Posted by: archaccess | March 24, 2017

Histon Independent Learning Archaeology Field School 2017

The Histon Independent Learning Archaeology Field School  has been our largest ever field school! 49 pupils from 5 different schools squeezed themselves into the Stable room at St Andrew’s church Histon on Wednesday morning. Sohamn Village College, Ely College, Bottisham Village College, Witchford Village College and Cottenham Village College all brought a selection of keen students for the 3rd of our field schools this year.

The students listened attentively as Cat Collins, explained the process of excavating a test pit, and what the students could expect to get out of the experience. We’re keen for these three day to really tie together different areas of learning; taking real evidence and relating it to concepts as well as less definable skills such as lateral thinking, teamwork and perseverance. All are needed to learn independently at university and we try and highlight this in our morning talk.

After a quick fueling up on squash and biscuits, it was out to site to begin their test pit getting the first context out before the rain started. But even that didn’t dampen their spirits! As well as their teachers, volunteers from the Department of Archaeology at the University of Cambridge were helping out, guiding students and giving them the benefit of their archaeological knowledge and excavation skills. 4 test pits were located near the remains of the ancient St Etheldreda’s church which can be seen as mounds and platforms in the field. Nearby test pit revealed some medieval pottery, and a few animal bones, but no human remains. All the test pits in this area have been kept open by the Histon local history society to dig a little further and see if any other finds become apparent.


Image courtesy of Cambridge News

While this is the first year ACA have excavated in Histon, the Histon and Impington village society have previously excavated 28 test pits themselves so we are well on our way to building up a large dataset for the area! Locations of this years test pit are available from our website. Other test pits throughout the reast of Histon village revealed a brick-lined well (we quickly moved the test pit away) as well as other pottery, clay pipes, metal work and possible metal manufacture. As we are scattered throughout Histon, we will get a great picture of how old various parts of the village are. Keep an eye out on our website for the pottery report.

On Day 2 we had a visit from Cambridge News, who produced a lovely video and article about the excavations, highlighting how the experience allows pupils to develop new skills as well as learning in a different way. . Pupils were still full of energy after a full 2 days digging and at all times displayed amazing determination and an eagerness to participate and understand. A very well-deserved Thank -you goes to David Oates for doing such a great job, coordinating all the test pit locations, and convincing homeowners to give up their gardens for the cause of archaeology!

Back in Cambridge for the third day of the field school and although most of the students have seen Cambridge, and know of the university, this is the first time many of them get to experience it first hand, from a student’s perspective. The morning was taken up by a lecture looking at the study of settlements and guidance on writing their reports given by Eoin Parkinso. We ask all students on the field school to produce a written report, examining the evidence they discovered during excavation, together with other sources of information to evaluate the history of the Histon and see how human events and influences have changed the settlement over time. Writing the report also gives an excellent practise at writing coursework, developing those skills which they will rely on at A-level and university. At lunchtime the schools were hosted by Emmanuel and Pembroke Colleges who very kindly took on the unusually large group all by themselves! The group also filled the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in the afternoon. They were given an exercise relating to the points on settlement history discussed in the morning, and asked to use the museum’s collections to discover what they could learn about the settlements represented in the collections. This involved thinking about some of the same questions they had used to examine their own finds; where did the pottery come from, what could it tell us about trade links, what was the land used for, was it valuable land?

Rounding off the day was a talk from Anita Magee, Schools Liaison Officer at Emmanuel college, who spoke to the students about university, and the choices and the choices they have. We really hope that their experiences over the last three day will set them thinking about what they do now can set them up for the future, as well as equipping them with the skills to succeed. Skills and experiences highlighted by teachers included “getting a feel for university”, “an opportunity to be challenged beyond what they do in the classroom”.About their experiences students said: “I have gained the skills to be able to adapt to a new activity and be able to persevere.” (IA-C, Bottisham Village College).


A happy test pit!



For the second of our Independent Learning Archaeology Field Schools this year, we were based in the lovely village of Hillington in Norfolk, for the third time. Joining us were King’s Lynn Academy, King Edward VII academy and Springwood High School, who were co-ordinated by James Smith, a teacher from Springwood. 29 pupils excavated 8 test pits under the guidance of 10 6th form pupils, who inspired younger pupils through the examples they set as well as gaining some valuable experience for their CVs and personal statements.


ACA staff were also always on hand to offer advice and guidance to pupils, beginning with an introductory talk on Day 1 to outline the archaeological process and expectations for the three day field school.


Test pits were fairly closely grouped at Hillington, as it’s a smaller village which meant that we were able to tour the sites fairly frequently. This was made even easier by being able to use the Norfolk Hospice, Tapping House  as our base and they were very gracious hosts. We were also aided by the West Norfolk & King’s Lynn Archaeology society. They were kept busy by the excavation of a local resident’s fish pond which had revealed a stone floor layer. Associated pottery dated the floor layer to the later medieval period, including a lovely piece of late Grimston ware, part of a flat rectangular dish of some kind. There was also a slightly more unusual find of a pewter buckle dating to c.1350-1500. Pupils were excavating test pit 4, only a few meters away and so had the incentive to excavate down to the same depth the fish pond had reached, to try and reveal the extent of the floor layer. Discover it they did by the end of Day 2, and they also added some late Saxon and late medieval sherds to the growing record.

On Day 2 of the excavation, Andrew Rogerson, pottery expert from Norfolk Museums Service at Gressenhall joined us and cast his expert eye over the finds from all the test pits. It turned out that test pit 4 was not alone in their medieval discoveries as out of 8 test pits, only 2 did not find medieval pottery! Even better, in terms of the students getting to see a variety of pottery types and time periods, several produced Saxon periods and test pit 6 even discovered some possible late Iron Age materials. It’s all very encouraging and really demonstrates the depth of history in the village, giving some great details which the students can mention in their written reports. Excitingly some of the pieces the students were finding were particularly large- this is another archaeological clue for students that we were seeing undisturbed, in-situ deposits.   Much of the pottery was produced locally at Grimston. This is a type of pottery which we often find across East Anglia, giving us an idea of the trade networks in the area.

On the third day, ILAFS students arrived in Cambridge, ready to put all the pieces of their knowledge together, and see how we do this at the university also. The first lecture, focusing on settlement studies, as well as giving guidance on academic writing, was given by Eoin Parkinson, a PhD student at the university. Queens and Corpus Christi colleges, then took the students for a wonderful lunch and tour of the college (including spooky tales of the college ghosts at Corpus!). Students are often confused by the Cambridge system of colleges, so it’s great to be able to demonstrate that the Cambridge system isn’t that different at all, and that they can expect a warm and friendly welcome as prospective students.


The 6th form students who had done so well supervising younger students at the test pits had a session just for them, focusing on Personal Statements. It was great to get some dedicated time with Lynett, the Schools Liaison Officer at Corpus Christis college to run through this tricky area. Meanwhile the younger pupils spent time at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, applying some of the archaeological skills they had learnt to understand the museum’s collections a little better.


The year 9 and 10 pupils then returned full of enthusiasm after their workshop at the museum for a presentation from Lynette about university life and future choices, rounding off a fantastic three days, full of fun and different skills. The Students and teachers certainly enjoyed the experience and got a lot from it saying: “Greater confidence in taking on new tasks and the value of teamwork.” (JC King Edward VII Academy). “Analytical skills are very important for any job” (AB King Edward VII Academy). More knowledge about university, people in the past, and what artefacts we find underground. Also more confidence in talking to new people.” (LS Springwood High School). “Setting my mind to the task and working properly in a team.” (EW Springwood High School).

ACA would like to thank all the students involved, especially the 6th formers who displayed a great level of maturity and they younger students who approached these new skills as a challenge to overcome. We really hope these skills are the foundation for your future learning!

Posted by: archaccess | March 14, 2017

FEAG talk on Northstowe excavations

This Thursday 16th March, ACA’s own manager Alison Dickens will be giving a talk about the ongoing large scale excavations at Northstowe, just north of Cambridge. Back in January ACA managed a visit out to the site to see how the excavations are progressing, you can read about that blog post here.


This talk is part of the monthly lectures given to members of the Fen Edge Archaeology Group (FEAG), but all are welcome to attend. The talk will start at 7.30pm, but doors will open at 7pm and will be held at Rampton Village Hall, Church End, Rampton CB24 8QA.

Summary of the talk:

In this talk Alison Dickens will talk about the excavations prior to the development of Northstowe – what was found during Phase 1 and the early stages of Phase 2 and looking forward to further work. Phase 1 is on the site of the old golf course near Longstanton and the archaeology there was completed in late 2015. Evidence was found for occupation in the Iron Age, Roman, Anglo-Saxon and Medieval periods. The Romano-British hamlet found in Phase 1 seems to have been a ‘standard’ Roman rural settlement, as actually a second Roman settlement has already been identified in Phase 2, just half a kilometre away to the south and potentially around the same size as Roman Cambridge. FEAG members spent two weeks digging on part of the Romano-British settlement in 2015. As part of the second phase of excavations, there will be community work, open days, and work with primary schools.
Alison Dickens is a Project Manager at the Cambridge Archaeological Unit (CAU) and head of Access Cambridge Archaeology (ACA).

We are off to a great start for the year with our first field school, as the newly re-branded Independent Learning Archaeology Field School – ILAFS! (Previously HEFA.) Despite being the earliest we have ever had a field school, the sun shone and the birds sang on a lovely spring day in Brundall, Norfolk. 35 students from Broadland High School, Framingham Earl, Taversham High School and the Holt Youth Project took to the experience like ducks to water and excavated 9 test pits across the village.


The team at ACA- Alison Dickens, Catherine Collins and Emily Ryley- were all keen and raring to go on Wednesday morning, ready to welcome the schools to a new experience and hopefully, the start of their higher education journeys. Alison gave the students an outline of both how to excavate, but also encouraged them to start thinking now about the wider questions they will answer through excavation. Being reflective on the evidence as it is uncovered is an important archaeological skill, as it helps us to guide the excavation process and spot those patterns which might otherwise be missed.

Students from the different schools, coordinated by Nigel Roberts, were mixed into test pits scattered along the length of Brundall. Supervised by teachers and local volunteers we are ever grateful to those that step in to help us and especially to the wonderful Jacky Heath and Ann-Marie Simpson of the Brundall Local History Group who convinced homeowners and coordinated the excavation sites.

On day 2 Cat and Emily continued to motivate the test pits and were joined by John Newman, a pottery expert who toured the test pits shedding new understanding on the evidence so far discovered. Although pottery and the number of finds were small, similar to previous years in Brundall, it is all part of the wider archaeological picture. Most of our discoveries were post-medieval or modern deposits, but at test pits 5 and 6, we found some Bronze Age, or possible Iron Age pottery. We also found some flint tools and no wonder, as this area had a lovely position, on a ridge, overlooking the river Yar. Perfect for transport, water sources, and away from any potential flooding.  The students were very enthusiastic about the excavation experience and engaged fully with the experience saying “I enjoyed learning about old objects from the experts” (HL-A Taverham High).

The students were so efficient that many groups reached the natural geology by lunchtime on Day 2. They then stepped up and help out their peers to finish their test pits so everyone could get home on time for a well earned rest!

We were really impressed at the attitude of the participants, who were enthusiastic to get involved and listened carefully to our suggestions to then come up with their own interpretations of the archaeology. Artefacts were a little thin on the ground, but by looking at all the available evidence- shape of the landscape, local knowledge, as well as the archaeology, the students were able to start piecing together the puzzle of the past. Those pieces came together with the lecture on Friday morning given by Emily Ryley, looking at the development of settlements and the archaeological study of them. This lays the foundation for students to write their own report on the archaeological evidence they discovered, and to see how the natural and human landscape has changed gradually and in response to certain events. The Day 3 in Cambridge has had a bit of a facelift this year but some elements remain ever popular- Lunch! St John’s and St Catherine’s were our hosts today and there was even time for a short walk through Cambridge on our way back to see some of the town, and not just the gown side of life.


In a new section for the field school, the students then spent an hour at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology putting into practise what they had learnt in the morning’s lecture to understand other settlements in other time periods and civilisations.

A talk from Megan Goldman-Roberts, Schools Liaison Officer at St John’s College rounded off the day and we hope the students have enjoyed the changes we have made to this year’s programme. Good thing that there is something new this year as we even had two students who had participated last year return again! It’s good to know our popularity continues and this was reflected by the students in their feedback. JH from Framingham Earl high School said “I felt more independent and knowledgeable by the end. I enjoyed learning so much in such little time.” Other learning experiences were highlighted with one teacher feeding back “They have loved coming to Cambridge but also the development of resilience and independent learning skills in a practical way, has been very good for them.”


Posted by: archaccess | March 7, 2017

Season’s change: CALF in the classroom, ILAFS outside


Ahhh, the start of Spring, clearer skies and warmer weather means we’re itching to get digging again and this week we have the first of our ILAFS (Independent Learning Archaeology Field Schools) at Brundall, Norfolk. But before that we thought you might like to know what we’ve been up to over the winter. (Not hibernating as tempting as it might be).

We’ve mentioned a few times on this blog about the new project for ACA: CALF (Cambridge Archaeology Learning Foundation). It’s a fun, interactive archaeology session for primary schools teaching how we find out about the past through objects, and allowing pupils to make those discoveries for themselves.

Emily has been out and about over the last few months delivering these sessions to schools including St Laurence Catholic, Hatton Park and Over (Cambridge), Poplars  and Somerleyton (Lowestoft), and Magdalenge Village School (Norfolk) before that start of our summer field work.

Children from years 1-6 have all enjoyed the sessions with some insightful answers and inferences about the past. How would you heat your dinner if you were a stone age person? The Romans didn’t have plastic; what could they use instead? What could we tell about you from what you throw away?

Enjoying a few days by the sea (even though it was February) the children in years 3 and 4 at Poplars school enjoyed the sessions as the hands-on basis of the sessions is great for those who learn in different ways. The multidisciplinary nature of archaeology was also enjoyed by the pupils at Somerleyton school. Being such a small school all the pupils in years 3-6 joined in a session together (still only around 30 pupils) but everyone worked really well together. A journalist from the Lowestoft Journal also popped in to find out more about what the pupils were learning. You can read the story here


Teaching at Somerleyton

Both Hatton Park and Over Primary schools have enjoyed CALF days for free, courtesy of the the Homes and Communities Association schools as part of the Northstowe town being built nearby. The archaeological excavations are currently being carried out prior to the building work and it’s great for children to have a live example of archaeology so close to them.

Students have really enjoyed the sessions with their highlights including holding real human bones, realising the pottery they were holding in their hands was over 2000 years old, doing an excavation in their classroom, and my favourite answer of all “Everything!”. By the sounds of it we have inspired a generation of future archaeologists and it’s always really encouraging to see pupils linking up knowledge from other subjects, or making inferences to understand objects they have never seen before.

Teachers have also greatly enjoyed the sessions, appreciating the flexible and engaging teaching style. Older students saw how subjects such as maths, geography as well as history had real life applications and younger students were fully engaged and concentrating on many different tasks with one teacher commenting “Hands on learning really captivated the children”.  “Fantastic experience. Interesting for pupils and adults!”.

Emily has had a great time delivering these new sessions, having developed the programme back in the autumn. We’re hoping that other school would like a visit in the next school year from September to February.

We’re out of the classroom and into the field this week though as we have the first of our field schools! These are now known as ILAFS- Independent Learning Archaeology Field Schools- and we’ll let you know all the action from Brundall later in the week!


Posted by: archaccess | February 17, 2017

How can I get involved with archaeology?

Have you ever wanted to get more involved with history or archaeology? With spring just around the corner maybe its time to dust off those old boots and get out there!


There are many ways to get involed, whatever your fitness level; take a look at our list of local history and archaeological societies in your area. If you want to go further afield, there are lists of national community digs on the Council for British Archaeology website, and the Past Horizons website. You can also search for the type of dig you may want to be involved in on the Current Archaeology website and there are other organisations such as Dig Ventures, The Dig Site, Archaeology Scotland, Archaeology Wales and  Archaeology Ireland, where you can learn more.

The Archaeological Institute of America also has fieldwork opportunites, take a look at their webiste here, as well as volunteer projects abroad, and there are even a range of volunteering projects you can be involved with in this country.

For the youngsters out there, there is the Young Archaeologists Club (YAC) for ages 8-16 to get hands on with digging as well as a range of other activities. See their website for more details and where your nearest branch is.

So get out there and make 2017 the year that you discover something new!


Posted by: archaccess | February 6, 2017

ACA’s HEFA test pitting to become ILAFS

What’s in a name? HEFA is becoming ILAFS!

Since its inception in 2005 Access Cambridge Archaeology has been running interactive field schools for secondary school pupils, aiming to raise their aspirations to Higher Education. This work takes up the majority of our year, and has changed and evolved accordingly over time. We’re always trying to improve the field schools to make them more and more beneficial and worthwhile for pupils, something that is increasingly important as teachers and pupils alike struggle to find time for such activities in the already-packed curriculum.  With that in mind, we felt the time was right for a name change. This marks the conscious re-alignment of the programme to respond to the needs of pupils considering their future learning in the current state of Higher Education.


To mark this, we are changing the name of our current three-day field schools from the Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA) to the Independent Learning Archaeology Field School (ILAFS). We feel the name ILAFS (we’re going with pronouncing it “eye-laffs”) better reflects our aims of raising the aspirations, enthusiasm and attainment of 14-17 year-olds with regard to Higher Education. The greatest benefits of the field school is that we are able to specifically supporting independent learning, demonstrate methods of historical enquiry, and most of all showcase the different methods of learning which are the particular speciality of universities.

This isn’t just a change of name for the sake of it; we’re also achieving these aims by improving the 2017 programme of field schools. The same basic structure of a two-day excavation and third day of university experience will remain.  Improvements include extending the University experience to include a visit to the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, more tightly directed lectures, together with wider discussion and debate of research. Altogether the ILAFS programme will showcase to pupils the benefits of university education, get them engaging at this level, and leave them with the skills to achieve this goal. If you’d like to learn more about these changes or the field schools in general please contact us directly.


Posted by: archaccess | February 6, 2017

ACA’s annual thank-you day event

On Saturday ACA welcomed over 50 guests to the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research on the Downing Site in Cambridge for our annual thank-you day event, to celebrate and review our past years achievements and to thank all the local coordinators and volunteers who support our ongoing work both within schools and the wider community.

The morning session was led by Alison Dickens, both manager at ACA and a project manager at the Cambridge Archaeological Unit (CAU), in which we reviewed our 2016 field schools in 14 villages across East Anglia as well as in Lincolnshire and Hampshire and briefly talked about the archaeological results for each settlement.


2016 HEFA locations in red



A round up slide of the HEFA excavation in Sawtry 2016

The talk also included some examples of the reports that the students submit after the dig, which are then graded by us and the participants then not only receive a grade for their written work but also an overall mark for their participation over the full three days (the first two days are digging in a village and on the third day the students visit the University of Cambridge and have lunch in one of the colleges).

Feedback from these excavations is almost always rated as good or excellent, some quotes from 2016 students that were shown on Saturday can be seen below.

I especially enjoyed how independent the process was in a close group.”(TP BLO/16)

“The lectures were good and taught us to a level we are not used to. The information I have learnt will be invaluable to the writing of the report.” (TM BLO/16).

 “I feel I have gained courage and communication skills.” (LB SOU/16)

“I think this has been very helpful for my plans for the future and also very influential. Thank you!” (SE HAD/16).

“I enjoyed learning more information about the university. Also, I like that any questions we has could be answered by students and we were treated as students.” (KH RIS/16)

“Day Three at Cambridge was incredibly valuable. The experience confirmed my every aspiration and expectation!” (ZC NWA/16)

“I felt that this was a great experience and has been very beneficial for me. I felt that the staff from HEFA or ACA have been very helpful in terms of making information very accessible to everyone.” (PG NWA/16).

“I really enjoyed doing something practical, because in school we just learn from books.” (EP-R ERU/16)

“[I enjoyed being] Given responsibility of working with equipment safely and being treated like and adult.”  (RGD CLV/16)

The morning session was rounded off by brief introduction by Emily Ryley about ACA’s new Cambridge Archaeology Learning Foundation (CALF) primary school days in which ACA go into primary schools, teaching pupils age 7-11, to gain an understanding of how we discover the past through a range of hands-on activities with real artefacts. Our guests then enjoyed a buffet lunch with time to mingle and chat with the ACA team as well as other local coordinators past and present.


Pupils learning on ACA’s new CALF day

After lunch, the afternoon session focused on ACA’s community work from 2016 and included the archaeological test pitting in Snape with Touching the Tide, and ACA’s joint projects with the CAU that included the excavation of five test pits at Jesus College, Cambridge as part of an archaeology summer school for prospective Cambridge undergraduate students that was funded by St Johns College, Cambridge. The largest of ACA’s projects in 2016 was the two week commuity led excavation at Peterborough Cathedral. The dig was 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 from March this year will also house a number of finds from the excavations.


Aerial view of Peterborough Cathedral with the excavation area outlined in red

The post-excavation work at Peterborough Cathedral is still on-going, but Alison was able to touch upon some of the results so far, the intial blog for the excavation results can be seen here. A number of both local volunteers and primary school children were involved in the excavations in some way and the dig culminated in the Peterborough Hertiage Festival with nearly 1000 visitors to the site over one weekend!


The younger volunteers and school groups at Peterborough Cathedral

Feedback was again incredibly positive from the younger volunteers when asked ‘Why would you recommend this activity to others?’ and responded with:

“because it is fun and awesome”

“because you learn and come together”

“It’s something to do outside instead of TV screens”

“It’s an enjoyable way to learn about history of places”  

The day ended wtih us looking forward to 2017, particularly with the 15 field schools that are already scheduled to take place. ACA are changing the name of these from HEFA’s (the Higher Education Field Academy) to ILAFS for 2017 and beyond, which now stands for the Independent Learning Archaeology Field School and the upcoming community work that ACA will again aid the CAU in as part of the large excavations at Northstowe, to the north of Cambridge. More information about how to volunteer at Northstowe as well as the open days and potential test pitting in the neighbouring village of Longstanton will be available soon. Keep an eye on ACA’s blog, facebook and twitter pages to keep up to date with all our on-going activities!

The thank-you day though is really about all the local village coordinators, both past and present who support us tirelessly in making the test pitting field schools a reality each year and enabling us to continue to directly engage with around 500 secondary school students each year, boosting their confidence and aspirations towards higher education. So a very big thank you to all our coordinators, volunteers, beacon schools, all our visitors and to those we have worked with over the last year, it has been a great year for ACA and we look forward to working and seeing as many of you as possible again this coming year.


Posted by: archaccess | January 26, 2017

Northstowe Phase Two

It has been some time since we last posted on our blog but that doesn’t mean we have been sitting idle over the winter, far from it! We are currently planning future community work, open days, and working with primary schools in the area as part of the excavations at Northstowe.  It’s a new development of around 10,000 new homes being built on the edge of Longstanton village, just north of Cambridge. The development continues apace and last Friday Cat and Emily went for a visit to the site to better understand the archaeology being done by the Cambridge Archaeological Unit (CAU) prior to the arrival of the builders.


The proposed development

The development at Northstowe is being done over several phases. Phase one is located on the west side of Longstanton on the site of the old golf course and the archaeology there was completed in late 2015. Multiple phases of occupation were found; dating to the Iron Age, Roman, Anglo-Saxon and Medieval periods. The first building to be completed in the new town was Hatton Park Primary school which now sits on an area of Anglo Saxon settlement, where at least 20 structures, including houses were found. Nearby, the recovery of 20 or so skeletons where found buried just to the south of the Saxon village, and in the remains of the original Roman town.  Post excavation analysis has suggested that these burials were not high status, but of every day Anglo-Saxons, who were buried with a small number of grave goods that were common at that time, including both beads and brooches.


Roman graffiti on pottery from Phase 1

The earlier Romano-British settlement was a linear hamlet, offset from a central metalled road. This road probably would have linked west to the Via Divina, the Roman road where the A14 now runs, that connected Roman Cambridge (Duroliponte) in the south to Godmanchester (Durovigutum) in the north. Over 500 Roman coins were found across the spread of occupation that also spanned the entire Roman period from the 1st to mid-5th century AD. It appears to have been a ‘standard’ Roman rural settlement, as actually a second Roman settlement has been identified in phase two of the Northstowe excavations just half a kilometre away to the south.

Phase two of Northstowe is located on the site of the Oakington Barracks and Immigration detention centre and to the south of phase one. As mentioned a separate Roman settlement has been found here, potentially around the same size as Roman Cambridge (although the work here is still ongoing). The excavations so far undertaken here suggest that this settlement has more in the way of specialist activities being undertaken, compared to the settlement in phase one. A Roman pottery kiln is currently being excavated that would have produced pottery similar to a type known as Horningsea ware. During its excavation it could be seen how the kiln was used, including a shallow depression where the kiln debris had been repeatedly raked out and left in situ.  It appears that on one firing the kiln broke and was abandoned with the pottery still left inside. A number of other interesting finds have so far been excavated from phase two and include a small figure of a god, likely made of lead which may have come from a piece of furniture. The figure may be a fairly rare example and will be need to be investigated further. Next to the road also in this settlement was found large amounts of iron working and iron slag that might suggest the location of a blacksmith, or perhaps a farrier given the convenient location for transport. Other metal objects found represent many aspects of daily Roman life.


Broken and missaped pottery left behind in the kiln


Husband and wife team- Cat Collins, Access Cambridge Archaeology and Mat Collins, Cambridge Archaeological Unit at the Northstowe Phase Two excavations

As the excavations in phase two continue through the summer there will be plenty of opportunities for members of the public to get involved. ACA will be visiting Hatton Park primary school and Over Primary school to deliver our new hand-on archaeology sessions: CALF days, kindly being sponsored by the Homes and Communities Agency. On CALF days pupils will be able to handle real artefacts, look at a ‘dig’ and make their own interpretations of the evidence in their classrooms. We’re also hoping to excavate test pits within Longstanton again this summer, with Longstanton and District Heritage Society (LADHS). Access Cambridge Archaeology helped the community excavate 5 test pits in the autumn of 2015, the results of which you can read more about here. The test pitting in Longstanton will aid in understanding the relationship between the settlements identified during the Northstowe excavations and the current layout and position of the village of Longstanton.

The CAU are planning to host at least two open days this spring and summer, with the opportunity for members of the public to see what has been found, have guided tours around the site and to generally learn more about the history and archaeology of the landscape around Longstanton. Dates for these open days will be announced soon and we hope you will be able to visit and see the excavations for yourself as they progress.

On Friday we ran our first ever CALF day- Cambridge Archaeology Learning foundation. Covering everything from what archaeology is, what we study, what it tells us and how it gets there, CALF sessions introduce the essentials of archaeology to those aged 7-11. The sessions are taught in the classroom, using a wide range of fun, hands- on activities using real artefacts.

Foxton Primary school welcomed us for our first ever CALF day were we spent the morning with a mixed year 3 and 4 class. After a brief introduction explaining what archaeology is (we don’t do dinosaurs!), we demonstrated some of the tools we use, and the kind of objects we find. Many of them had heard a bit about archaeology before, and were keen to share what they had found in their own gardens. There is nothing like some practical learning however and we soon started on our activities. Pupils loved digging through their own ‘midden’ looking for seeds to identify. Historical maps pulled on other subject skill areas as did looking at real animal bones. They had great fun identifying what the mystery skeleton was and handling a real lion skull! Pupils got to identify pieces of pottery from ACA’s excavations – and were amazed to realise that some of the pottery they held in their hand was over 2200 years old!

The second half of the morning we looked at understanding how we can tell how old objects are, and what does and does not survive. It’s a tricky concept to imagine, but with our handy ‘excavation’ in the classroom, pupils were able to dig through different layers and find objects. We then looked what the objects can tell us about the past. It may just be a bit of old pottery to you, but what did people use it for? What can it tell us about the technology of how it was made? Where is it from and what trade routes brought it here? Pupils then got to put these ideas in to practise by being the archaeologists themselves. They examined boxes of objects from different periods and came up with their own interpretations.

It was all great fun, and was repeated with a mixed year 5 and 6 class in the afternoon. The content worked well for all age groups, as archaeology is such an interesting subject, there are always more questions you can ask about the past. The rest of the school didn’t miss out on the fun however! At assembly time we played a game of Call my Bluff with some of the more unusual objects from the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Archaeologists have to interpret objects to understand the people who used them, and everyone had a great time guessing what the objects were.

The sessions are designed to hit the overarching aims of the National curriculum for history and as such introduce students to ideas of historical enquiry, concepts of change, and how we use evidence. Importantly they also help demonstrate the depth of time; rather than focusing on one time period, pupils understand how they all fit together. It’s important to build on pupils’ knowledge however so examples can be linked back to topics pupils are currently studying.

Overall the days were very well received, with feedback from staff at Foxton Primary school giving very positive reviews highlighting “The combination of hands-on learning and lateral thinking” and “A good mix of both hands on and thinking. Great range of artefacts. I particularly liked the use of drawers to demonstrate the layers of earth.” Having had such a fantastic first go we are keen to offer the sessions to more schools! Sessions are currently structured as a half-day with each class but can be modified according to schools needs and budget.

If you would like ACA to visit a primary school near you, please visit for more details or contact us at


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