Access Cambridge Archaeology were invited to witness archaeology in the making with the burial of a time capsule in the grounds of Swaffham Bulbeck Primary School last week, the culmination of a year long programme of work to learn more about the history of the Cambridgeshire village which included a set test pit excavations in June. The ‘Time Detectives’ project was funded by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund called Young Roots to provide new opportunities for a wider range of young people to learn about their own and others’ heritage, and share their learning with the wider community.
Time Detectives involved clients from a local charity, Red2Green’s Aspiration service which works with young people with Asperger Syndrome, and another group of young people from the local secondary school, Soham Village College. The Time Detectives also engaged with local residents, who offered their properties as sites for the digs to take place, and children from Swaffham Bulbeck Primary School, who were also invited to take part in the digging. The evidence based approach to learning was developed for the young people with Asperger Syndrome who can have huge difficulty imagining things which no longer exist. The mainstream students benefitted from conducting field-work with real archaeologists but also mixed with people with disabilities and learn more about Asperger Syndrome.
A report on the social outcomes of the community excavation was compiled by Kathryn Muir, a Sociology graduate from Warwick University. Her findings demonstrated that the project increased participants’ understanding of, and passion for, archaeology/local history, and increased the likelihood of them getting involved in related activities in the future. It has also demonstrated that the project developed useful skills for the participants, including teamwork, communication and dedication to a task. Lastly, the report demonstrated the positive impact the project had on improving community integration for people with autistic spectrum conditions: raising awareness and understanding for participants, volunteers and individuals in the wider Swaffham Bulbeck community.
Following the test pit digs, the Time Detectives have been working on the contents of their time capsule to deliver a message to the archaeologists of the future about the findings of the 2012 test pit excavations, the young people who took part and their lives in the early part of the twenty-first century. A film was shown of the test pit excavations before the time capsule burial, which showed the preparations and classroom work of the young people and how involvement in the project had had a very positive impact on their perception of local history. The film was produced by Hi8us Midlands, a media and arts charity which specialises in collaborative professional media with young people.
One ‘find’ from the Time Detectives event which will not stand the test of time was a delicious chocolate brownie cake in the shape of an archaeological test pit, complete with bones and pottery sherds made of icing, which was eagerly devoured by the Time Detectives, Swaffham Bulbeck’s budding archaeologists.