Posted by: archaccess | October 24, 2014

‘The Power of Pits’ Article Available On-line

'The Power of Pits' Article Available On-lineDr Carenza Lewis, was recently invited to contribute an article to a McDonald Institute monograph, and ‘The Power of Pits: Archaeology, Outreach and Research in Living Landscapes’ is now available to download on the ACA website.
The article features in a monograph called ‘Living in the Landscape: essays in honour of Graeme Barker’ and has just been published by the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research to mark the retirement of Graeme Barker from the Disney Professorship of Archaeology at the University of Cambridge.

‘The Power of Pits: Archaeology, Outreach and Research in Living Landscapes’ by Dr Carenza Lewis is available to view here. You can also read copies of her annual submission to the Medieval Settlement Research Group about the results of the archaeological test pit excavations conducted by ACA in Currently Occupied Rural Settlements on the website here.

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Posted by: archaccess | October 24, 2014

Audio Recording of the ACA 10th Anniversary Public Lecture

Audio Recording of the ACA 10th Anniversary Public LectureHear about the pioneering archaeological outreach work brought to members of the public by the University of Cambridge’s Division of Archaeology, including Dr Carenza Lewis talking about ten years of Access Cambridge Archaeology (ACA).

A recording of the event ‘From Time Team to Archaeology for All’ is available to listen to on the University of Cambridge’s soundcloud account here, as part of the Cambridge Festival of Ideas.

Dr Jody Joy of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology begins with a summary of the museum’s public events and outreach activities bringing people into the university before ACA’s Director, Dr Carenza Lewis, talks about her decade-long work to enhance people’s educational, economic and social well-being through active participation in archaeology outside the university. Carenza’s talk starts at 7:56 in the recording.

Photos of the lecture and of the reception afterwards taken by ACA’s archaeological supervisor, Catherine Ranson, can be viewed on the ACA Facebook group here.

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Celebrating 10 Years of ACA: From Time Team to Archaeology for AllOver 200 people attended a public lecture last night by Dr Carenza Lewis, ACA’s Director, in which she recounted highlights from the last ten years of outreach work and shared her considerable achievements in engaging schools and communities.

Dr Lewis began her outreach work leading classroom-based activities on the theme of archaeology in schools in the autumn of 2004 and ran the first Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA) in collaboration with the former government’s widening participation scheme, Aimhigher, in summer 2005. Since then, over 4000 school students have participated in HEFA and Carenza has expanded Access Cambridge Archaeology’s (ACA) outreach programme to encompass a wide range of different community-based projects including archaeological excavation, field-walking, test pit excavation, local history, oral history and history trails.

Last night’s lecture brought together people who have been involved in ACA’s activities from all across the eastern region including school staff, local coordinators, members of local history and archaeology societies, archaeological specialists, volunteers and participants. As well as Carenza’s presentation of the specific aims and outcomes of ACA’s outreach, the event provided a chance to publicly discuss the different ways in which archaeology in general can not only uniquely engage people in the research of a world-renowned university such as Cambridge but also give them the opportunity to enhance their educational, economic and social well-being.

Following on from Jody’s talk about the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology opening the doors of the University of Cambridge to members of the public, Carenza outlined her rationale for the importance of also going out into local communities to give people the opportunity for hands-on participation in making archaeological discoveries. She began with an outline of her career and spoke about her involvement in the Channel 4 series Time Team which confirmed for her the popular appeal and empowering potential of hands-on learning about the past. When Carenza left the series and began working for the University of Cambridge, she was invited to set up a new outreach and widening participation programme at the Division of Archaeology. She talked about the development and expansion of HEFA and later, a wide range of dedicated community projects. One example she gave was ACA’s involvement in running and supervising archaeological activities as part of the Hertiage Lottery Funded Managing a Masterpiece project on the Essex-Suffolk border in 2011-2013. A nine day excavation at Clare Castle in Suffolk in May 2013 involved 112 volunteers, several of whom went on to found Stour Valley Community Archaeology to continue offering community archaeology fieldwork opportunities in the area.

Since 2005, a staggering 1891 archaeological test pits have been dug by school students and community volunteers with ACA in 64 settlements in 11 different counties. Carenza showed distribution maps and graphs of the test pit excavation results using pottery as a proxy for population levels which demonstrate the catastrophic and spatially variable impact of the Black Death in East Anglia. She concluded her lecture with a reflection on not only the tangible outcomes of archaeological outreach such as artefacts, maps and publications but also the intangible legacies of raising young peoples’ aspirations for the future and strengthening communities through shared experiences and connections.

After their talks, Jody and Carenza were asked to the stage again to take questions. Audience members were interested in the data produced by Carenza’s test pit excavations and she assured them that she has written an article ready to publish and as soon as it is ready, a copy would be available to download from ACA’s website. Others wanted to know about her future plans for the outreach unit and Carenza said that she would like to hear people’s suggestions for how she could help communities to sustain interest in their local heritage and find opportunities to continue collaboration with the university. The University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for relationships with the local community and public engagement, Professor Jeremy Sanders, chaired the event and finished by thanking both Carenza and Jody for their work making the research of the university relevant and accessible to members of the general public.

After the lecture, the Festival of Ideas generously hosted a reception at the Pitt Building attended by close friends and colleagues. Sandy Yatteau, former Manager of Aimhigher Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, thanked Carenza for an immensely successful and inspirational decade at the helm of ACA and presented her with a bunch of flowers. ACA’s administrator, Clem Cooper, baked and decorated a cake based on the ACA logo which was cut by Carenza who spoke about the emerging importance of tea and cake at community archaeological events over the years. Many more photos of the lecture and of the reception, taken by ACA’s archaeological supervisor, Catherine Ranson, can be viewed on the ACA Facebook group here.

In an e-mail after the event, a couple of the attendees got in touch to say “thank you for the invitation to Carenza’s talk and the reception after – we really enjoyed ourselves. We have been so busy this month and that was definitely the best thing we’ve done” (LB).

Carenza would like to say thank you to everyone who has taken part or helped in any way, at any time, to the work of Access Cambridge Archaeology over the last 10 years. She would like to recognise the support of Aimhigher, the Higher Education Funding Coucil for England (HEFCE), the University of Cambridge, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), the Arts and Humanities Research Council, English Heritage, the BBC, the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research and all of the staff and volunteers who have given so generously of their time, energy, property, tea and cakes!

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Posted by: archaccess | October 22, 2014

ACA Administrator Job Vacancy

A full-time vacancy exists from 1/1/2015 for an Administrative Assistant to support the promotion, organisation, running and reporting of the widening participation and outreach activities of Access Cambridge Archaeology (ACA). The application deadline is midnight on 09/11/2014.

The job description and person specification, along with details of how to apply, are available to view on the University of Cambridge’s job vacancies website here.

The incumbent administrator, Clemency Cooper, has been working at ACA since April 2010 and will be leaving at the end of November to start the role of Outreach Officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme’s new PASt Explorers project based at the British Museum. Clem has thoroughly enjoyed being a member of the ACA team and would like to say a heartfelt thank you to everyone she has worked with over the last four and a half years.

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Posted by: archaccess | October 14, 2014

Shefford 2014 Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA)

Shefford 2014 Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA)An additional field academy was run for Bedfordshire Middle School students in the town of Shefford last week, marking the end of the 2014 excavation season for ACA.

Robert Bloomfield Academy, Henlow Church of England Academy and Etonbury Academy are member schools of Bedfordshire East Schools Trust (BEST) Archaeological Society. Their students dug six archaeological test pit excavations supervised by ACA in 2012 and this year, 64 Year 7 and 8 students were involved in digging another 13 pits in Shefford. Lee Thomas, a teacher at Robert Bloomfield and founding Chairman of BEST Archaeological Society, not only coordinated the students taking part but also liaised with local residents to find sites to excavate, provided equipment and refreshments as well as taking on a very enthusiastic role in the digging! The test pits were located in the gardens of private properties on Great Hill, Clifton Road, High Street, Ivedale Drive, Hitchin Road and The Wharf. Our base for the two days of excavation was Shefford Town Memorial Hall.

The students worked in mixed-school teams of 4 or 5, and made excellent progress on the first of the two days of digging after having a briefing on how to excavate and record the test pits. They then valiantly finished digging and back-filled as the rain showers worsened on Thursday afternoon. Despite the weather, the students’ enthusiasm evidently wasn’t dampened with one commenting afterwards: “I really enjoyed this trip and I will never forget this amazing experience. Thank you HEFA!” (GH).

Paul Blinkhorn, post-medieval pottery specialist, was on site both days and his final pottery report is already available to download on the Shefford report webpage here. Test pits 12 and 13, sited in the same garden on Clifton Road, found a large quantity of Victorian pottery and domestic refuse including a flat iron and a bone domino piece. Test pits 5 and 6, in the front and back gardens of a house on Ivedale Drive, were the only ones to find Medieval pottery including shreds of Early Medieval Sandy Ware (1100-1400 AD) and a sherd of Brill/Boarstall Ware (1200-1500 AD).

On their third day’s visit to Cambridge last Friday, the students were welcome by warm sunny weather which was a welcome relief after Thursday’s rain. They had a taster lecture on medieval settlement studies from Dr Carenza Lewis, Director of ACA, and then split into groups for lunch and a tour at one of Emmanuel, St Catharine’s, Trinity and Trinity Hall Colleges. Katie Vernon, Schools Liaison Officer for both Trinity Hall and Robinson Colleges gave the group a general overview of life and learning as a university student in the afternoon, and the day finished with a review of the test pit findings in Shefford.

In feedback after the event, 87% of the participants rated the field academy as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’. Many of the students relished the chance to meet and work with students from the other schools with one saying she “found (HEFA) very interesting – I liked working with new people” (GR). Another felt he had gained “life skills like working with people I don’t know, teamwork and working independently.” (FJ). One of the staff members said afterwards that he had “thoroughly enjoyed working in an out of school environment with the children, especially where I am not the expert and learn with them” (MO).

This was the last excavation of 2014 for ACA but plans for next year’s programme of school field academies and community fieldwork. At the end of the tenth season, a grand total of 1891 archaeological test pits have been dug by school students and members of the public under the supervision of ACA over the past 10 years. The team will be spending the winter months processing finds from the 2014 excavations as well as report writing and publishing, evaluating activities for funders and setting up next season’s activities.

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Posted by: archaccess | October 6, 2014

Sudbury Community Test Pit Excavations 2014

Sudbury Community Test Pit Excavations 2014A year in the planning, the 3 day Sudbury ‘Big Dig’ took place in Suffolk’s largest old wool town last weekend involving over 200 school pupils, local residents and volunteers.

Following the popularity of the community test pit excavations run and supervised by Access Cambridge Archaeology (ACA) in other settlements along the Stour Valley; including Bures, Clare, Nayland, Long Melford and Little Waldingfield, residents of Sudbury formed a steering committee to organise a similar event in their town. Last weekend’s community test pit excavations were jointly organised by members of The Sudbury Society, Sudbury History Society and Sudbury Museum Trust, with especial credit to David Burnett and Mike Crome for their months of fundraising, promotion and preparation. Peter Rednall was responsible for liaising with local primary and secondary schools overseeing the organisation of excavations with pupils at the Croft. Also on the Big Dig steering committee were Anne Grimshaw, Peter Minter and John Nunn, and financial support for the venture came from the Sudbury Museum Trust, the Sudbury Society, the Sudbury History Society, the Freemen’s Trust, Lord Phillips’ charity and Sudbury Town Council.

Sudbury is first recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, and a market was established in 1009 AD. In the 13th century, one of three Dominican priories in Suffolk was founded in the town, at a time when it was an important centre of the Suffolk wool trade. Sudbury is famous for being the home of Archbishop Simon of Sudbury, whose beheaded skull still resides in the church of St Gregory after the Peasants Revolt, as well as the birthplace of Thomas Gainsborough, the 18th century painter.

The focus of Sudbury’s community test pit excavations was the historic core in the south of the town, extending across the River Stour into Ballingdon. Thirty-one test pits were sited in private gardens and public spaces on The Croft, Gaol Lane, North Street, Belle Vue Road, Gainsborough Street, Christopher Lane, Friars Street, School Street, Church Street, Cross Street and Ballingdon Street. The aim of the community test pit excavations was to find archaeological evidence for the historic development of the town whilst providing a rewarding, fun and educational experience for members of the public.

On Friday 3rd October 2014, 5 test pits were dug by primary school pupils on The Croft, outside the parish church of St Gregory, one of three medieval churches in the town. Nearly 125 students from Woodhall Community Primary School, Tudor Church of England VC Primary School, St Gregory CEVC Primary School and St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Primary School were given the chance to take part. Each Year 6 class from the schools had their own test pit to excavate and they came out in small groups throughout the day. Many thanks to Peter Hart, Stephen Von Dadelszen, Jane Crone, Graham Brundell, Kenneth Dodd, Julie Thomson and Guy Crayford, the volunteers who manned the test pits and helped students get hands-on with the digging, sieving and finds washing. Six GCSE students and staff from Thomas Gainsborough School also joined in, with 3 of the students filming the activities as part of their Media course, and another 3 History students allocated to work on test pits and taking responsibility for the recording.

Test pit 34, to the north-west of the church, not only found several sherds of twelfth century Medieval pottery after digging through a deep layer of rubble, but also one sherd of mid-Saxon Ipswich Ware (720 – 850 AD). No pottery of this date has been found in either Long Melford or Nayland, despite having dug at least 50 test pits in each settlement to date. Two of the five test pits on Friday also found sherds of the distinctive brown and yellow striped Staffordshire Slipware, dating to the late 17th – early 18th century AD.

Lord Philips of Sudbury, who resides at the Croft, made frequent visits to the school test pits on Friday and gathered the students at the end of the day to tell them more about the history of the Croft and to thank them for their part in making new discoveries about the area (shown below). The students had a fantastic time and many of them returned with their families over the weekend to watch these excavations continue.

Other local residents and volunteers had the two days of the weekend to dig another 26 test pits in private gardens, on Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th October 2014. The base during the excavations was at Friars Hall on School Street, where volunteers served refreshments and collected in finds. ACA’s Director, Dr Carenza Lewis, gave a briefing at the base on Saturday morning and then test pit hosts and volunteers dispersed to their test pit sites to get started. John Newman, a Suffolk-based freelance archaeologist, attended the two days of excavation over the weekend to help identify and date pottery finds, and Stour Valley Community Archaeology lent equipment and their support in the digging.

As forecast, the weather on Saturday took a turn for the worse with a torrential downpour at lunchtime and steady drizzle throughout the afternoon. However, spirits remained high and all but one of the test pits began as planned. The hot tea and coffee served at base was a welcome comfort as people dropped off their finds to dry. On Saturday, a Tudor button was found in the upper contexts of test pit 1 on Christopher Lane, and test pit 5, behind the shop Bazaar, found a rubber elephant toy – coincidentally the emblem of the shop! As if the weather wasn’t enough to contend with, test pit 21 also persevered through 10cm of solid concrete across the base of their pit and the brick rubble they found underneath.

Sunday dawned bright and clear and many of the test pits got off to an early start to make up for lost time. It wasn’t long before several test pits were well rewarded with finds. On Friars Street, test pit 9 found a piece of painted Medieval window glass and test pit 10 nearby found a probable seventeenth century jeton (shown right) indicating that the area between the market and the priory was very wealthy in the Middle Ages. Test pit 14, near All Saints Church, also found a possible Medieval wall made of flint and mortar. An enormous amount of pottery was recovered from the Sudbury test pits, which will be sent away for analysis once all of the finds are handed in to ACA.

Most of the test pit hosts and volunteers returned to Friars Hall at the end of Sunday to see the finds and hear a summary of the excavations given by Carenza. Due to the weather delays and the depth of the deposits in built-up areas of the town, 8 enthusiastic test pit owners decided that they would continue their excavations after the weekend. Test pit 12, which was only started on Sunday, managed to reach 60cm with just a two man team, and test pit 4 valiantly dug through 110cm of Victorian deposits over the weekend.

In spite of the rain on Saturday, 100% of respondents rated the test pit digging as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ in feedback after the event and 95% said they would recommend the activity to others. One resident said “it’s fun, interesting and a great chance to do something with the rest of the community… I can’t wait to dig elsewhere!” (JC). Another said she and her husband had “had a wonderful time – really enjoyed it. Will continue with our pit!” (SB). A couple of volunteers from Great Cornard said that they “enjoyed the whole experience as a package – would definitely do again.” (PW). Members of the steering committee were delighted with the outcomes of the excavation, with Peter Rednall describing it as “a valuable community building exercise.”

You can read articles about the excavations on the East Anglian Daily Times website here and the All About My Area website here.

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Posted by: archaccess | September 30, 2014

The Origins of Towns in Britain

On Tuesday 7th October 2014, Professor Mike Fulford CBE, from the University of Reading, will be giving a talk to the North Hertfordshire Archaeological Society (NHAS) based on his long-running archaeological excavations in the Iron Age and Roman town of Silchester, Berkshire.

Silchester originated as a town about one hundred years before the Roman Conquest, as did similar places such as Baldock, Colchester and St. Albans. Prof. Fulford will describe and discuss the development of Silchester into a town and the reasons why, and will compare its development with other similar settlements.

All are welcome to attend the talk at 8pm at Letchworth Free Church, Norton Way South, Letchworth Garden City, SG6 1NX. Doors open at 7.30pm and attendance costs NHAS members £3 and non-members £5.

Posted by: archaccess | September 23, 2014

Sudbury ready for big dig

‘Sudbury ready for big dig’ – an article from the Suffolk Free Press about the town’s upcoming community test pit excavations to be supervised by Access Cambridge Archaeology (ACA).

Posted by: archaccess | September 22, 2014

Nayland Community Test Pit Excavations 2014

Nayland Community Test Pit Excavations 2014Following the success of a community project in October 2012, residents of Nayland had another chance to carry out archaeological test pit excavations in the Suffolk village last weekend.

On Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st September 2014, sixteen test pits were dug by residents and local volunteers which, added to those dug in 2012, brings the total to 50 test pits. You can read about the first set of community test pit excavations, as part of the Heritage Lottery Funded Managing a Masterpiece project, on the ACA blog here and the full project report is available on the ACA website here.

This time, the excavations were supported by the Dedham Vale AONB, Nayland with Wissington Conservation Society, and the Nayland with Wissington Community Council. Andora Carver, Secretary of the Nayland with Wissington Conservation Society, coordinated the excavations by liaising with homeowners and recruiting volunteers. The base for the two days was her barn off Mill Street. Everyone initially met there for a briefing about the excavation procedure on the damp Saturday morning before dispersing to the test pit sites to warm up with some enthusiastic digging. Stour Valley Community Archaeology (SVCA) kindly lent out their equipment and many of their members volunteered to lend their expertise and muscle power over the weekend.

The test pits were scattered across the village and included sites on Harpers Hill, Laburnum Way, Bear Street and near the cemetary in the north-west of the village; and sites on Gravel Hill, Stoke Road, Mill Street and Fen Street in the north-east; and sites on Newlands Lane and nearby allotments, Court Street in the south-east.

Preliminary analysis of the 2014 pottery sherds seems to suggest that there is still little evidence of settlement prior to the 12th century AD in Nayland. Most of the test pits around Newlands Lane and Court Street produced High Medieval pottery as expected because the 2012 excavations had highlighted this area as the focus of settlement at that time. The pottery will be sent away for specialist analysis and the final report will be available on the webpage here soon.

A wall was found in one of the two test pits dug at Alston Court, which may be the remains of an earlier phase of the main house or possibly the foundations of a row of cottages thought to have existed nearby. Another interesting feature found in the test pits was a post-hole which turned up in the allotment gardens to the west of the main village, indicating the presence of an earlier structure in what is an open area today.

Test pit 10, off Newlands Lane, found the small figure of an, as yet, unidentified saint in the same context as a medal of St Gerard Majella, an 18th century Italian lay brother (both finds shown right against a 5cm scale). St Gerard Majella is the patron saint of expectant mothers and their unborn children, and fittingly, the other side of the medallion shows the virgin Mary with the child Jesus. The same test pit also produced a Nuremberg jeton, a mass-produced money counter. In 2012, another jeton was found during the excavations in Nayland, which indicates that the village was an important commercial centre during the early post-medieval period.

On Sunday afternoon, the finds were brought back to the base to be sorted by Cat Ranson, ACA’s archaeological supervisor, and John Newman, a Suffolk-based freelance archaeologist and pottery specialist. As in 2012, the small 1m2 holes produced a huge amount of building material – particularly tile – suggesting that past inhabitants of Nayland could afford to tile rather than thatch their roofs, and so avoid the latter’s associated fire risk. Once all of the finds and records were collected in, diggers and test pit hosts were then invited to have some well-deserved refreshments in Andora’s garden and Dr Carenza Lewis, ACA’s Director, gave a summary of the findings, with contributions from all those who had taken part.

ACA will be returning to Suffolk for another weekend of community test pit excavations next month for ‘the Big Dig’ in Sudbury on Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th October 2014.


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Posted by: archaccess | September 22, 2014

Booking for the ACA 10th Anniversary Public Lecture

Booking for the ACA 10th Anniversary Public LectureThere are a limited number of places still available to attend Dr Carenza Lewis’ public lecture to mark ACA’s 10th anniversary.

In the lecture, she will remember the outreach unit’s early days, celebrate some of the highlights of the last decade and also look to the future, with questions and comment from the audience afterwards. This is as an opportunity to bring together as many people as possible who have been involved with, or supportive of, ACA at any time over the last decade, whether for a single day or over years, whether just recently or a decade ago, whether as a youngster or someone with many years’ experience under their belt!

To attend the lecture, please ensure that you reserve a place through the Festival of Ideas website under the event ‘From Time Team to Archaeology for All’ here.

The lecture will take place between 6:30pm – 7:45pm on 22nd October 2014 in Room 3 at the Mill Lane Lecture Rooms in Cambridge. ACA looks forward to welcoming many old and new friends to the celebration.

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