This week, the Fen Edge Archaeology Group (FEAG) begins its fourth season of fieldwork at the Twenty Pence site just outside Cottenham, with permission and generous support from the owners of the land. The Twenty Pence site is located near a Scheduled Ancient Monument where upstanding Roman earthworks are visible abutting the route of the Car Dyke. FEAG’s previous fieldwork revealed a large number of ditches and some other enigmatic features on which they hope to shed more light this season. In previous years, they have recovered a large quantity of pottery, animal bone, burnt clay and a variety of small finds as well as organic remains through flotation. More information on the project is available on the group’s website here.

As part of the Council for British Archaeology’s Festival of Archaeology, FEAG are organising visits to the site on Saturday, 12th July 2014 at 11:00 and 14:30.

FEAG are taking visitors to the site using a minibus from Cottenham, so numbers will be limited. If you would like to attend please email, with your name, preferred time and telephone number. FEAG will be in contact to let you know the joining instructions nearer the time.

If you are interested in volunteering on the Twenty Pence excavation between Saturday 5th July and Saturday 19th July, FEAG are still accepting applications to take part in activities such as digging, finds processing, recording and surveying. For more information about participating in the Twenty Pence project, please see the FEAG website here.

Posted by: archaccess | June 20, 2014

Great Amwell 2014 Higher Education Field Academies (HEFA)

Twelve archaeological test-pits were dug in Great Amwell by Hertfordshire school students in this week’s Higher Education Field Academy.

Great Amwell 2014 Higher Education Field Academies (HEFA)The field academy involved 48 Year 9s from Presdales School, Loreto College, The John Warner School and Samuel Ryder Academy, with supporting staff and sixth-form students to help supervise the groups of younger pupils. The aim of the three day programme was for the students to find out more about higher education by working alongside experts to contribute to ongoing university research; to develop and deploy skills for life, learning and employment such as data analysis, communication skills and team working; as well as completing an archaeological test-pit excavation to tell us more about the development of a Currently Occupied Rural Settlement. The HEFA participants have two days to complete their excavation and then analyse their findings on a third day’s visit to the University of Cambridge.

The test-pit sites in Great Amwell were recruited by David Hardy and William Brown, of the Amwell Society and our base in the village was the parish church of St John the Baptist. Many thanks to all of the local volunteers who helped to man the base and also to ACA volunteers, Michael Rivera and Scott Treble for also joining us in Great Amwell. With their help, the mixed school groups dug four test pits on Hillside Lane, three on Cautherly Lane, two on St John’s Lane, one on Lower Road and one on Gypsy Lane on Wednesday and Thursday this week.

In the north of the village, test-pit 12 found several sherds of 17th century pottery and associated animal bone. On the south bank of the river, test-pit 10 on St John’s Lane uncovered a very deep concentration of Victorian and later rubbish, which included the fork and domino piece shown in the picture opposite, but along the same lane, test pit 11 found several sherds of possible medieval pottery. Tiny fragments of probable prehistoric pottery were found in test-pit 8 at the highest point of Hillside Lane, and several flint flakes were discovered in neighbouring test-pit 9. The evidence from these two test-pits seems to suggest that the hill remained unoccupied from the prehistoric period until much more recently, whereas the large quantity of medieval pottery unearthed in test-pit 4 further downslope on Hillside Lane indicates that the lower ground was occupied at this time.

These results, as well as those of the test-pits dug in Great Amwell in 2013 were compared to build up a picture of the development of the village during the third day’s visit to the University of Cambridge. The HEFA participants then had the chance to visit one of the Cambridge colleges, including St Catharine’s, Trinity and St John’s, at lunchtime for a meal and a tour with an undergraduate student, which received very positive comments in the feedback: “I enjoyed speaking to students who are presntly attending the university as it gave me more of an understanding of courses and life at university” (GM). Maddy Lawrence-Jones, Schools Liaison Officer for Magdalene College, spoke to the HEFA group after the college tours about future study options and the opportunities presented by a university degree at a university like Cambridge. At the end of the introduction to life and learning at university, one student said “I enjoyed the tour of Cambridge University and how informative Maddy was on future career paths/options. I have clearly gained a life experience that has significantly benefitted me, such as more confidence in myself with speaking and working with new people which I now feel very comfortable about” (JU).

Many of the other students also wrote in their feedback that they felt they had gained a useful experience, new knowledge about archaeology and higher education as well as a sense of achivement and appreciation for being offered the opportunity to take part in the field academy. The course was rated as either ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ by 96% of the students, with one writing “thank you very much for all the hard work in organising this!” (EM) and another saying“it was a brilliant experience and I would love to do something like this again!”

ACA will be running the second ever Hampshire Higher Education Field Academy in North Warnborough next week.

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Posted by: archaccess | June 16, 2014

Long Melford 2014 Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA)

Long Melford 2014 Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA)

The Higher Education Field Academy returned to unearth the Anglo-Saxon origins of Long Melford in Suffolk this week.

A few small sherds of Saxo-Norman Thetford Ware were found in the centre of the present settlement during a weekend of community test-pit excavations in July 2011, filmed for Michael Wood’s BBC series, ‘The Great British Story: A People’s History’ , but more of this pottery was found in test-pits around the church and the green in Long Melford last year. These excavations were dug by secondary school students as part of a Higher Education Field Academy and last week, another forty-four HEFA participants from Thomas Gainsborough School, Ormiston Sudbury Academy, Hedingham School and Samuel Ward Academy dug a further 11 test-pits on common land in the north of the village.

Two of the 2014 test-pits were located behind Holy Trinity Church, three in the field behind Westgate Street, three at the north of Melford Green in front of the Almshouses and another three at the south of Melford Green. Our base for the two days of digging was at the Old Schools and the Black Lion Hotel also offered use of their facilities. The excavations were coordinated by local historians, Rob Simpson and John Nunn, with sponsorship from the local Co-operative foodstore who provided welcome refreshments for the school students and staff in the very hot and sunny conditions. The test-pit groups also received support from local residents with experience of digging test-pits who lent their time and expertise to help on Wednesday and Thursday. The East Anglian Daily Times visited the field academy and an article was published in the newspaper on Saturday 14th June 2014, which you can read on-line here.

John Newman, a freelance archaeologist based in Suffolk, joined ACA on the second day to help with the identification of finds from the test-pits. More sherds of Thetford Ware were found in four of the eleven pits dug this time, and a post-hole was found at the base of test-pit 6 (shown right) which lacked any finds but was remarkably similar to another discovered in a nearby test-pit last year that was associated with Thetford Ware. This adds to the archaeological evidence for a significant settlement in this area during the late Saxon period, hinted at by the very large population and tax assessment recorded in the Domesday Book.

Another interesting find was a copper alloy token (shown right), probably dating to the 17th century, found in test-pit 2. The token has the inscription ‘STEP’, likely to stand for the name Stephen, and perhaps the name of a local merchant or proprieter. Other small metal finds from the test-pits included a copper alloy thimble, a 1936 penny and 1955 shilling. The two test-pits (4 and 5) behind the church, unlike those dug in the same area last year, found human remains and fragments of grave monuments set back from the consecrated ground.

The Long Melford Heritage Centre, which was officially opened by Dr Carenza Lewis, ACA’s Director, in July 2012 is open again to members of the public during the summer months of 2014, and includes displays of finds from the 2011 community test-pit excavations. Entrance to the Heritage Centre is free, and it is based at Long Melford Memorial Hall, opposite the Bull Hotel. The location can be viewed on the map here.

On the third and final day of the field academy, the students visited the University of Cambridge, where Carenza delivered a taster lecture on the contribution of test-pit excavations to our understanding of the origins and development of Currently Occupied Rural Settlements (CORS), and compared the results of the Long Melford excavations with others elsewhere in East Anglia. Inspired by the experience, another said “listening to the lectures was great, I thoroughly enjoyed them and can’t wait until I can go to university. I have learnt more about university, what I want to do after I leave school and more about archaeology. Archaeology rocks!” (CH).

During their visit to the university last Friday, the students received a tour of the facilities and lunch at either Downing or Trinity Hall colleges, and Ellen Slack, Schools Liasion Officer for Selwyn and Homerton Colleges, spoke to the students about post-GCSE options and admission to universities. At the end of the day, one students said that he had “gained a very enjoyable experience, learnt lots of new skills, and found a lot more about the history of the village and where I live, and a lot more about universities and the University of Cambridge” (FH), and 95% of the students rated the field academy as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ overall. The feedback forms included lots of additional comments such as “a great experience and I feel that everything has been very well organised” (JH), “a really educational and fun experience” (KJ) and “thank you, I thoroughly enjoyed it!” (DG)

This week’s HEFA will take place in the Hertfordshire village of Great Amwell.

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The eighteenth edition of the University of Cambridge Teachers’ and HE Advisers’ E-newsletter is now available to view on-line here.

The newsletter is intended for those who provide support to potential applicants and who wish to be kept up-to-date with developments at the University of Cambridge.

Posted by: archaccess | June 9, 2014

FEAG Twenty Pence Project Volunteering Opportunity 2014

The Fen Edge Archaeology Group (FEAG) will, between Saturday 5th July and Saturday 19th July 2014, be undertaking its fourth season of fieldwork as part of its Twenty Pence Project. The focus is on a Romano-British site just north of Cottenham, near Cambridge .

If you are interested in participating on any or all of the days, please obtain further information from John Stanford at


Posted by: archaccess | June 9, 2014

New Leaflet about ACA Activities

New Leaflet about ACA Activities

ACA has published a new leaflet of information summarising the wide range of activities run and supported by the outreach unit, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2014.

A copy of the leaflet is available to view on-line here.

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Posted by: archaccess | June 9, 2014

Daws Heath 2014 Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA)

Daws Heath 2014 Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA)

The brand new ACA umbrellas had their first outing during the sunshine and showers in Daws Heath last week for this season’s second field academy in Essex.

Forty Year 9 students dug ten archaeological test-pits in the back gardens of local residents along Daws Heath Road, Fairmead Avenue, Bramble Road and on nearby Haresland Close. The students selected to take part in the field academy in Daws Heath were from the Gifted and Talented cohorts of the following schools in Southend-on-Sea: Southend High School for Boys, Southend High School for Girls, Westcliff High School for Boys, Cecil Jones College and Shoeburyness High School. Higher Education Field Academies (HEFAs) are three day aspiration-raising courses which give young people the opportunity to do their own hands-on archaeological investigation that will give them the skills and confidence to raise their ambitions for the future.

An 11th test-pit was also dug by members of Hadleigh and Thundersley Archive and AGES Archaeological and Historical Association, interested in finding out more about the early origins of the village. Their test-pit, overlooking Bramble Road, was open to visiting members of the public and was located close to St Michael’s Church, our base in the village, where there was also a display of the finds on Thursday morning from the first day on Wednesday. This open morning was well attended by local residents and refreshments were provided. AGES AHA also presented the pottery distribution maps from 2013, ACA’s first visit to dig in Daws Heath, and displayed local newspaper articles published after the event. In advance of this year’s dig, AGES AHA’s Secretary, Terry Barclay, contacted the Halstead Gazette to help recruit sites to be dug and the society’s open morning which you can read here.

There was even further publicity for this year’s excavations when BBC Essex visited the field academy to interview ACA’s Director, Dr Carenza Lewis, as well as the participating students and members of the local societies. The interviews with Ian Wyatt were aired on the Saturday breakfast show, standing in for Peter Holmes. You can listen to the episode on the BBC Essex website for up to a week after the airing here. The Daws Heath digs are featured at 01:22:00 and again at 01:50:37.

Notable amongst the finds from Daws Heath this year was a prehistoric flint blade found in test-pit 1 at the western end of Daws Heath Road. Nearby, test-pits 2 and 3 found possible sherds of medieval pottery, and a clay bead was found in test-pit 7 on Fairmead Avenue. Test pit 11, dug by AGES AHA, found a large number of bathroom tile fragments and unfortunately hit the water table while still in archaeological contexts.

The two days spent excavating in mixed school groups received high praise from the students in their feedback after the event, with one saying that she “enjoyed being social with my team and the owner of the garden we dug in. (I feel I have gained) new experiences, new friends and a new adventure” (VH). On the third and final day of the HEFA, the students visited the University of Cambridge and were hosted by Magdalene, Emmanuel and Gonville and Caius Colleges at lunchtime. Lizzie Dobson, School Liaison Officer for Emmanuel College, and responsible for working with schools in the county of Essex, spoke to the students about the choices prospective university students should make and how to find further information about degree courses and admissions procedures.

At the end of the third day, 95% of the students rated the field academy as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’. One student said in the feedback comments that they felt they had gained “knowledge about archaeology and more confidence so thank you!” (NN) and another said they felt they had developed “valuable, transferable skills which I will be able to apply to future work. Also, learning about university life has been a great experience!” (TC). A member of staff was also very complementary and said that “the event was superbly organised and all students were supported admirably throughout. Thank you to all involved. The opportunity to visit (and have lunch in!) a college was a fantastic touch” (DM).

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Test Pit Excavations with Touching the Tide in Southwold this August

As part of a Heritage Lottery Funded landscape partnership project, ACA will be supervising a long weekend of community test-pit excavations on the Suffolk coast at the end of August 2014.

Over four days, from Thursday 28th to Sunday 31st August 2014, residents of Southwold and Reydon will have the chance to carry out small archaeological ‘test pit’ garden excavations to find out how the area has developed over hundreds – even thousands – of years in the past. The project is supported by Touching the Tide, a Heritage Lottery Funded scheme taking place along the Suffolk coast from Covehithe to Felixstowe between 2013-2016.

Access Cambridge Archaeology (ACA) ran archaeological training days on geophysical surveying and fieldwalking with Touching the Tide earlier in the spring, and the test pit excavations in August will be another great chance for the community to get together to make new discoveries and develop new skills. ACA have run similar community test pit excavations in the Suffolk towns of Clare and Nayland, as part of a previous landscape partnership project, Managing a Masterpiece, and over 90% of the participants in these events recommended the activity to others. The local coordinator of the Nayland community test-pit excavations said afterwards thank you so very much for such a special project. The village is still buzzing and I think the community has come together even more and greatly benefited from a shared experience.”

ACA were also on the Suffolk coast earlier this year in the nearby village of Walberswick for two days of test-pit excavations with secondary school students as part of a Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA), and it will prove interesting to contrast the development of this site with Southwold and Reydon as Walberswick does not appear to have a later medieval decline, unlike many other East Anglian villages which see a 50% drop in pottery usage after the 14th century compared to before.

ACA are liaising with Southwold Museum & Historical Society to recuit local residents to offer their gardens to dig and take part in the excavations. If you would like to offer your property to be dug or would like to volunteer to take part in the excavations, please contact Chris Cardwell, a trustee of the Southwold Museum & Historical Society, by e-mail, phone or post. The e-mail address is, the telephone number is 01502 726097 (leave a message) and the postal address is Southwold Museum & Historical Society, 9 -11 Victoria Street, Southwold, Suffolk IP18 6HZ.

Those who are less physically able are also very welcome to get involved. Less strenuous roles will be available, and will be much appreciated. People of all ages, with or without previous experience, are welcome to take part – an enthusiasm for finding out more about the past is the only requirement!

ACA’s Director, Dr Carenza Lewis, will be in Southwold next weekend for the Touching the Tide Celebration Day showcasing the current work of the landscape partnership scheme and its upcoming projects. You can join Carenza this Sunday, 8th June 2014, from 10am until 4pm at Southwold Boating Lake and Tea Room to hone your digging technique with a seaside bucket dig (shown right) and find out more about the August test pit excavations.


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Posted by: archaccess | June 3, 2014

HEFA Returns to Daws Heath this week

The first Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA) for secondary school students in the Southwold area took place in the Essex village of Daws Heath in 2013 with assistance from members of Hadleigh and Thundersley Community Archive and AGES Archaeological and Historical Association. Access Cambridge Archaeology will be running a second year of archaeological test pit digging with schools in Daws Heath again this Wednesday and Thursday (4th and 5th June 2014) and you can read an article published by the Halstead Gazette about preparations for the HEFA  here.

Posted by: archaccess | May 28, 2014

Garboldisham 2014 Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA)

Garboldisham 2014 Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA)

ACA returned to Garboldisham, Norfolk, last week for a fourth year of test pit digging with local students as part of the University of Cambridge’s Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA) programme.

Ten test-pits were dug by 39 students from King Edward VI School, Hartismere School and Thetford Academy last week bringing the total number of archaeological test-pits dug in Garboldisham to 44.

A couple of test-pits were located on Church Road, including one in the far corner of the churchyard and another in the adjacent field, east of the church. Five test-pits were dug along Back Street, and one further north of the village near Garboldisham Hall. South of the A1066 between Thetford and Diss, there was a test-pit behind the village shop and post office and a pit in the hamlet of Smallworth. The sites were identified with help from Pauline Hinton of Garboldisham History Society. The field academy was based at the village hall for the first day but as the building was being used as a polling station on the second day, the base then moved to the parish church of St John the Baptist. Despite unpromising forecasts at the start of the week, the two days on site remained dry and bright.

Freelance archaeologist and finds specialist, John Newman, joined the HEFA on the second day as did Jessica Rippengal, faunal remains specialist from the University of Cambridge. On Back Street, test-pit 2 produced an unabraded sherd of possible Bronze Age pottery in an undistrubed context with burnt flint. Pupils from Garboldisham Church Primary School visited this site on both days (shown above) to follow the group’s progress and were fascinated to see a cow metatarsal found in the pit. Another sherd of probable prehistoric pottery was also found along Back Street at test-pit 5, dating to the Iron Age (shown below), along with several large rim sherds of Romano-British pottery and a large quantity of pig, sheep and cattle bones suggestive of occupation nearby. A sherd of Saxo-Norman Thetford Ware was discovered in test-pit 7 near the church, adding to the cluster of Late Saxon pottery found in the north of the village so far. Test-pits 1, 2, 3, 4, 7 and 8 all produced High Medieval pottery but of these, it appears that only test-pit 3 found any Late Medieval pottery suggesting there was a dramatic decline and contraction of the village at this time. The full pottery report will be available on the Garboldisham webpage here soon.



A photographer and reporter from the Eastern Daily Press visited the excavations and an article about the HEFA featured in last Friday’s edition of the newpaper, which you can read here. The on-line article also includes a gallery of photographs from the HEFA here.

The School Liaison Officer for Gonville & Caius College in Cambridge, and a recent graduate in Archaeology and Anthropology, Ingrid Hesselbo, also visited Garboldisham on Thursday to meet the participants and talk to them about Higher Education and their options for the future. Most of the students were in Year 9, with some already in Year 10, and they all spoke enthusiastically about choosing their GCSE subjects and were keen to learn more about how their current studies and interests would shape their opportunities at university. Afterwards, one student said that the field academy “made me think about and consider my future more” (EB) and another said “(I enjoyed) getting a better idea of how university works and how I would go about applying” (AD).

On the third day of the HEFA, the students had the chance to visit the University of Cambridge for themselves and learn about how the results of their excavations are contributing to new ideas about rural settlement change over time in an academic research project at one of the world’s top universities. This opportunity was really appreciated by the students, one of whom said that she gained “a better idea of how… what we did helps people to find out and understand what has happened in the past and why we need to know this” (EW). The students also received lunch and a tour of one of three Cambridge’s Colleges: Gonville & Caius, Magdalene and Trinity Hall.

In feedback after the Garboldisham HEFA, 95% of the participants rated the field academy as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ and many of the students wrote additional comments thanking ACA for the opportunity: “I really enjoyed it. Thank you to the people who organised it” (EP); “It was very enjoyable. Thank you” (AB); “It was a great experience” (KW); “A fantastic 3 days. Very enriching and rewarding!” (WA). The students worked very well in mixed school teams and one of them wrote afterwards that he “really enjoyed meeting, getting to know, and socialising with new people” (JS).

After half term, ACA will be in Daws Heath (Essex) for the next Higher Education Field Academy.

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