to answer the tricky question ‘Where and how did the people who built these monuments live?’.
Two trenches have been opened up, one immediately between the stones of the Avenue, and another off to the side. Despite the weather, some of the principals and volunteers were busy mattocking the side trench, part of which has already been excavated down to the natural layer, exposing some ‘periglacial striations’ in the underlying chalk.
Sadly, I had no time to stop and chat (and I think they wanted to get on with the dig while the weather allowed it!) as I stupidly had no coat, and a long drive home in the rain ahead of me. But it was good to see everyone again, and I’m sure we’ll do it all again next year, if not sooner!
Another year, and another highly successful Day of Archaeology, which this time round occurred on 24th July (and new posts are still appearing). I imagine the organisers must be feeling very pleased with themselves, and quite exhausted at the moment! Hearty congratulations to everyone involved, and many thanks to the organisers, behind the scenes techies, and all the contributors for telling us exactly what it is they get up to.
As usual, I was watching the Twitter feed (#DayOfArch) and had the web site added to my RSS feed throughout the day, but was simply overwhelmed with the number of posts from very early in the morning, and which continued unabated throughout the day. And what posts! Every aspect of archaeology was covered, from sites around the world, in multiple languages. Many of the posts were lengthy and so detailed that I’m afraid I didn’t get much of my own work done, just trying to keep up! This is a web site of treasures that I’ll return to again and again over the coming weeks and months to see what I can unearth.
And therein lies the problem. In just 5 years, the sheer scale of the project has mushroomed to an extent where, to find an item of specific interest increases in difficulty. Yes, there is a Search facility, but this can seemingly only deal with simple searches. There is also an excellent map facility on the site, showing those posts which have been geo-referenced, but sadly many are not and the map is currently restricted to only show posts from 2011-2013.
The moderators work extremely hard every year categorising each post before it appears so that related posts can be found, and it’s this work that makes the finding of a specific interest a bit easier, although the system isn’t yet perfect. By lunchtime on the day, probably 150-200 posts had appeared on my RSS feed – if not more. Yet searching for the category ‘Day of Archaeology 2015’ showed only 33 posts, of which only 5 were tagged as relating to prehistory! So a bit more work to be done for next year, by which time I may have caught up on reading the posts of interest!
I can’t help but wonder if any other professions would be able to emulate the Day of Archaeology project, let alone garner the obvious depth of public interest. Hopefully the organisers will release some stats in due course showing just how many posts have been created, how many hits the site receives, and which were the most popular posts, year by year.
Here’s to next year!!
As reported on several heritage and archaeology mailing lists recently, West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village (which we visited last year) is celebrating its 50th anniversary this coming weekend, on 25 and 26 July.
To mark the occasion, members of the public are invited to visit the site throughout the weekend free of charge – giving them the opportunity to re-engage with the unique site or to experience the site for the first time and visit the reconstructed buildings.
The West Stow Anglo-Saxon Trust would love to welcome anyone involved with the archaeological site during the past 50 years to join in the celebrations – original archaeological diggers, reconstructors and anyone else who helped bring the village to life. However, the Trust doesn’t have contact details for everyone involved, so please spread the word through your networks. The main event will be on Saturday 25 July, from 11am until 4pm. BBC Radio Suffolk will be broadcasting live from the site between 1 and 3pm and interviewing some of those involved. In the education room, there will be a slideshow of archive images of the village and a display of the results from the Festival of Archaeology and Breaking New Grounds test pitting project.
This will be a very informal gathering (no speeches!) and a relaxed day in a wonderful setting.
Following on from her extended series of posts in 2013, and a visit last year, once again Sue Brooke has revisited Caerau hillfort in Cardiff, to report upon this year’s activities there with a much more personal view.
Since 2007 I have been researching the local area around Caerau. You may recall that I discovered what was to be later confirmed as at least an Iron Age hillfort, right over my garden fence. Much to the amusement of family and friends I waxed lyrical about this field full of lumps and bumps, cow poo and bitey insects. Although not exactly ‘preserved in public record’ as they say, this was well hidden and completely forgotten about so I was desperately trying to keep it secret and therefore protected. Of course Time Team later came and showed it in all its wall mounted, 48 inch, HD screen beauty, then went away again.
CAER Heritage Project and Cardiff University have however been periodically running community digs and generally involving the local community in the work they have been carrying out over the last three years or so and local interest has been increased. Their website shows the work that has gone on, not only in the field but in local centres and schools. Now and then local press picks up the story and it even pops up on local news. The really lovely thing about this work is that it involves everyone who is interested. Groups of primary school children through to older people have all taken a real interest in the site and become involved at various levels.
Me? Well, I moved away from the area recently. It was really sad to leave my garden fence behind and I do miss the trees as well as the mystery of what they would tell me if they could speak. But, I’m not that far away so I am still involved in keeping a close eye on what is going on. I go to the community events up at the site and still spend time wandering around with my camera. I still research the local history there and am still turning up really interesting information about the people who lived in the area and how it links to other sites nearby as well as a little bit further away.
On the 4th of July the project held a Big Picnic. The original idea of this was to replicate the old Christian tradition of the Whitsun Treat which used to be held in the field at Pentecost. This is still fondly remembered by locals. I’m not sure if this is a Welsh thing but it involved local children being transported to various sites, clutching a spoon with their name taped to the handle and a bag of something that their mum or Nan (very important people are Welsh Nan’s!) had made that they would share. It was about coming together and having fun.
As well as the Big Picnic there would be a parade today with stalls, face painting, information on finds and tours of the ongoing excavations. Now, my grandson is really ‘into’ history. He has recently visited Castell Henllys in Pembrokeshire and has, I am very proud to say, developed a really impressive (for an 11 year old) knowledge of Welsh early history. He asks questions, reads real books and takes it all in. He came with us with promises that I’d show him all the ditches and ramparts that had set my own imagination off and started this whole thing going for me in the first place. So, off we went.
A new brown heritage site arrow has appeared – pointing the way to the hill from the main road that runs through Caerau. Just in case you miss it there is another a little further on. This secret triangular shaped field of ‘mine’ is most certainly not such a secret any more.
There were quite a few cars parked at the entrance to the site and we were met by two lovely students who welcomed us on our way up. That walk up is getting steeper, I’m sure. I was a little surprised at the cars that were allowed up the lane, meaning I had to ensure we were safely out of the way – I tutted at one point, I admit – but at least it gave me a minute to stand and get my breath back. The view as you round the final bend never fails to impress me and I’ve been up there many, many times.
The entrance to the field was set up with the promised stalls and it was all very busy with a real sense of community. CAER’s Olly Davies (beautifully face painted by Glamorgan and Gwent Archaeological Trust artists) and Dave Wyatt were in the middle of it all so it was nice to catch up. We were able to see some of the more recent finds. What is particularly nice is that it’s possible to actually hold these in your hand, rather than peer at them through the glass of a museum case, although that’s probably where they will find a home eventually. At least I hope so, rather than end up in a box on a shelf somewhere. The extremely knowledgeable and really friendly young women in charge there are able to tell you not just what you are holding but also where they were found, what the significance is and how they have made them look presentable. It was also good in that, for me, the star find from last year (the Neolithic flint arrow head) was also brought back home for the day.
A handout was provided to enable understanding of the objectives for this year, entitled ‘Digging Caerau’ – not exactly my most favourite phrase. Nonetheless, five areas of the field are being examined this year – four of which have been previously examined and re-opened for further investigation. One new area is being examined to ‘explore what appears on the geophysics to be a boundary probably dating to the Roman period.’ Guided tours were being given to small groups but we wandered off on our own to see what was going on. Well, it is my field, after all!
My biggest concern prior to the Time Team investigations was that my hillfort would be dug up. Mr Cadw Inspector reassured me that this would not happen. I’ve seen the finds that have come out of the ground, so to speak, and found them fascinating. From my grandsons perspective he was thrilled to wander around and to see postholes within the trench, confirming that this was an area that people had actually lived in. As you may know, for local historians like me the people are as important as the place. But, the site itself, for me, is losing its special character. It is changing, losing its ‘feel’ underfoot and the magic of the lumps and bumps is fading along with the brown scarring of the excavated trench areas.
Since Welsh Nan’s are very important I had wandered off with the lad to show him how to interpret the various aspects of the site that had really grabbed my attention way back in 2007. But now, whilst the ramparts are still clearly visible one inner rampart now has a ditch cut through it. Please don’t misunderstand; it’s a really painstakingly created section from which the archaeologists are intending to gain dating evidence and environmental samples. But to me it’s a whacking great chunk out of the rampart that really won’t be the same once it’s refilled.
This is really evident in the beautiful ditch that once swept across part of the site. You couldn’t fail to see it and it was really easy to photograph. It looked like something special to me. Trouble is it looked like something special to Time Team and the other diggers too, so now it’s gone. I’ve since looked back over some of my early writing and the phrase ‘it’s quite possible to see ditches and ramparts untouched’ really jumps out. I wanted my grandson to experience that sense of standing in or on something special. Something that made a person curious and excited about what may have been there, who may have built it, why and when. To me that sense of excitement has gone now as not all of those lumps and bumps are there any more – I feel that is really quite sad.
I completely understand that archaeology is a science. Indeed, my own first degree is a Bachelor of Science (with honours, obviously!) but my science is more social, of ordinary people and of ordinary places. So whilst the archaeologists are looking down into mucky holes getting dirt under their fingernails I can be found looking through dusty old books, looking up and out and, quite often across. Both, whilst different perspectives, should complement each other in being able to tell the story of a place and understand the people who lived within it. But, and this is a big but, I don’t think digging things up, taking them away and, as a result of this changing the really special characteristics of the site will benefit anyone in the end. Perhaps I just have an emotional attachment to this hillfort but to me it all feels really selfish.
All in all my grandson enjoyed his day. He was able to get an idea of the hillfort from the Lidar images and the visual representations on show, ask questions about how a roof was put on the roundhouses, look into trenches and to see the burial mounds clearly visible on the mountain opposite. He took photos and met with ‘real’ archaeologists. He was (reasonably) impressed with his Nan’s knowledge and perhaps gained a different perspective of the site from that. I just have this nagging feeling that he would have enjoyed it quite a bit more if he could have felt what I did when I first went into that field. It was only eight years ago.
As we left Olly came to chat and asked what I was doing now – I explained I had moved house recently but that I had a found a new site of interest that I felt linked in to the Caerau site. His eyes lit up and he asked where, I told him to b*gger off, there is no way he is digging this one up…
Many thanks to Sue for this report of her day out to revisit an old favourite. Have you recently revisited a favourite site? Or are you planning to do so during this year’s Festival of Archaeology? If so, why not submit a short article and share your visit with others on the Heritage Journal?
Once again, the Day of Archaeology is being held next month. This year, it falls on the 24th July.
If you’ve ever wondered what archaeologists around the world get up to on a ‘normal’ working day, then the Day of Archaeology was designed just for you! All around the world on the designated day, people working, studying or volunteering in archaeology are invited to submit photographs, videos and written blog posts covering the work they’ve been involved in during the day. The various submissions are then added to the Day of Archaeology web site, producing a varied record of the vast range of work being undertaken across the world in all fields of archaeology.
The project was founded by Matt Law and Lorna Richardson in March 2011, and has been held every year since, although the specific date varies from year to year. Run entirely by volunteers, participation in the project is completely free and past entries have encompassed the full gamut of archaeological activities. The whole Day of Archaeology relies on goodwill and a passion for public engagement, and contributions, no matter how large or small are always welcomed. The idea behind the project is to raise public awareness of the archaeological profession and it’s relevance and importance to societies around the globe.
If you are involved in an archaeological project in any capacity – working, studying or volunteering – please consider taking part this year and help make the project a success. It’s simple to register as a participant and contributions can be as long or as short as you want.
If you’re not involved in archaeology, think it’s just about the digging, but are intrigued to know what else goes on during an archaeologist’s ‘typical’ day, why not expand your horizons by keeping an eye on the project web site and Twitter feed? You might just learn something interesting!
A recent press release from the University of Reading:
Our knowledge of the people who worshipped at Stonehenge and worked on its construction is set to be transformed through a new project led by the University of Reading.
This summer, in collaboration with Historic England, the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Wiltshire Museum, archaeologists are embarking on an exciting three-year excavation in the Vale of Pewsey, Wiltshire.
Situated between the iconic prehistoric monuments of Stonehenge and Avebury, the Vale of Pewsey is a barely explored archaeological region of huge international importance. The project will investigate Marden Henge. Built around 2400 BC ‘Marden’ is the largest henge in the country and one of Britain’s most important but least understood prehistoric monuments.
Excavation within the Henge will focus on the surface of a Neolithic building revealed during earlier excavations. The people who used this building will have seen Stonehenge in full swing, perhaps even helped to haul the huge stones upright.
Dr Jim Leary, from the University of Reading’s Department of Archaeology and Director of the Archaeology Field School, said: “This excavation is the beginning of a new chapter in the story of Stonehenge and its surrounds. The Vale of Pewsey is a relatively untouched archaeological treasure-chest under the shadow of one of the wonders of the world.
“Why Stonehenge was built remains a mystery. How the giant stones were transported almost defy belief. It must have been an astonishing, perhaps frightening, sight. Using the latest survey, excavation and scientific techniques, the project will reveal priceless insight into the lives of those who witnessed its construction.
“Marden Henge is located on a line which connects Stonehenge and Avebury. This poses some fascinating questions. Were the three monuments competing against each other? Or were they used by the same communities but for different occasions and ceremonies? We hope to find out.”
The Vale of Pewsey is not only rich in Neolithic archaeology. It is home to a variety of other fascinating historical monuments from various periods in history, including Roman settlements, a deserted medieval village and post-medieval water meadows. A suite of other investigations along the River Avon will explore the vital role of the Vale’s environment throughout history.
Dr Leary continued: “One of the many wonderful opportunities this excavation presents is to reveal the secret of the Vale itself. Communities throughout time settled and thrived there – a key aim of the dig is to further our understanding of how the use of the landscape evolved – from prehistory to history.”
Duncan Wilson, Historic England Chief Executive, added: “Bigger than Avebury, ten times the size of Stonehenge and half way between the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Sites, comparatively little is known about this fascinating and ancient landscape. The work will help Historic England focus on identifying sites for protection and improved management, as well as adding a new dimension to our understanding of this important archaeological environment.”
The Vale of Pewsey excavation also marks the start of the new University of Reading Archaeology Field School. Previously run at the world-famous Roman town site of Silchester, the Field School will see archaeology students and enthusiasts from Reading and across the globe join the excavation.
The six week dig runs from 15th June to 25th July. Visitors are welcome to see the excavation in progress every day, except Fridays, between 10:00am and 5pm. Groups must book in advance.
There will also be a chance for the public to visit the site at two exciting Open Days on Saturday 4th July and Saturday 18th July. To visit the excavation follow Sat Nav SN10 3RH.
Ok, so this one has snuck up on us as it passed under our radar, but this coming weekend 13th June, the Institute of Archaeology are holding their ‘World Festival of Archaeology: Passport to the Past’ event as a precursor to the Council for British Archaeology’s Festival of British Archaeology to be held in July (of which more later).
The festival will involve lots of activities taking place in Gordon Square, London and in the Institute of Archaeology building for families and all members of the public, on Saturday 13 June from 12pm-5pm.
Tours of the Institute’s world-renowned collections and object handling-sessions will be available while archaeologically-related activities for adults and children alike will also be on offer as well as displays of experimental archaeological techniques.
All activities are drop-in, there is no need to book (but see below re tours) and all are welcome!
Activities in Gordon Square Gardens should include:
- Sandpit Archaeology: Learn how to excavate and unearth the past
- From Skin to Leather: See how animal hides are transformed into leather
- Meat: the Ancestors: see how our ancestors processed meat
- Make it in Stone: See how to work flint into tools (flint knapping)
- Conservator for a day: Be a conservator for the day: take part in aspects of conservation
- Pace Yourself: Learn some basic archaeological surveying techniques
- Tinder and Steel: Making fire in the Middle Ages
- Fragmented Frescoes: Create a wall painting and help create a story from the past
- Lighting up the Past: make a lamp: Make a working Roman/Greek lamp just like they did 2,000 years ago
- Lets do the Time Warp: Learn an ancient weaving technique
- Cave creations: Try making paints and see what kind of cave art you can create. Help make an art work for the Institute
- Connect four stratigraphy: Connect the layers of time and race the other team
- Meet the Alchemist: Turn your copper into gold
- Fish mummification: Make your own mummified fish just like the Egyptians did
- Underwater Archaeology-DSI-Deep Sea Investigation: Dive into the world of ancient shipwrecks
- Whose Poo: Find out what people in the past had to eat by dissecting their poo
Indoor activities will include:
- Conservation Laboratory – piecing together the past: See what’s involved in conserving objects for display in museums. Find out what we discover during conservation
- When Bad Things Happen to Good Books: Come and see how damage and decay affect our books. Learn book mending and basic conservation techniques
- Egyptian Rituals: Make your own servant to work for you in the Egyptian afterlife. Wax modelling and painting of Shabtis
- Maya you have a Happy Birthday: Discover the Maya calendar and your birthday secrets
- Scenes from the Past: Be inspired by archaeologists’ travels. Make your own greetings cards inspired by your archaeological expedition at the Institute
- Sherds through Time: Create a timeline using Ancient Egyptian material from the Institute’s collections
- What’s my Stuff: Use the Institute’s X-ray flourescent equipment to find out what your jewellery is made of
- Petrie Museum: Try making your own pot inspired by the Petrie Museum’s collections
- Film screening: View archival films from the archaeological record
In addition there will be tours and children’s trails throughout the afternoon – some booking may be required as tour spaces are limited.
For full details, see the Institute’s web page.
The annual Heritage Journal Megameet – for members, friends and supporters of the journal – will return once again this year to the Avebury WHS.
As in previous years, the rendezvous point will be located near to the Cove in the NE quadrant (or the Red Lion if inclement) but attendees will be encouraged to perambulate among the various components of the WHS and tell of their discoveries on their return to the main group. There should be plenty of experienced people present to provide some guidance and advice for those new to the area.
So mark Sunday July 26th in your diary – we’ll be congregating for the usual chat and banter from midday onwards – and don’t forget to bring a book or two along for the bookswap!
We look forward to meeting lots of new friends on the day.