OAKskeleton#1On 23rd September 2014, Richard Mortimer will be talking to the Fen Edge Archaeology Group about Oxford Archaeology East’s excavations on Oakington Recreation Ground and around the village over the last five years.

In this talk, he will put them into context with earlier excavations and chance finds. A large and complex Early Anglo-Saxon cemetery has been completely excavated alongside settlement evidence spanning the 7th to 13th centuries. Oakington is located on a major prehistoric and historic routeway, a routeway which corresponds to an equally significant terretorial boundary. Cottenham will obviously get a couple of mentions, as will Willingham.

Richard Mortimer is a Senior Project Manager with Oxford Archaeology East and has been excavating for the last 30 years, 20 of these in the Eastern region. His personal research, when he  gets time to do any, is either focussed on the Middle Bronze Age (1500-1200 BC) or the Middle Saxon Period (AD 700-900).

The talk will begin at 7:30pm at Willingham Baptist Church (George Street, Willingham, CB24 5LJ) and all are welcome.

Posted by: archaccess | August 14, 2014

The 2014 Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA) Season

IThe 2014 Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA) Seasonn HEFA’s landmark 10th year, a fantastic 95% of the 529 students who attended field academies in 2014 highly rated the course.

Over four thousand students have participated in Access Cambridge Archaeology’s (ACA) flagship outreach programme in the past decade. Higher Education Field Academies (HEFAs) aim to raise the educational aspirations of secondary school students in Years 9-12 by providing the opportunity to acquire, develop and demonstrate new skills, experience and confidence by completing, from start to finish, a unique archaeological investigation as part of a research programme at the University of Cambridge.

This year, 529 students from 52 schools attended 13 field academies between mid-March and mid-July 2014. Each HEFA takes place over 3 days with participants spending the first two days in a rural location working in mixed-school teams on their own archaeological ‘test pit’ excavation. The third day then brings them into the University of Cambridge to assess the results of the excavations, visit and dine in one of the university colleges, and find out more about applying to university. After the three days of excavation and the university visit are completed, participants are encouraged to to produce a written report recroding and analysing their excavation for assessment by the University of Cambridge.

The 2014 HEFA test pit excavations took place in Writtle (Essex) and Acle (Norfolk) in March; Rampton (Cambs) and Walberswick (Suffolk) in April; Sawtry (Cambs), Garboldisham (Norfolk) in May; Daws Heath (Essex), Long Melford (Suffolk), Great Amwell (Herts) and North Warnborough (Hants) in June; and Hindringham (Norfolk), Riseley (Beds) and Manuden (Essex) in July. This summer, the HEFA participants dug 131 test pits, with an extra one dug in Acle by students and staff of a special educational needs school, and another 4 excavated by members of the local historical societies in Writtle, Daws Heath and Riseley. Altogether, approximately 1815 archaeological ‘test pit’ excavations have been dug as part of ACA’s research into the origins and development of Currently Occupied Rural Settlements (CORS). This total includes test pits dug under the HEFA widening participation programme with secondary school students, as well as those dug by volunteers as part of community heritage projects.

All participants are asked to complete feedback forms at the end of the 3 day HEFA course, and forms were received back from 97% of the 2014 cohort. The feedback for the 2014 HEFAs is very positive and remarkably similar to that for 2013 showing a consistently high level of programme delivery. The metric and anecdotal feedback demonstrates that HEFA is making an impact on participants’ consideration of top Russell Group universities as well as the University of Cambridge, while HEFA participation can be seen to significantly raise students’ confidence in their education, and bolster their confidence in their intentions and aspirations.

Feedback from HEFA in 2014 shows very high levels of participant satisfaction, with 95% rating HEFA as ‘Excellent’ or ‘Good’. After HEFA, 77% of students felt more confident about trying something new; 84% felt more positive about going to university, and 89% felt they knew more about what life at university would be like. The number considering applying a top Russell Group university rose by 45% and the number of considering applying to the University of Cambridge rose by 47%.

HEFA feedback forms also provide students and staff with the opportunity to comment on their HEFA experience. Some quotes from these free-text entries have been provided below, as well as examples of the correspondence received from local residents who hosted the test pit excavations.

Participating students:

“This was an amazing experience and I feel I have learned a lot. I have loved this whole activity, especially looking around Cambridge. Digging was great and I really enjoyed it and identifying the pottery etc. we found.” (JR, GAM/14)

“(I have gained) a lot. An experience, knowledge about archaeology and university, friends, advice, a lot!!” (CP, ACL/14)

“Thank you for the skills, knowledge and a wonderful experience that will help me into the future. I have learnt so much and am very grateful for the experience :-)” (ER, WAL/14)

“It was really fun socialising with new people in a way that was really interesting.” (SB, GAR/14)

“I have gained knowledge about archaeology that I didn’t know before and about universities, what they include, subjects and application process.” (AR, SAW/14)

School staff:

“I feel they have gained a lot more independence in working and learnt new skills. It was particularly useful to see how it plays its part in the wider research project.” (KH, HIN/14)

“A superb experience for our students, well organised and good content. Expectations of students was very high but they rose to the challenge!” (AC, WAL/14)

“Absolutely fantastic and we look forward to next year!” (AV, DHE/14)

Local residents:

“Who would have thought our cottage had some sort of history back to the Bronze Age. The whole dig was well organised, but more important the idea of getting pupils doing ‘hands on’ work has to be applauded. Our thanks to the team.” (MK, NWA/14)

“They did a splendid job with the backfilling. Delightful opportunity – the students were great – a credit to their schools and families. The programme (is) incredibly well organised. Such fun to be part of history!” (Anon, RMP/14)

A summary of the feedback from each HEFA has been included in the news articles published on the ACA website throughout the field season, which you can catch up with here. Following the end of HEFA for 2014, ACA are currently busy processing the finds and writing up the results of this year’s test pits, as well as marking and returning the written assignments submitted by students. ACA have met with the HEFA Beacon Schools, responsible for recruiting students to take part, about plans for next year and anticipate confirming the 2015 schedule in the autumn.

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Posted by: archaccess | August 13, 2014

Manuden 2014 Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA)

AManuden 2014 Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA) CA’s tenth season of field academies was rounded off exemplarily in the Essex village of Manuden with blazing sunshine, Saxon pottery and… a human skeleton!
One of the highlights of the 2013 HEFA season was the first discovery in Essex of significant quantities of Saxon-Norman Thetford ware, which was found in two pits near the church in Manuden. Essex rural settlements tend to produce no material of this date, so ACA’s Director, Dr Carenza Lewis, felt that this was a significant discovery. In pursuit of further evidence for the pre-Norman occupation, ACA returned to Manuden in mid-July for the final Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA) of 2014 with forty Year 9 and 10 students from The Bishop’s Stortford High School, Davenant Foundation School, Hertfordshire & Essex High School and Forest Hall School. Another ten test pits were dug by the students over two days during heatwave conditions, adding to the 18 already excavated in the village in 2013 and 2011. Two of the this year’s pits were located at properties on the east bank of the River Stort, another two were on Mallow Greens Road and the remainder were along The Street surrounding the parish church of St Mary the Virgin in the village centre. Fiona Bengsten, chairman of Manuden and Berden Local History Society, offered her barn as a base for the two days of digging and recruited the sites.

Two of the test pits were dug in the garden of a house near the church, on the opposite side from the 2013 pit which unearthed Late Saxon pottery. This year, both test pit 5 and test pit 6 found more sherds of Thetford Ware (850-1100 AD) as well as sherds of St Neots Ware (900-1200 AD), which substantiates the suggestion that there was Late Saxon activity close to the church in Manuden, potentially predating the present church buildings by up to 400 hundred years. The full pottery report produced by Paul Blinkhorn is available to view here, and John Newman, a freelance archaeologist based in Suffolk, helped to identify the pottery and other finds on site.

The Saxo-Norman pottery was however, soon eclipsed by the discovery of not one, but two skeletons in quick succession during the second afternoon. Test pit 7, also on the Street, unearthed a dog burial which probably dates to the mid 20th century. Jessica Rippengal, a faunal remains specialist, identified it as a labrador, and it still had a leather collar and metal chain attached.

It was during the last half an hour of digging – in true Time Team fashion – that the most exciting discovery of the Manuden HEFA, and possibly one of the most intriguing in ACA’s 10 years, was made. One of the two test pits which had found the Late Saxon pottery earlier also came across the lower torso and pelvis of a human skeleton, laid to rest on their back and orientated east-west with the arms crossed at the pelvis (shown right). Cat Ranson, ACA’s archaeological supervisor and a specialist in human osteology and burial, believes that the skeleton is male and about 6ft tall. The burial is ancient and the presence of Late Saxon and Medieval pottery in the test pit hints that it may be from some point in this time frame, but no affirmative dating evidence was found. As much of the skeleton was exposed as the limits of time and the pit dimensions allowed in order to establish this preliminary information, but was then reburied as an exhumation licence is required from the government to remove human remains.

Notable amongst the finds from the other test pits was a coin from 1739, the reign of George II, and a Post-Medieval decorated bone handle or needle case. The test pit excavations and the exciting discovery of the human skeleton was covered by the Herts & Essex Observer, which you can read here.

Following the two days of digging test pits in Manuden, the students spent a day at the University of Cambridge to analyse the excvation results and experience life and learning at a top-level university. Many thanks to Dr Sue Oosthuizen who stepped in to deliver the taster lecture on medieval rural settlements and the results session. Emmanuel, Newnham, Robinson and Selwyn Colleges hosted the school groups at lunchtime and Ellen Slack, Schools Liaison Officer for Selwyn College delivered an inspiring talk about applications to university and the admissions process. One of the students said in their feedback afterwards: “I think I have a better idea of what I would like to do in the future, and I gained valuable skills from the dig” (EC). Overall,  97% of respondents rated the Manuden HEFA as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’. One of the students who worked on the test pit which found the human skeleton said ““thank you, this is an experience I will never forget!!!” (OH). The field academy was also very highly rated by the school staff who accompanied the students with one member praising the course for being “very well organised and great commitment from Cambridge staff” (DL).

Access Cambridge Archaeology ran 13 HEFAs attended by 529 secondary school students in the summer of 2014. A summary of the achievements of this 10th anniverary field season will be posted soon, and plans are already underway for 2015! If you would be interested in involving your school in a field academy, please contact the HEFA team administrator for further details.

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Posted by: archaccess | August 12, 2014

Riseley 2014 Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA)

Riseley 2014 Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA) The 2014 Bedfordshire HEFA took place last month in Riseley, a new site for ACA’s research into Currently Occupied Rural Settlements (CORS).
The University of Cambridge’s CORS research project is directed by Dr Carenza Lewis and aims to reveal new evidence for the development of medieval rural settlement in villages still inhabited today, as part of a widening participation programme including young people in original university research. Having dug nearly 70 test pits in the nearby village of Sharnbrook during the project, ACA then approached Riseley Historical Society to involve local secondary school students in an archaeological investigation of the early origins of their village, which took place last month.

Thirty-two Year 9 and 10 students from Hastingsbury Business & Enterprise College, Sharnbrook Upper School and Stratton Upper School dug eight archaeological test pits in Riseley over two days in July. The mixed-school teams were supervised by school staff as well as six Year 12 and 13 students from Sharnbrook Upper School. Members of Risely Historical Society also dug a test pit, bringing the total to nine. The test pits were located along the High Street, Gold Street, Church Lane and Rotton Row. Recruitment of the sites and use of the village hall as our base was coordinated by Michael Stubbert, Andrew Gell and other members of the historical society.

Evidence for the manufacture of pottery during the 15th – 16th century AD had been previously found during pre-construction excavations at a number of sites in the village. Paul Blinkhorn, post-Roman pottery specialist, joined us for the second day of the test-pitting to see if there were any further clues of the settlement’s pot-making past. To Paul’s delight, not just one but two test pits unearthed such large quantities of Late Medieval Oxidised Ware (shown right) that it seems likely that they were sites of pottery manufacture in the Late Medieval period. Test pit 6 on Rotten Row found over 400 sherds and test pit 2, at the far eastern end of the High Street, found over 200 sherds!

Another find from the High Street which implies that Riseley was an important commercial centre in the Post-Medieval period, was a very degraded Nuremberg jeton found across the road in test pit 1.

Earlier evidence for the origins of medieval Riseley was found in test pit 5, on Gold Street, where the corner of a limestone and mortar wall was found. The pottery discovered in the lower layers of this test pit dated from the 11th – 15th centuries AD making it likely that the wall dates from the High Medieval period. The presence of Late Anglo-Saxon pottery, Stamford and St Neots Ware, in this pit also hints that this area may have been part of the original focus of the village before the Norman Conquest, but this hypothesis requires further investigation.

After working with the Cambridge University team in Riseley to complete their archaeological test pit excavations, the students then spent a third day at the University of Cambridge to discuss the results ready to write and submit a written report after the course, as well as experience a taster of Higher Education teaching and learning. Trinity College and Christ’s College hosted the students for lunch and a tour for part of the day, and this was followed by a presentation on what university has to offer prospective students and how to find out more before applying.

In feedback collected at the end of the field academy, 100% of the respondents rated the course as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’. One of the students who had worked on test pit 5 wrote: “I liked all of it but I really liked the location and the medieval house/wall was amazing!” (AM). Another student said they felt they had gained “a greater knowledge of university life and confidence in applying to one” (LP) from participating in the HEFA. A staff member praised the field academy as “an excellent opportunity for students that they would otherwise not have had!” (JB)

To find out more about how archaeologists can use test-pit excavations to reconstruct how settlements have changed overtime, you can view a presentation by Dr Carenza Lewis on the results of the HEFA CORS research project so far on YouTube here.


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Posted by: archaccess | August 12, 2014

Hindringham 2014 Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA)

Hindringham 2014 Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA)After a long absence, HEFA returned to the north Norfolk village of Hindringham this summer to continue excavating archaeological test pits.

ACA first ran a Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA) in Hindringham in 2007 but a flash flood later that summer damaged the village hall and it was closed for almost a year while repairs were made. In the meantime, members of the history society based in the neighbouring village of Binham offered to host the field academy and sixty archaeological test-pits have subsequently been dug there by HEFA participants and local volunteers. It was following a chance encounter with Hindringham resident, Simon Hester, during the 2013 Binham HEFA that he offered to coordinate this year’s field academy in Hindringham again, and another 11 test pits were dug over two gloriously sunny days at the end of June and the start of July this year, adding to the 11 excavated in 2007.

The pits were dug by forty Year 9 students who worked in mixed-school groups, which were supervised by ten Year 12 students. The Year 9 students were recruited from Alderman Peel High School, Litcham School, Reepham High School, Cromer Academy and Fakenham Academy Norfolk, and the sixth-form students came from Sheringham Sixth Form Centre, Paston Sixth Form Centre, Reepham College and Fakenham College.

The test pits were located on The Street, Blacksmiths Lane and Moorgate Road, and Andrew Rogerson, from Norfolk Historic Environment Record, helped to identify finds on site. The final pottery report, produced by Paul Blinkhorn, is now available to download on our website here.

The earliest pottery recovered during the 2007 excavations dated to the Late Anglo-Saxon but this year, a sherd of Roman pottery was found in test pit 11 on the Street, and a rare sherd of Early Anglo-Saxon pottery was discovered at a neighbouring site, test pit 8. Both of these pits also produced pottery spanning the 10th – 14th centuries AD, as did test pits 4, 6 and 7 on Blacksmiths Lane. Combining the pottery results of 2007 and 2014, it appears that Late Saxon and Early Medieval occupation in Hindringham was concentrated on higher ground set back from the stream on Blacksmiths Lane and above the 60m contour line further south and west on The Street and Wells Road, presumably to avoid the dangers presented by flood events – which is more than can be said of the 20th century village hall!

A large amount of burnt flint was also found by three test pits in one of the gardens on Blacksmiths Lane, suggestive of a prehistoric site. The finds from the pits on Moorgate Road suggest that there may have been an isolated medieval farmstead in the vicinity and that the area was permanently settled from the 16th century AD onwards, with evidence for a pub at the site of two of the test pits.

However, the aim of the field academy is not simply to find archaeological evidence for how a settlement has developed over time, but to offer secondary school students the opportunity to develop a range of practical and personal, learning and thinking skills for the future, and for them to find out more about studying at university in the process. On the third day of the field academy, the students visited the University of Cambridge, and they received a taster lecture on medieval settlement studies; visited one of Emmanuel, Gonville & Caius and Selwyn Colleges at lunchtime; and compared the results of their test pits with the findings from 2007. The Year 9 students also had a presentation about post-16 choices and university from Ingrid Hesselbo, Schools Liaison Officer for Gonville and Caius, the area link college at Cambridge responsible for working with schools based in Norfolk. Ellen Slack of Selwyn College also spoke to the Year 12 students in a separate informal session on university admissions.

At the end of the HEFA, the participants are asked to rate the field academy and 98% of the respondents rated it as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’. The sixth-form supervisors gained valuable leadership experience with one saying she “was happy with the group sizes and the fact that we each got to work on individual sites as it gave us the opportunity to get to know each other better” (AS). Another Year 12 student said she enjoyed “the opportunity to lead and manage a team” and left the day in Cambridge with a “better understanding of university education and the application process” (LJ). Many of the Year 9 students gave very effusive comments in their feedback such as “it was brilliant!” (ML) and “it was great fun and I really enjoyed it” (HB).


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Posted by: archaccess | August 11, 2014

North Warnborough 2014 Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA)

North Warnborough 2014 Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA)Catching up with the last few busy weeks of ACA’s 10th season of field academies, here is the news from the Hampshire HEFA in North Warnborough.

This was Access Cambridge Archaeology’s second visit to the village, at the invitation of John Champion and Liz Good of The Odiham Society. Forty Year 9 students from Fort Hill Community School, Robert May’s School, Costello School and Cranbourne Business & Enterprise College dug 10 archaeological test pits in North Warnborough over two days at the end of June.

Most of the test pits were located in the south of the village on and near North Warnborough Street, Queens Road and Dunley’s Hill. Our base during the digging was The Anchor Inn on North Warnborough Street in this part of the village. A couple of test pits were also dug north of the canal off Hook Road and another near Mill Lane, adding to the HEFA excavations conducted near Warnborough Green and the remains of Odiham Castle in 2013.

One of the test pits near Hook Road was located on what was believed to be the site of a Victorian tannery, which was corroborated by the discovery of a vast number of cow horn cores at the end of the second afternoon. Over sixty of the cores were dug out of the final two contexts, with even more left unexcavated after running out of time.

Paul Blinkhorn, a specialist in post-Roman pottery, was on hand to identify pottery found by the test pit groups. All of the excavations along North Warnbourgh Street discovered small amounts of medieval pottery, including sherds of Surrey Whiteware dating to the 13th-14th century AD. The pottery distribution from the 20 test pits dug so far indicate that occupation of the village in the medieval period was spread over 500m from Mill Corner in the north of the village to residences along North Warnborough Street in the south. However, pottery use as a proxy for population numbers declines dramatically after the Black Death and the village took over two centuries to recover a similar extent and density of occupation again.

Two test pits in front gardens along North Warnborough Street even uncovered direct evidence of earlier buildings. Test pit 4 found a mortared chalk wall (shown below) running parallel to the road, and test pit 7 also found a wall and interior floor surface perpendicular to the road. No conclusive dating material was found with either feature but the remains hint at the long history of occupation in this area, with buildings sited closer to the road than those standing today. The 2014 test pits also found tantalising clues of pre-medieval occupation, with a sherd of Bronze Age pottery found in a test pit near Dunley’s Hill and a sherd of Roman pottery found on Queens Road.

The pottery report for the 2014 test pit excavations is now available to download here.

Following the excavations in North Warnborough, the students then travelled to the University of Cambridge for the third day of the field academy to analyse their findings and find out more about life and learning at one of the world’s top Higher Education institutions. At lunchtime, the schools were hosted by Magdalene, St John’s, Trinity and Trinity Hall Colleges for a tour and a meal, and Ruth Holmes, Schools Liaison Officer at Newnham College, spoke to the students in the afternoon about future education and career choices.

At the end of the three day field academy, 100% of the students rated the course as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’. The participants were very appreciative of the chance to work in mixed-school groups and make new friends, with one student saying afterwards that she “felt more confident about university and trying new experiences” (EB). One of the staff members also commented that her students had “really enjoyed the networking opportunity and hopefully will look to university to find more like-minded people” (PH). Another staff member described the HEFA as “superb – what an opportunity” (LM).

Following the field academy, participants are encouraged to write and submit a report covering the aims, methods and results of their test pit excavations to the University of Cambridge. An impressive 93% of the North Warborough HEFA students completed a report in the three weeks before the end of the academic year. All students receive a certificate of participation and an assessment of their data collection as well as personal, learning and thinking skills during the two days spent excavating, along with detailed feedback on their written report, if submitted.


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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 feaginfo@gmail.com, 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 Academy (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.

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