Alison Dickens, manager of ACA and at the CAU and who led the dig will be giving a talk about the community excavation that took place at Peterborough Cathedral a couple of months ago. The talk will be held at the cathedral and hosted by the Friends of Peterborough Cathedral (more information on the talk can be found here) on Saturday 17th September. The talk is free (although donations to the cathedral will be of course welcome!) and will begin at 11.30am.



Posted by: archaccess | August 3, 2016

St John’s Summer School


Last week, the Division of Archaeology at the University of Cambridge, organised a summer school event, kindly paid for by St Johns College, for prospective Cambridge University archaeology undergraduates who have just completed Year 12 and are about to start applying to university.

A total of 43 sixth-formers attended the summer school, coming from both state and private schools across the UK and abroad. Dr Martin Worthington, a lecturer in Assyriology and a fellow of St Johns College and Laure Bonner, former ACA administrator and now the Outreach and Communication Officer for the Division; organised the event, which took place over four packed days where the students stayed in St Johns College and received many talks and taster lectures as well as various tours and practical sessions about the different components of studying archaeology at Cambridge.

P1160990For two of the days, the students were also given practical excavation training in Jesus College, organised by the Cambridge Archaeological Unit (CAU) with help from ACA, where the students opened five 1m2 test pits in the north-west corner of the college and behind the current graduate accommodation that fronts Lower Park Street (Map of test pits). Cat Collins of ACA also gave the students an introductory briefing the day before the digging, to prepare for the dig and relevant health and safety guidance.

Craig Cessford from the CAU as well as both Emily Ryley and Cat Collins from ACA were on hand for both days to advise and guide the students, who undertook the whole excavation process themselves. The test pit excavation and recording was based on the test pitting strategy that ACA undertake with year 9 and 10 students from local schools throughout East Anglia as part of the Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA) programme. The students digging in Jesus College de-turfed, excavated, sieved and washed all the finds, recorded the test pit and then backfilled within the two days.


Previous excavations by the CAU at Jesus College had found multiple phases of occupation on site dating from the Neolithic and Bronze Age with both worked flints and Beaker pottery found, but the first phase of significant archaeology in the area was Iron Age ditched enclosures, with a later Roman field system potentially contemporary with the Roman cemetery that was excavated from property basements nearby.

P1170046A Benedictine nunnery was founded on the site during the early 12th century, dedicated to St Radegund and  lay outside the city boundary, the Kings Ditch, just to the east. The nunnery lasted until the late 15th century, when it was already in a bad state of repair and it was the initiative of Bishop John Alcock of Ely to use the dilapidated church and buildings to found a new college. Jesus College was named for the chapel that was originally part of the nunnery.


3All five test pits yielded a number of finds, test pit one at the far western end came down onto a large dump of material with large fragments of plates and dishes that one student in particular was very keen to try to put it all back together! The test pit was located near to the service passageway and the access gate so this part of the garden may have been used by all as a place to dispose of rubbish within a planting bed or similar feature and contained common types of table wares of the era as well as three infant feeding bottle fragments that at least shows that the servant accommodation here may have been multi-generational.  Test pit two was one of the deepest excavated although was still in top soil at 0.8m and it too had a range of post medieval and later finds including a marble and a bone handle fragment with possible writing engraved on it. A number of fragments of medieval pottery were also found.


Test pit three was the central pit along the back of the cottages and through which two thin lead pipes were found along the western half of the pit which subsequently restricted the digging but a number of large fragments of butchered animal bone were discovered as well as more personal artefacts such as a slate pencil, part of a toothbrush and a likely bone parchment pricker. This would have been primarily used to prick holes down the edges of parchment as a guide for ruling lines and would have likely dated from the 13th-14th century. A white/yellow brick wall, with at least f0ur courses remaining was found through the middle of test pit four. The wall was angled at right angles to the 19th century cottages and the scarring visible on the Lower Park Street terrace houses suggests it would have likely have been a boundary garden wall to the back yards and would have stood at least 1.5m tall.

P1170099Test pit five was the eastern most pit excavated at Jesus College and may have actually been outside the original house garden boundary as there was a distinct change in the soils, with not much in the way of top soil but a lot of likely builders disturbance. Craig also taught a few of the students about taking levels of the site for the final report and then all the test pits were augured before final recording and backfilling. The auguring determined the approximate depth of the natural in each test pit, which for the majority was over 2m in-depth and would not have been reached within the confines of the test pit and the time available. These excavations have therefore demonstrated the depth of build up of the ground, potentially both through episodes of flooding as well as from human activity.


P1170156A number of inferences can be made from the test pit excavations; five sherds of Roman pottery were excavated and suggest that this area of the college lay within the surrounding Romano-British field systems or some other peripheral landscape to the Roman town of Cambridge. A single sherd of Late Anglo Saxton Thetford-type ware pottery was also found with 24 sherds of 13th-15th century pottery, all of which was mixed in with the 18th-20th century material, although it was predominately found through the lower layers of the test pits and suggesting further non-intensive and peripheral activity outside the town of Cambridge and associated with the nunnery and/or college. The bulk of all the material excavated from the excavations dated to between the 18th and 20th centuries and is broadly typical of assemblages of this date that have previously been found from Cambridge. Interestingly though there are two possible examples of collegiate ceramics that were also recorded from the test pits; one depicting a name that may relate to Jesus College but the other clearly shows the fountain from the Great Court at Trinity College.

The pdf of the full report can be downloaded from here: 1347 JTP16 Lower Pk St Jesus College-1

A number of lecturers and staff from the Division of Archaeology also stopped by during the excavation and chatted with the students, answering questions and giving further insights into studying at the University of Cambridge. Feedback from all the students who took part in the summer school was also very positive with just over 90% of the students rating the excavation portion of the summer school was ‘excellent’ and a number of students also stating that they specifically enjoyed the test pit digging over the other activities. One student, when asked ‘What aspects did you enjoy?’ said; “I enjoyed everything. I liked the dig as I had never done that before and it was an amazing experience”, whilst another student stated “The excavation, learning about the different aspects of archaeology and putting it into practice” and from another: “The excavation was enjoyable to get some hands on experience”.


Many thanks must go again to all involved with organising and helping out with the summer school during the week and for St Johns College who funded the event. Thanks also to the many kind people of Jesus College who allowed all the students to dig and all in the Division who came to support both the CAU and ACA.

Posted by: archaccess | August 2, 2016

3D imaging of Peterborough Cathedral Excavations

Jacob Scott, one of the voluneer diggers at Peterborough Cathedral last month and part of the Events and Services Team at Rochester Cathedral has produced amazing 3D images of all the trenches and test pits that were excavated during the 2 week dig at the end of June 2016.


All the various images can be found here:

Posted by: archaccess | July 25, 2016

Snape Community Dig Report is now available online

The community test pitting event run with Touching the Tide over the weekend of the 7th and 8th of May this year in Snape was a very successful event both involving over 40 members of the local community and excavating a total of 15 test pits. The write up of all the results can now be downloaded as a pdf from the ACA website here. Many thanks again to all who were invloved with the excavations.

TP 3e

For our last Higher Education Field Academy of the year we were at Long Melford, a lovely village in Suffolk similar to other wool-towns of the ears such as nearby Lavenham or Saffron Walden. We have dug in the picturesque village since July 2011, when weekend of community test-pit excavations were filmed for Michael Wood’s BBC series, ‘The Great British Story: A People’s History’. Since then we have built up a large database about the village which can be accessed here. This year we returned with pupils from Thomas Gainsborough School and Ormiston Sudbury Academy to excavate 5 test pits around the village.

Based at the Old School Hall, local co-ordinator Rob Simpson had again organised for sponsorship from the local East of England Co-Op in Long Melford to provide snacks for the participants. We would like to extend our very great thanks for their provisions of water bottles and snacks as they were much needed in the incredibly warm weather. We would also like to thank the kind home owners, not only for letting us excavate in their gardens but going that extra mile by providing cooling drinks and sun shades.

After receiving a briefing on Day 1 from Cat Collins, Archaeological Supervisor, about how to excavate and record the test pits, the students went out and started digging! With new tools and skills to grasp, we were impressed at the speed at which the pupils worked in the hot sun, excavating context by context and recording all of their findings context-by-context in their individual Test Pit Excavation Record Booklet. We stress that the recording process is just as important, if not more so, than the physical digging aspect. This record booklet and their recordings and findings form part of the permanent archive kept at the University of Cambridge. It is also crucial in helping the participants produce a written report about their individual test pit.

On day two of the excavations the sun shone even more brightly and warmly but we soldiered on and were joined by John Newman, pottery expert, who toured the test pits providing guidance on excavating and recording techniques as well as identifying finds, faunal remains and pottery sherds. Laure Bonner, Outreach and Communications Coordinator at the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology (and past ACA team member) also joined us talking to students about their work as well as their future school and career choices. As well as interest from local people, the Suffolk Free Press came by to record the event and their article should be available later this week.

The pupils were soon discovering the archaeology of Long Melford for themselves with all test pits finding plenty of easily identifiable Victorian pottery, brick and tile fragments, clay pipes including a bowl fragment with makers initials RS on spur. A few highlights included the leg of a medieval pipkin (a type of 3-legged bowl) in test pit 4 and in Test Pit 5 on the village green some late saxon/ early medieval Thetford ware. One of the most unusual finds we had were a set of dentures! Worn at the molars, there was much guessing about how they could have come to be discarded, leading to wider conversations about how objects are deposited and therefor what we can and can’t infer from the archaeological record.


The aim of every HEFA is 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. This year we also had 6th formers from both schools keen to gain leadership experience as well as archaeological skills by supervising the younger pupils on their excavations.

Finally the students spent a day in Cambridge, attending lectures from Nick James about the wider project. From Emma Paulus, School Liaison Officer at Pembroke College about university life and finally from Jenni French about how to write their report. Students went away with skills that they can apply to all areas of their life. One student commented on these life skills that they felt they had “a stronger work ethic from digging even though there may not be anything to find”. Certainly others greatly enjoyed learning about what they did find, seeing what archaeologist actually do, how one my go about researching a question and “understanding the stories behind every little thing I found”.

It was a brilliant end to our HEFA season and we’re already planning for the next year. We’ll keep you updated with any other excavations that we are part of and hope that the pupils we have worked with this year continue to be inspired by the experiences they have had with us.

TP 1o


Posted by: archaccess | July 15, 2016

Clavering Higher Education Field Academy 13th-15th July

The close of the HEFA season is upon us, and we will be sad to pack up our shovels but we’re still out and about with schools until the end of term. This week it was a new HEFA site for us, but a return to the village of Clavering. Back in 2012 Clavering hosted their own community excavation with 29 test pits strung out across the winding settlement. Families and even local celebrities (chef Jamie Oliver) joined in, the full report of which can be found here. Local co-ordinator Jackie Cooper was keen for us to return and at last we have managed to do so, adding another 12 test pits to the data we already have. Pupils from Hertfordshire and Essex school, Burnt Mill Academy, Forest Hall School, The Bishops Stortford High School, Passmores Academy and Davenant Foundation School were a delight to host and got stuck in to the excavations and showed and eagerness to understand the wider project behind their own experiences.

The day started with a talk from Cat Collins on how to excavate- many of the skills needed to successfully complete the Higher Education Field Academy are completely new to the students but they rose to the challenge amiably. From using a mattock safely and efficiently to recording and identifying finds it’s great to see the pupils working well outside their comfort zones. This year the test pits were also supervised by 6th form students who were able to improve their leadership skills and build a happy working environment for their teams. Test pits were spread out along the village on the Druce, Pelham Road, Stortford Road, High Street, Middle Street, Church End and Pond Manor.


The Access Cambridge Archaeology team were out in force this week with Cat Collins, Emily Ryley, Paul Blinkhorn and Jess Rippengal all touring giving advice. Bone specialist Jess was on hand to advise on the full dog skeleton that was found. Paul toured the village as usual dispensing advice on the age of the pottery found by the students. Even tiny fragments can help to date the archaeology we find and it was great to see a range of material appearing.

By the end of two draining days the students had found a wide range of finds. A modern brick feature was found in Test Pit 11 which may have been the edge of a well or cess pit but. Possibly related to the prior use of the site as a pub, a large amount of broken stems from clay pips were found, including the bowl of a clay pipe with a pattern of bulls horns and other fragments of Victorian food and drink containers. Nearby Test Pit 12 included evidence of what was a medieval smithy with large amounts of slag from iron processing as well as medieval pottery by which to date these finds. Test pit 2 also discovered medieval pottery alongside small sheep bones. Sheep in the medieval period were much smaller than today, before modern breeding techniques were introduced. Moving into even earlier periods we were fortunate enough to excavate in Clavering Primary School where they found the only Roman pottery of the HEFA but also Bronze Age pottery, worked flints and burnt stones. Water and food used to be heated by letting stones heat in the fire and then dropping them into bowls to heat their contents and are further evidence of pre-historic occupation. Test Pit 2 also had a few worked flints and together these pits on the high ground south of the river running through Clavering give us a glimpse into the early occupation of this site.

TP 11a

TP 11o

Pleased with their findings the students enjoyed their last day of the field trip in Cambridge where they swapped knowledge of what they found and had been found in previous years with a lecture from Debby Banham. Tours of Trinity and Corpus Christi colleges followed where students enjoyed a great lunch before hearing about university life from Sam Twells, Schools Liaison Officer at Corpus. Finally a lecture from Jenni French rounded off the day with students being shown how to write in an academic style appropriate for GCSE, A level and University work. The students will receive a grade and certificate for their work and it is a great chance to get feedback on their report before they have to submit marked GCSE coursework. Students and staff feedback was very positive, praising the chances to access this valuable opportunity, practice analytical and physical skills as well as make new friends.


We look forward to another year’s successful excavation in Clavering!


Posted by: archaccess | July 8, 2016

Rampton Higher Education Field Academy 6th-8th June


This week we were in the lovely village of Rampton, on the edge of The Fens six miles to the north of Cambridge. The locals were friendly (especially the cats and dogs in one test pit), the weather stayed dry and we had some great students from Bottisham Village College, Soham Village College, Ely College and Cottenham Village College. 11 test-pits were located throughout the village on King Street, Church End, Cow Lane and the High Street. Alison Wedgbury of the Fen Edge Archaeology Group organised the test-pits which were located in the gardens of local residents and Rampton Village Hall served as the base for the two digging days. This is the third year ACA have held a HEFA in Rampton.


After receiving a briefing on Day 1 by Alison Dickens, Director of ACA, about how to excavate and record the test pits, the students went out on site and excavated for 2 days through the heavy clay, and sometimes thick roots, of Rampton. They worked brilliantly through in mixed-school teams, supervised by teachers and local volunteers. Also helping out this year was Emma Smith, Schools Liaison Officer at Homerton Colleg, and ex- archaeology student at Cambridge. She now works to widen access to Cambridge and help students make informed choices about university.

TP 1d

One ‘team member’ taking a break

Cat Collins, ACA archaeological supervisor, and Paul Blinkhorn, pottery expert, toured the test pits providing guidance on excavating and recording techniques as well as identifying finds and pottery sherds. This real-time identification and assistance is of great value. Test pits that had been discouraged at finding very little were encouraged as Paul walked around the village adding some perspective on the things they were finding some of which were up to 900 years old. Paul’s full pottery report is available here.

TP 7f

The students recorded all of their findings context-by-context in their individual Test Pit Excavation Record Booklets. They then use this to write up their own report on what they found. We also keep the records they produce which then informs academic research about Rampton itself, the record of Cambridgeshire and the wider CORS project . In previous years small amount of Roman pottery had been found which we added to this year in Test Pits 6, 10 and 11. Test Pit 11 had been finding very little, without the usual appearance of large amounts of Victorian pottery and more modern refuse. However by mid-morning Day 2 they were struggling through the heavy clays of Rampton when they came across a 1-inch fragment of dark grey pottery which turned out to be Roman, made between 100-400AD. Previous years have told us where settlements was concentrated in different periods, with finds of High Medieval pottery concentrated around the centre of the current village with Late Medieval sherds coming from just outside that. It is only into the Post-Medieval and Victorian ages that dating evidence emerges from the furthest outlying pits. This year we continued to define the edges of the settlement with test pits 10, 9, 8, 6, 3 and 2 finding a lower density of pottery, and from later, suggesting their use as fields around the village before more recently being built on. Test Pits 5 and 4 have a higher concentration of medieval pottery, suggesting occupation there, but less from later periods suggesting they were then abandoned.

TP 1b

After two days excavating, students  got to spend their third day with us at the Archaeology Department in Cambridge. Despite living so close to Cambridge, many of the students had never seen the ‘gown’ side of the town and were excited to see the different colleges and departments. Those arriving early took the opportunity to visit some of the wonderful museums around Cambridge and started discussions about what going to a university so close to home might be like. Before long everyone had arrived and it was off for their first lecture- a talk about the wider Currently Occupied Rural Settlement project from Debby Banham.


The students then split into groups for lunch and a tour at one of Trinity or Corpus Christi Colleges. These tours were given by the schools liaison officers (SLO) from each of these colleges. Sam Twells, SLO for Corpus Christi, then gave a presentation to the pupils about the University of Cambridge and life as a university student.

The day concluded with Eoin Parkinson, pHD student at the Department of Archaeology giving a presentation on how to structure and present a written account of the excavation. The report collates and provides evidence for all of the skills students take from this course which they can then use when applying to 6th form, university and beyond. Students themselves recognise this saying in their feedback they now know how to produce a report and “I have gained new skills, an insight into archaeology and a better understanding of university work and application”. The work also boosted confidence with one student saying the realised that getting into a ‘good’ university was a possibility for them.

Staff on the trip also appreciated the trust we put in the students to produce high quality archaeological work saying “being regarded as organised, adult individual helps boost their confidence and look towards the future”. Students felt they had gained other skills such as independent thinking, teamwork, communication: “I feel I am more able to work with new people and have more confidence”, “a lot of new and valuable knowledge and experience”.

Finally we would just like to add our thanks to all the staff and students at Bottisham, Soham, Cottenham and Ely colleges. It was a delight to have you with us and we look forward to seeing you next year hopefully!


Posted by: archaccess | July 8, 2016

ACA excavations at Peterborough Cathedral


Peterborough Cathedral

Access Cambridge Archaeology (ACA) with the Cambridge Archaeological Unit (CAU) led the recent community excavations within the Peterborough Cathedral precint, where 8 trenches were excavated by a over 150 volunteers over a 12 day period. The dig culminated last weekend with the Peterborough Heritage Festival that celebrated both the heritage and history of the city of Peterborough and the Cathedral. Each day over the Heritage Festival weekend, we also had just over 400 visitors through the gate to see the archaeology.

The community excavations were part of the Cathedral’s ‘Peterborough 900: Letting it speak for itself’ project which had been awarded money from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) as part of these 900th anniversary celebrations of the cathedral in 2018. This will also include the construction of a new Heritage Centre at the cathedral which will enable a larger number of visitors and school groups to engage diretly with the cathedral.


Trench 1 is underway

The primary aims of the community excavations were to investigate the north-west area of the precints (the Garden House), which has had no previous archaeological work carried out on the area. We also wanted as many local residents as possible to be involved, whether they had had any previous interactions with the cathedral or not and to learn more about the city that they live in.

The original 7th century abbey  on the site was ramsacked during 8th century by Viking raids so when the monastic site was re-founded in the 10th century, it was re-built as a cathedral on the original abbey site with the addition of a defensive ditch and embankment, known as the Burgh Wall. This wall, found during early 1980’s excavations in the Deanery Garden, was projected to continue through the Garden House area. The other main feature thought to be in this area of the precint was the medieval fish pond, which was noted on 19th century maps as well as partly identifed through the geophysical survey undertaken of the Garden House site prior to the excavation.

Features were already visible within the garden prior to the excavation – a probable late 19th century wall was recorded running northwest-southeast, in front of which was a large deposit of complete bottles and jars, fragments of plates and other pots, animal bone, smoking pipes and other general domestic rubbish.

TP 5-6

From left to right: Late 19th century wall with the greenhouse foundations behind it, the type of compete vessels we were finding and the finds washers hard at work.

As the excavation continued in Trenches 5 and 6, the stratigraphy of the garden, both when it was part of the Deanery garden and from use of the Garden House, were evident. Towards the end of the dig, we were finding fragments of drinking vessels from Germany, almost complete clay pipes, oyster shell, decorated pottery and further butchered animal bone, most of which dated from the 16th and 17th centuries. Under this deposit we found 13th century pottery, in a black organic layer of soil which had also preserved a wooden post and part of the sole of a leather shoe.

TR 5-6b

Excavation through the garden layers and the 13th century pottery found at the bottom of the trench


The edge of the pond (and a more recent pipe!)

The site of the backfilled medieval fish pond was found through trenches 1, 2, 3 and 4 and so encompassing the largest area of the site to the south of the Garden House. The pond was backfilled over a 3-year period between 1823 and 1825 and contained a large mix of material, as well as larger building remains, we also found painted plaster, medieval window glass, mortar, a 15th century Nuremburg Jetton, a coin of George IV as well as fragments of Roman pottery.

All this backfilled pond material was thought to have come from other building projects around the precint, during the 1820’s so the origins of the majority of the finds recorded are not known, but the range of material recovered shows just how much disturbance there has been on the Garden House site.


TR 2a

Excavation through the pond layers and the Jetton found from Trench 2


Excavation through trench 1


Trench 1 was one of the deepest of all the trenches and it was from this trench that the northern extent of the pond was recorded. The presence of black organic rich soils that was noted in the bottom of trench 1 was also recorded in the early 1980’s excavation in the Deanery Garden and so was known to be outside the Burgh Wall. It was believed that in Trench 1 that the construction of the medieval fish pond had removed any trace of the Burgh Wall within the Garden House site.


Many happy volunteers on site!







Jacky Hall giving a private tour of the cathedral to our volunteers and staff

We had a mixed week with the weather, the start of the dig there were some very wet days, during the worst of which the Cathedral Archaeologist Jackie Hall gave a guided tour around the cathedral for the volunteers to learn more about the site that they are digging on.

Also learning about archaeology and the history of the cathedral site were a number of primary school children from Peterborough. All the groups got to be involved with a number of activities on site, including test pit excavation, sieving, finds washing and metal detecting. We also had help from the local Young Archaeologist Club and the Junior Friends of the cathedral.


Pupils from Dogsthorpe Academy finds washing


YAC’s digging and the find of a lead candle snuffer with one that is still used in the cathedral today

We had much interest from the local media, including the Peterborough Telegraph, the article of which can be seen here. We were also filmed by BBC Look East and ITV Anglia news as well as making a quick appearance on the BBC Radio Cambridgeshire Breakfast Show!

On the last weekend of the dig the Peterborough Heritage Festival was also going on around the precincts, where many of the volunteers and stall holders also come to visit us. We had a number of our finds on display and on the Saturday and Paul Blinkhorn, a freelance pottery expert and former Time Team and Pub Dig star was availble to talk to the visitors and answer questions. This role was filled by both the Cathedral Archaeologist Jackie Hall and ACA and CAU manager Alison Dickens on the Sunday.


The Heritage Festival Weekend in full swing


The final recording and finds washing

A lot of the final recording of the trenches also had to take place over the weekend before the backfilling of the trenches took place on the Monday, as well as any final finds washing and the inevitable last minute investigations with a trowel!



Feedback from the excavations has been excellent, with all the volunteers saying that they rated their time on the excavations as either ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ with some volunteers also leaving positive comments, such as  ‘I enjoyed learning a bit more about the history of the town I have been living in for the last 15 years’ (CH),  ‘the satisfaction of working with like-minded people. I have learnt so much in such a short time’ (AB), ‘..the atmosphere was relaxed and friendly’ (SH), ‘I enjoyed seeing my 11 year old daughter getting stuck in and excited about it all’ (HR) and ‘being able to relate finds to my knowledge about the cathedral and helping to build a picture of what is found’ (SO).   KC also said ‘It was good for me to gain practical experience as I’m trying to begin a career in field archaeology. I was given a lot of help and advice from the archaeologists’.

The final part of the dig was to leave the site in a safe and clear way, even though it meant filling in everyone’s hard work! The next phase is to process, record and analyse all the finds so the final write up can begin. As these results become available we will put them on the ACA website and on social media – so keep following us for more results as we get them


Backfilling of trenches 1 and 5/6

ACA would like to thank all the volunteers, young and old who took part in the excavations, you all helped make the dig such a success. Thanks must also go to all the cathedral staff involved with the project, before and during as well as the Heritage Festival volunteers and the CAU supervisors who ran the trenches and looked after the archaeology as well as the volunteers!

Posted by: archaccess | June 22, 2016

East Rudham Higher Education Field Academy 20th-22nd June

Based for the first time at East Rudham in Norfolk, we completed our 10th HEFA of the year in all types of weather. Students from Fakenham Academy, Alderman Peel High School, Cromer Academy, Litcham High School and Thomas Clarkson Academy


6th Form students from Fakenham learnt valuable leadership skills as they supervised the majority of the test pits. Learning how to encourage, record and organise are vital skills which will be highly useful to them as they write their university applications in the next few months. Many of them had participated as students, and we even had a trainee teacher return with his old school, proving that these HEFA have a lasting positive effect on students.



Day 1 had a wet start but the students made good starts to their excavations, finding mostly modern remains, but a few fragments of medieval pottery. On day 2, on-site pottery expert, Andrew Rogerson, identified several interesting finds including large sections from the rim of a 12th Century bowl.  As always, make sure to check our website in the near future for the complete pottery report.


Large rim section


On the third day of the HEFA, the students arrived to a rather overcast Cambridge but enjoyed the chance to see how their excavations had informed our knowledge of the archaeology and populations in East Anglia. Nick James gave a taster lecture on medieval settlement studies and the Currently Occupied Rural Settlement (CORS) project. The students then split into groups for lunch and a tour at one of Emmanuel, Sidney Sussex and Selwyn colleges. This was particularly useful for the 6th form students as they had the opportunity to actually experience how the university operated between the departments and the colleges and get a feel for how they might fit in.

EM ducks (Sir Cam UofC flickr) 900x450

Emmanuel College and some of its famous feathered residents

The two-hour afternoon session was comprised of a talk from Ed Penn, Schools Liaison Officer for Jesus College, about life as a university student followed by a presentation from Jeremy Bennet on how to structure and present a written account of the excavation.

In feedback after the event, 100% of the participants rated the field academy as ‘excellent’ or ‘good. The students thoroughly enjoyed the chance to work as part of a team, learning new skills and finding things. Staff who attended appreciated this variety of skills and experience we offer. Of particular value to students  was the opportunity to see how to produce university style work and “the freedom/ independence of being in charge of your own research”. One student commented on the other benefits of the field school saying “I have gained confidence in a social way as I am now not as nervous speaking to new people”.


It’s not the only excitement we have had today as it is also the first day of the community excavations at Peterborough Cathedral. We’re excavating on the North side of the Cathedral, and the first volunteers have just got cracking. Currently in the upper levels we’re finding some really fun things from the 19th and 20th centuries including intact bottles and jugs. We’ll be keeping you up to date as things progress with regular blog posts and tweets.



St Mary’s, East Rudham

A big thanks to Revd Dr Edward Bundock from St Mary’s Church for being so hospitable while we used the church as our base. We look forward to further excavations in the area in coming years!


Posted by: archaccess | June 17, 2016

North Warnborough Higher Education Field Academy 2016

ACA’s ninth Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA) of 2016 was held in North Warnborough, Hampshire. 48 Year 9 and 10 pupils from Fort Hill Community School, The Costello School, Cranbourne Business and Enterprise College, Robert May’s School and Testwood School excavated 12 test-pits spread throughout North Warnborough. The pits were organised by John Champion and other members of The Odiham Society. The Mill House pub proved a wonderful base for the two days of excavation. This is the forth consecutive year ACA have held a HEFA in North Warnborough. Reports from previous years can be found here.

TP 5 e

The 12 x 1m square test pits were spread throughout the small village in North East Hampshire, located in private properties on Bridge Road, Hook Road, Mill Lane, Rough’s Cottage, Tunnel lane and several on North Warnborough Street.

TP 7 b

The students worked in mixed-school teams of 4 and were supervised by teachers from the 5 schools. After receiving a briefing on Day 1 by Alison Dickens, Director of ACA, about how to excavate and record the test pits, the students went on to make excellent progress throughout the two days of digging. Spirits remained high even though the rain started early on Wednesday. Rain didn’t stop play though and the pupils valiantly continued excavating and were encouraged by the medieval pottery they began to find by the end of day 1.


TP 9f

Test Pit 9


Paul Blinkhorn, post-Roman pottery specialist, toured the North Warnborough test pits providing guidance on excavating and recording techniques as well as identifying finds and pottery sherds. This information is recorded by the students in their individual Test Pit Excavation Record Booklet which is an invaluable asset in producing their written assignment. On pupil remarked, “I enjoyed finding out more about my village and the area” Day 2 produced much more medieval pottery and some test pits hitting the natural geology and finishing by lunch time. Students from finished test pits were able to see the others test pits and assist them in their final stages.

group shot

Emily Ryley welcomes the Group to Cambridge!

After a very early start and long coach journey Students arrived in Cambridge for their third day of the HEFA. Dr Nick James’ morning lecture on medieval settlement studies and the Currently Occupied Rural Settlement (CORS) project was really well received with many pupils commenting that “I enjoyed experiencing the lectures at Cambridge” another thought it was “fascinating to understand the history of the artifacts we found and discuss the theories of the area we lived in”.



The students then split into groups for lunch and a tour at one of Peterhouse, Trinity and Sidney Sussex Colleges. One student commented that they had enjoyed the “friendly and positive vibe” that The University of Cambridge offers.IMG_20160617_105114341_HDRIMG_20160617_105239954

The two-hour afternoon session was comprised of a talk from Kathy Purdy, Schools Liaison Officer at Peterhouse about life as a university student followed by a presentation from Eion Parknson on how to structure and present a written account of the excavation.

University life presentation

Dining hall Peterhouse College Cambridge

Enjoying the Harry Potter vibe at Peter house

The students felt they were much more prepared for the demands of university level work after the third lecture which guides them through how to write and submit a report covering the aims, methods and results of their test pit excavations. After marking and grading, 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.


ACA would like to thank all the students and staff of the 5 schools involved. Special thanks to Karen Jones, beacon school coordinator, and John Champion, local coordinator.

TP 12 k

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