This week, Cambridgeshire students took part in a HEFA in the fen-edge village of Rampton, the first new settlement to be excavated by ACA in 2014.
Thirty-seven Year 9 and Year 10 students from Ely College, Soham Village College, Cottenham Village College and Witchford Village College were selected to participate in the Rampton HEFA. The base for the two days of digging was Rampton Village Hall, which was also the site of one of the ten test-pits. Another pit was dug in the garden behind the village pub, The Black Horse, and the remainder were in private gardens around the Green, High Street, King Street and Cow Lane. The clayey soil typical of the fen-edge proved tough to dig but the groups stepped up to the challenge admirably. Despite formidable forecasts at the start of the week, they were also lucky that conditions remained dry.
Paul Blinkhorn, specialist in post-Roman pottery, joined the field academy on the second day to identify the pottery. Small quantities of high medieval pottery from the 12th and 13th centuries were found from test-pits on and near the High Street, but there was a noticeable lack of pottery dating from the later medieval and early post-medieval periods. This hints that the village contracted following the famines and plague of the 14th century and population sizes took several centuries to recover, but digging additional test-pits another year will help to confirm or dismiss this initial hypothesis. The pottery report for each test-pit can be found on our project reports webpage here.
A Junior Research Fellow of Peterhouse College at Cambridge University and a former student of Soham Village College, Jenni French, helped to supervise the excavations along with Cambridge graduate Zenobia Homan, current Cambridge student Michael Rivera and fellow volunteer Scott Treble. Many thanks to all of the volunteers and to John Stanford of FEAG for their help with the Rampton HEFA.
A photographer from Cambridge News visited the field academy, and photographs and a news story should appear in the paper tomorrow morning. Sheila Kiggins, Communications Officer for Education and Access at the University of Cambridge’s Office of External Affairs and Communications, also covered the event for the University’s news website and that of the University’s Cambridgeshire And Peterborough Schools Outreach Group (CAPSOG).
After the students left at the end of Thursday, one homeowner contacted FEAG to say that “they did a splendid job with the backfilling. Delightful opportunity – the students were great – a credit to their schools and families. The programme incredibly well organised. Such fun to be part of history!”
On the third day of the HEFA, the students visited the University of Cambridge. At lunchtime, the schools were hosted by schools liaison staff from the following Cambridge Colleges: Corpus Christi, St Catharine’s, Pembroke, Peterhouse and Trinity. As the College area link contact for schools in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, the Schools Liaison Officer for Pembroke and St Catharine’s College, Laura McGarty, spoke to the students about university admissions and applications to Cambridge University in the afternoon. Many of the students, although familiar with the city of Cambridge, enjoyed the opportunity to have a tour of the University’s facilities and have lunch at one of the Colleges, with one student from Cottenham saying afterwards “I feel that I have gained a valuable insight into everyday life at a top university.” A staff member from Witchford also thought that the HEFA had “given the students a fantastic idea of what university is like.”
In feedback after the event, all of the students and staff rated the HEFA as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’. One student said that he “thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of the HEFA experience” and another said that she “especially enjoyed the day in the university and working with new people”. A staff member had high praise for Carenza Lewis, the Director of Access Cambridge Archaeology, saying that she was “very engaging – all the students were impressed and enjoyed the privilege of working with her (as did I!)”
For next week’s HEFA, ACA will be returning to the coastal Suffolk village of Walberswick.
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