Posted by: archaccess | April 25, 2016

Southminster Higher Education Field Academy

ACA’s third Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA) of the 2016 season took place last week, on the 20th -21st April , in Southminster, Essex. The 41 Year 9 pupils from William de Ferrers School, The Plume School and Ormiston Rivers Academy excavated 10 test-pits throughout the small town. The test-pits were organised by Ron Pratt, mayor of nearby Burnham-on-Crouch, and Kay Maudesley, parish councillor. The base for the two digging days was the community hall on the King George V Playing Fields.


The students and staff have an introduction talk by Alison Dickens of the CAU

The 10 x 1m2 test pits were located in the back gardens of private properties on Queen Street, Queenborough Road, North End, Crippelgate, Hall Road and Burnham Road. An additional pit was also excavated on the King George V Playing Fields, close to the community hall that was used as our base. This was our second year of digging in Southminster, the results from the 2015 HEFA in Southminster can be found on our website here.


The students getting into groups and collecting equipment

The students worked in mixed-school teams of 4 or 5 and were supervised by teachers from all three schools and Year 12 students from William de Ferrers School. After receiving a briefing on Day 1 from Alison Dickens, ACA’s new managing director, about how to excavate and record the test pits, the students made their ways out to site to begin the excavation.

We had two days of mainly sunny weather – feeling cold in the wind and watching out for sunburn were the two factors on everyone’s mind and a number of groups also were provided with both snacks and drinks to help with the digging.

TP 6h

A table for the paperwork and free drinks at TP 6

All the test pits recorded a number of both 18th and 19th century finds with only a few of the test pit yeilding finds of an earlier date. Medeival pottery was recorded at TP 2 if the far west of the town, along Queen Street as well along North End, Burnham Road and out at Southminster Hall. On the afternoon of day 2 a mud stone and tile wall, likely of medieval origin that was excavated from TP 10 at Southminster Hall, between the house and the moat. The wall was identified along the section edge so its full width and function was not able to be identified during the limited time available to us on site., but it was an exciting find for the students involved!

TP 10t


Cat Ranson, ACA archaeological supervisor, and John Newman, pottery expert, toured the test pits providing guidance on excavating and recording techniques as well as identifying finds and pottery sherds. Having experts on site is always popular with the participants and staff, one student said “I enjoyed being with different people who enjoy doing the archaeology dig.” (MC) and “I have learnt skills on how to understand what I have found in the earth, such as rolling glass and Victorian and medieval things.” (LB)

TP 7k

John Newman dating the finds from TP 7

The students recorded all of their findings context-by-context in their individual Test Pit Excavation Record Booklet. This is not only an invaluable asset in helping to produce their written assignment, but also informs academic research and becomes part of the permanent record about each test pit kept on file at the University of Cambridge.

Once the pottery report is ready it will be available on our website here. The results so far though from both years of excavations suggest that we are still yet to find the Saxon origins of the town (Souminster is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086), but the extent of the medieval settlement now recorded has expanded. The focus of the medieval village would have been around the church and Station Road, but we are now seeing medieval pottery turn up in outlying areas of the town, for example at the far western end of Queen Street, although of course this may just represent the presence of manuring the fields surrounding the settlement.


A taster lecture on medieval settlements by Debby Banham

The students spent the third day of the HEFA in Cambridge where they learned not only about university but also about how their individual test-pits fit into the wider picture. Carenza’s lecture on medieval settlement studies and the Currently Occupied Rural Settlement (CORS) project is always popular, especially as it’s the first time most of the students have experienced a university lecture. The students then split into groups for lunch and a tour at one of Selwyn, Emmanuel and Clare Colleges. These tours were given by the schools liaison officers (SLO) from each of these colleges. Rachel Ayres, SLO for Clare College, then gave a presentation to the pupils about the University of Cambridge, as well as applying to university and life as a university student. One student commented after ” I have gained more experience about college/university life” (MM).

The day concluded with Dr Jenni French, Research Fellow in Archaeology and Anthropology, giving a presentation on how to structure and present a written account of the excavation. These reports go on to form part of the archive at The University of Cambridge.

TP 8g

Group shot at TP 8

In feedback after the HEFA 98% of participants rated the field academy as ‘Excellent’ or ‘Good’. The students enjoyed meeting and working with new people and working in a team as well as visiting the University of Cambridge and learning more about university and archaeology. Students commented, “I have learnt more about University and whether I want to go to University” (AF) and “I feel that I am more confident around new people and working in a team” (MG), “I gained valuable archaeological experience which could be used in further life” (FR). School staff commented, “The students have gained knowledge to look further and respect other peoples thoughs and comments” (JI) and “They have gained indenpendent learning and problem solving skills..” (JW).

ACA would like to thank the students and staff of the three schools involved for making the Southminster HEFA another successful event. Special thanks to David Stamp for being the beacon school coordinator and circulating around the test pits both days and to Ron Pratt and Kay Maudesley for organising the pits. Thanks also must go to Bernie Steel and Pat Sheehy of the Maldon Archaeological and Historical Group for providing additional supervision for the youngsters involved.

Posted by: archaccess | April 19, 2016

Learn about Osteology!

Osteoarchaeological Project

Date and Time: 9th July 2016: 10am to 5pm
Location: North Hertfordshire Museum, Brand Street, Hitchin SG5 1JE

Interested in getting experience on human remains: the bones of the body, identifying sex, age, and illnesses of individuals from past populations?
North Hertfordshire Museum is hosting a one-day hands-on human remains workshop as part of a project to further our understanding of health in and around Baldock, Hertfordshire, the site of small Roman town. It will allow people the opportunity to directly analyse human remains from the Roman and early Medieval periods. This is an ideal opportunity for members of the general public, undergraduates and graduates in archaeology and forensics, medical professionals, museum staff, local archaeologists from societies as well as anyone who wants to know more about osteology and what human remains can tell you and how to handle and curate them. It is a great way to gain hands-on experience of human remains in a museum environment and learn about the past from people who lived through it.

Classes are limited to twelve students to ensure maximum access to the remains and guidance from a trained osteoarchaeologist with experience on hundreds of skeletal remains. This is a general course suitable for anyone and the day revolve around handling skeletal remains. The day will include:
•Training in how to identify different bones and layout a human skeleton
•Determining sex, age, and height of individuals
•Identifying different pathologies and the health of a person at death
•Using skeletal remains and other evidence to reconstruct life in different periods
•Reviewing the different stages of skeletal remains from burial, archaeological excavation, osteological study, curation or reburial.
•Learning how to curate and record remains

OsteoArchaeology Course Flyer

OsteoArch Booking Form

Posted by: archaccess | April 19, 2016

Blo Norton Higher Education Field Academy

Access Cambridge Archaeology (ACA) held its second Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA) of the 2016 season this week in Blo’ Norton, Norfolk. The six test pits were excavated on the 13th and 14th April by 21 Year 9 pupils from King Edward VI School and Hartismere School.


Blo Norton Village Hall

The dig in 2016 was the second in Blo’ Norton by ACA, the results from the 2015 excavation can be found here.  The six pits were this year focused to the south of the village, particularly on Fen Road and The Banks, with two pits again sited in the north along The Street. The students worked together in mixed school groups of three or four students following on from an initial introduction and briefing from Alison Dickens, ACA’s new managing Director in the village hall.


The first day of the dig was full of sunshine and the groups managed to excavate the test pits to a depth of at least 0.4m. A range of finds emerged from the test pits including pieces of a coronation mug from 1937 of King George VI from along Fen Road as well as a few fragments of medieval pottery and a large number of batteries. The second day started off the same but ended with thunder storms rolling around, although they didn’t dampen the spirits of the students and digging with at least half the test pits reaching natural.

TP 1m

TP 1 and George

TP 6o

TP 6 in the rain but down to natural!

The initial test pit results suggest that all the test pit sites yielded pottery from the 16th/17th century and later, which correlates to when a umber of the houses in the village were built. Medieval pottery was recorded from both test pits 3 and 4 on Fen Road and is our first example of settlement at that time on the common edge in the far south of the village. A number of burnt stone and worked flints were also present along Fen Road that hint at prehistoric activity along the course of the Little River Ouse valley. The full pottery report and results will be available on our website here in due course.

The students spent the third day of the HEFA in Cambridge where they learnt not only about university, but also about how their individual test pits fit into the wider picture not only for Norfolk but across East Anglia. Dr Nick James gave the students a taster lecture on medieval settlement, focusing in particular on how the HEFA participants contribute to university research, an aspect of the programme that always ranks highly in student and teacher feedback.


Dr Nick James giving the students a ‘taster lecture’

 The students then split into groups for lunch and a tour of either Peterhouse or Pembroke Colleges, which were given by either a representative or schools liaison officer (SLO) from each of the colleges. Emma Paulus, SLO for Pembroke College, then gave a presentation to the entire group about the University of Cambridge, post-16 options, A-Level choices and choosing degree subjects.

One of the aims of ACA’s HEFA programme is to raise students’ aspirations of going on to higher education after school. Learning more about university in general and visiting the University of Cambridge specifically contribute to raising these aspirations and always receive good feedback from both students and staff.

TP 6l

Pottery expert John Newman talking with the home owner about what was found

Day 3 concluded with Dr Jenni French, Research Fellow in Archaeology and Anthropology at Peterhouse College, gave a presentation on how to structure and present a written account of the excavation. Students who submit a report receive detailed feedback and a certificate from the University of Cambridge. This feedback can then be used in future university applications, CVs etc. and their reports form part of the permanent archive.

In feedback after the event 100% of participants rated the field academy as ‘Excellent’ or ‘Good’. Students commented, “I really enjoyed being outside and trying new things. I find working outside of the classroom really fun.” (KO), “Being able to find out the previous history of the village through findings in the ground.” (TA) and “I have also learned how to apply and why I should go to University. I have also gained friends.” (HRC)

Staff also commented, “The session on report writing was excellent and gave the students all they needed to do a good report” (RM) and “The students have developed stills relevant for GCSE and A-level study and their interpersonal skills.” (SH)



George VI Coronation mug from 1937 found from TP1

ACA would like to thank the students and staff of the two schools involved for making the Blo’ Norton HEFA a successful event. Special thanks to Dave and Sheila Williams, seasoned ACA volunteers, for helping supervise, John Dixon and Stewart Hall for their help and support in organising the HEFA, as well as the SLO’s from both Peterhouse and Pembroke and Doctors Nice James and Jenni French.


Archaeological Excavations at Peterborough Cathedral are to be run jointly by Access Cambridge Archaeology (ACA) and the Cambridge Archaeological Unit (CAU), both of the University of Cambridge alongside the Peterborough Cathedral Archaeologist as part of Peterborough 900 campaign. The dig culminates in the Peterborough Heritage Festival, which takes place over the weekend of the 1st to the 3rd July 2016 and has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

The excavation will run from Wednesday 22nd June through to Sunday 3rd July and a total of six trenches will be opened in the Garden House area (see map below), in the north-west part of the cathedral precincts. The trenches have been sited following a ground-penetrating radar (GPR) survey on the land and it is believed that finding archaeological remains pre-dating the abbey are fairly low, so the main focus of the archaeology will probably be on the Late Anglo Saxon period and later. There is a possibility that the burh (or burgh) wall crosses the garden area; this was constructed in 1005 AD when the entire precinct was fortified after the abbey was re-built following Danish and Viking raids from the continent. It was when the burgh was constructed that the original Saxon name of Peterborough, Medehamstede, was changed, first to Goldenburgh and then Burgh St Peter or Peterburgh (after the saint dedication of the church and the presence of the burgh – an Old English name for fortified settlement).

Garden House Location Map

How to be involved:

Volunteers are invited to take part in the excavations for a minimum of three consecutive days. Those wishing to work for further days will be put on a waiting list in case there are still spaces available shortly before the dig. The excavation is open to all ages and abilities, as there will also be opportunities not only to excavate but to be involved in less physically demanding tasks too. Children under the age of 16 may be considered, but they must be accompanied by a responsible adult at all times.

All volunteers will be able to work with both professional archaeologists and members of the cathedral staff. No previous experience is necessary and the allocation of places will be on a first come first served basis. Prioity will be given to those living in and around Peterborough.

If you want to take part in the excavation or for more information please email ACA directly on or phone 01223 761519.

For those who do not want to dig please come and visit us anyway as we will be holding tours daily. Also keep an eye on our blog here as well as social media accounts Twitter: @AccessCambridge and @pborocathedral and on Facebook.

Posted by: archaccess | March 21, 2016

Hillington Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA)

The 2016 Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA) season kicked off last week in Hillington, Norfolk. The 36 Year pupils in charge of digging the 9 test-pits in Hillington were from Springwood High School and King Edward VII High School. James Smith, teacher at Springwood High School, coordinated the students taking part while Margaret MacDougal of West Norfolk and King’s Lynn Archaeological Society (WNKLAS) liaised with local residents to find sites to excavate. The 1m square test pits were located in the gardens of private properties on Station Road and Wheatfields. Our base for the two days of excavation was The Ffolkes Arms Hotel and Country Club.

TP 2bTest Pit 2 with St Marys Church in the background

The students worked in mixed-school teams of 4 and were supervised by Springwood High School sixth formers and members of WNKLAS. After having a briefing on Day 1 by Alison Dickens, the new Manager of ACA, about the introduction to the field academies and the aims of the project, Cat Ranson, ACA Archaeological Supervisor, went through how to excavate and record the test pits. The students then went on to make excellent progress throughout the two days of digging. The weather was lovely, clear blue sky days, although at times turned a bit chilly however, spirits remained high.

Cat Ranson, ACA archaeological supervisor, and Laure Bonner, along with Alison Dickens and Laura James, toured the Hillington test pits offering guidance on excavating and recording techniques. We were also delighted that Andrew Rogerson, Pottery Expert of the Norfolk County Council could join us on the 17th March.

IMG_3557A lovely sherd of High Medieval Pottery from Test Pit 4

Andrew, identified a few sherds of Iron Age pottery coming from test pits 2, 4, 7 and 8, initially indicating perhaps that the oldest known settlement at Hillington originated in this southeastern part of the modern village near St Mary’s Church, with scatters up towards the main road. A sherd of Samian pottery was found in Test Pit 7 which means a trace of Roman activity was found near the Main Road (A148). Other identified sherds of later Ipswich and Thetford ware seemingly point to the spreading out of the village towards the northwest in the Middle to late Saxon period c. 700-1100 A.D. As always, make sure to check our website in the near future for the complete pottery report.

P1140523Everyone examines the finds from Day 1

On the third day of the HEFA, the students arrived to a rather overcast Cambridge the sun of the past couple of day had left us. Both schools took the opportunity in the morning to spend a little extra time seeing what the city has to offer before meeting us for the beginning of Day 3.

P1140515Tiny porcelain ear from TP 4

Day 3 of the HEFA began with a taster lecture on medieval settlement studies and the Currently Occupied Rural Settlement (CORS) project by Dr Nick James. The students were then taken on a tour of St John College and for lunch in the hall.

st johnsSt John’s College

The two-hour afternoon session was comprised of a talk by Megan Goldman-Roberts, the Schools Liaison Officer for St John’s College, about life as a university student followed by a presentation from Dr Jenni French on how to structure and present the written account of the excavation.

P1140430Group as they were about to hear from Alison Dickens

In feedback after the event, most 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 with one participant summing their HEFA experience up nicely: “I have gained a fun experience and now know a lot about being an archaeologist and about how to apply for university.” (SM) Another “enjoyed seeing a new part of the country and working with new people” (AC). One staff member said afterwards that she thought his students had gained “confidence, new skills and integration and teamwork.” (JS)

TP 6iTest pit 6 on Wheatfields

ACA would like to thank all the students and staff of the two schools involved as well as the dedicated members of WNKLAS for making this first HEFA of 2016 such a success!


Posted by: archaccess | March 4, 2016

MSRG Spring Conference 2016

msrg_logoThe spring 2016 conference of the Medeival Settlement Research Group (MSRG) will be held at the University of Lincoln over the weekend from Friday 29th April to Sunday 1st May 2016.

This conference will review recent archaeological investigations in Currently Occupied Rural Settlements (CORS) in eastern England, which is the focus of the majority of the work that has been undertaken by ACA over the years and a number of the speakers are coordinators from villages that have been directly involved with ACA and test pitting, either through HEFA or as community excavations.

The event will start on Friday evening with a wine reception at the University of Lincoln and a tour of the historic quarter. Saturday’s full day of papers will be followed by an optional conference dinner, while papers on Sunday morning will be rounded off with a trip to the nearby deserted medieval village (DMV) of Riseholme, iconic as the first DMV excavation to be published in Medieval Archaeology!

For further details on the conference programme and how to register, please read the PDF here or enquire directly on the MSRG website.

Posted by: archaccess | March 1, 2016

ACA Administrator Job Vacancy

A full-time vacancy exists 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 11/03/2016 for interviews the following week.

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.

ACA’s current administrator Laure Bonner, who has been with us since 2015, has already started her new post as an Outreach and Communications Administrator for the Division of Archaeology at the University of Cambridge and we wish her continual success in her new venture!


Posted by: archaccess | February 26, 2016

Covehithe Fieldwalking Report available online


Access Cambridge Archaeology has produced the full results from the fieldwalking in Covehithe, on the Suffolk coast from last winter. The fieldwalking was organised in conjunction with Touching the Tide as part of their 3-year Hertiage Lottery Funded Landscape Partnership Scheme within which 36 local residents and volunteers braved the cold for two days to walk the field adjacent to the ruins of St Andrew’s church.

The full report from the fieldwalking can be downloaded here.


Interpretating the results from fieldwalking is not often straightforward, particularly if only one field has been walked, which is the case here at Covehithe. A few inferences can be made however to the changing use of the area and the origins and development of the medieval settlement near the church.

The areas seems to have been thinly used throughout the prehistoric period, with more intensive deposition in the Roman period suggesting the likelihood of settlement nearby although not present on the walked site itself. No material of early Anglo-Saxon date was recovered, but there is evidence for activity of middle Anglo-Saxon date which is considered most likely to relate to settlement and thus suggests that the origins of the settlement at Covehithe, possibly arranged along the line of the present road, considerably predates both the church and the earliest documentary record in Domesday Book. This settlement clearly expanded in the later Anglo-Saxon period to occupy the area between the present church and Jasmine Cottage: this may have represented reorganisation of the road-side middle Anglo Saxon settlement. The medieval settlement at Covehithe continued to expand, notably in the area away from the road and probably to the east of the church as well; its size reflecting its prosperity as a medieval fishing village. The fieldwalking results suggest that the village did not go into decline after the Black Death during the 14th century, but did do so much later during the post-medieval period, when westward migration due to coastal erosion eventually petered out as the population declined in the 19th century to leave just a couple of dispersed cottages strung out along the lane west of the church.

Our thanks must go again to all the volunteers who assissted us in the fieldwalking over the two days and who contributed to these results.


Posted by: archaccess | February 19, 2016

Test Pitting in Snape has the Go Ahead on 7th- 8th May

As part of the Heritage Lottery Funded Touching the Tide scheme, residents of Snape and the surrounding area will have the chance to carry out small archaeological ‘test pit’ excavations to find out how the area has developed over hundreds – even thousands – of years in the past.

On the weekend of Saturday 7th – Sunday 8th May 2016 we ask you to join us in the village of Snape, a picturesque village sitting on the northern bank of the River Alde in east Suffolk. We are looking for both volunteers to dig the test pits and gardens/land where the test pits can be sited. It will also be a great chance for the community to get together and to make new discoveries.

Snape FW

Fieldwalking in February 2014

ACA has already undertaken fieldwalking in Snape with Touching the Tide in early 2014 that was focused to the rear of the modern development opposite the primary school in the north of Snape that was swiftly followed up with two geophysical survey training days in a field 1km east of the village in the early spring. Both of these were very successful in involving members of the local community adding to the local knowledge of the area.

The test pitting in Snape on the 7th and 8th May will be a great opportunity to further what is already known about the village, have you ever wanted to know what is under your back garden? Now is the chance to find out!

Test pits are just 1m², create a minimum of disturbance to your garden, and can be sited anywhere you wish. The digging can be done by you, your family and friends, or by others. Full instructions and expert support are provided throughout. The idea is to get as many test pits in different locations in Snape as possible. We’ll identify and date all the finds. Then we’ll be able to put them on a map of the village and find out how the village developed over hundreds, or even thousands of years!

What will happen?

  • Test pits are just 1m² and create a minimum of disturbance.
  • They can be sited anywhere you wish (on unscheduled land).
  • The digging can be done by your, your family and friends, or by local school pupils or by interested members of the public from elsewhere.
  • Property owners who aren’t digging their own pit don’t have to be present during the excavation, although you’re welcome to get involved with the excavations and ‘your’ digging team if you want to.
  • Finds are washed and recorded and retained for analysis, after which they will be returned to property owners, if requested.
  • The small amount of spoil created is sieved onto tarpaulins, preventing damage to lawns.
  • Test pits are completed in two days and back-filled, with any turf replaced neatly. The site should be invisible within a few weeks.
  • Results will be communicated to everyone who’s interested via the Snape Village Website, the ACA project website, written reports and a follow-up talk.

7 5


Don’t worry if you’ve never done this before – there’ll be full instructions and lots of archaeologists on hand to help! Whatever size your garden is, it can probably fit a 1m2 pit. Using tarpaulins for spoil protects lawns and pits can be located anywhere to avoid precious plants and special features. Don’t worry if you think your property isn’t very old or very interesting – sometimes the newest houses produce the oldest finds!

How can I get involved?

  1. You can dig your own test pit in your own garden/property in Snape
  2. You can offer your garden/property in Snape for someone else to dig
  3. You can offer to dig someone else’s garden/property in Snape
  4. You can offer digging equipment for someone else to borrow
  5. You can help manning the town hall and preparing refreshments for diggers over the weekend

What should I do now if I’m interested?

  1. To register to take part contact ACA on or 01223 761519. Give your details (name, address, phone, e-mail) and please say what you’d like to do.
  2. Talk to friends, family etc. to see who else would like to join in, either with you or on their own pit.
  3. Keep in touch with the organisers so they know that you know what’s going on, and who has confirmed they’re going to take part
  4. Think about where you might want to dig, what equipment you have and what you’ll want to borrow or lend.
  5. Spread the word and encourage others to get involved!
  6. For further information keep an eye on the Touching the Tide website and the ACA website
Posted by: archaccess | February 16, 2016

Dunwich Excavation Report Online!

Jess with Geoff, Sue & Laure at Trench 1

The results from the ACA led excavations at Dunwich last summer in conjunction with Touching the Tide and the Heritage Lottery Fund are now available to download from the ACA website here.

Laurie shows visitors at trench 4 some of the key finds so far from the did during the open day

Thank you again to all the volunteers who helped out during the excavations, either by digging, finds washing or talking to visitors. Thanks also go to Bill and Kate from Touching the Tide, as well as the Dunwich Museum for hosting us and the Greyfriars Trust for allowing the excavations to take place on their land.


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