Posted by: archaccess | June 20, 2014

Great Amwell 2014 Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA)

Twelve archaeological test-pits were dug in Great Amwell by Hertfordshire school students in this week’s Higher Education Field Academy.

Great Amwell 2014 Higher Education Field Academies (HEFA)The field academy involved 48 Year 9s from Presdales School, Loreto College, The John Warner School and Samuel Ryder Academy, with supporting staff and sixth-form students to help supervise the groups of younger pupils. The aim of the three day programme was 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.

The test-pit sites in Great Amwell were recruited by David Hardy and William Brown, of the Amwell Society and our base in the village was the parish church of St John the Baptist. Many thanks to all of the local volunteers who helped to man the base and also to ACA volunteers, Michael Rivera and Scott Treble for also joining us in Great Amwell. With their help, the mixed school groups dug four test pits on Hillside Lane, three on Cautherly Lane, two on St John’s Lane, one on Lower Road and one on Gypsy Lane on Wednesday and Thursday this week.

In the north of the village, test-pit 12 found several sherds of 17th century pottery and associated animal bone. On the south bank of the river, test-pit 10 on St John’s Lane uncovered a very deep concentration of Victorian and later rubbish, which included the fork and domino piece shown in the picture opposite, but along the same lane, test pit 11 found several sherds of possible medieval pottery. Tiny fragments of probable prehistoric pottery were found in test-pit 8 at the highest point of Hillside Lane, and several flint flakes were discovered in neighbouring test-pit 9. The evidence from these two test-pits seems to suggest that the hill remained unoccupied from the prehistoric period until much more recently, whereas the large quantity of medieval pottery unearthed in test-pit 4 further downslope on Hillside Lane indicates that the lower ground was occupied at this time.

These results, as well as those of the test-pits dug in Great Amwell in 2013 were compared to build up a picture of the development of the village during the third day’s visit to the University of Cambridge. The HEFA participants then had the chance to visit one of the Cambridge colleges, including St Catharine’s, Trinity and St John’s, at lunchtime for a meal and a tour with an undergraduate student, which received very positive comments in the feedback: “I enjoyed speaking to students who are presntly attending the university as it gave me more of an understanding of courses and life at university” (GM). Maddy Lawrence-Jones, Schools Liaison Officer for Magdalene College, spoke to the HEFA group after the college tours about future study options and the opportunities presented by a university degree at a university like Cambridge. At the end of the introduction to life and learning at university, one student said “I enjoyed the tour of Cambridge University and how informative Maddy was on future career paths/options. I have clearly gained a life experience that has significantly benefitted me, such as more confidence in myself with speaking and working with new people which I now feel very comfortable about” (JU).

Many of the other students also wrote in their feedback that they felt they had gained a useful experience, new knowledge about archaeology and higher education as well as a sense of achivement and appreciation for being offered the opportunity to take part in the field academy. The course was rated as either ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ by 96% of the students, with one writing “thank you very much for all the hard work in organising this!” (EM) and another saying“it was a brilliant experience and I would love to do something like this again!”

ACA will be running the second ever Hampshire Higher Education Field Academy in North Warnborough next week.

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