The 2015 Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA) season kicked off last week in Hillington, Norfolk. The 34 Year 9 and 1 Year 8 pupils in charge of digging the 9 test-pits in Hillington were from Springwood High School, King Edward VII High School and Thomas Clarkson Academy. James Smith, teacher at Springwood High School, coordinated the students taking part while Dr Clive Bond of the 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 and in the grounds of The Norfolk Hospice, Tapping House. Our base for the two days of excavation was The Ffolkes Arms Hotel and Country Club.
The students worked in mixed-school teams of 3 or 4 and were supervised by Springwood High School sixth formers and members of WNKLAS. After having a briefing on Day 1 by Dr Carenza Lewis, Director of ACA, about how to excavate and record the test pits, the students went on to make excellent progress throughout the two days of digging. Although at times the weather turned a bit chilly and windy, spirits remained high with one student commenting afterwards: “I loved it!!” (SS).
Cat Ranson, ACA archaeological supervisor, and Jess Rippengal, faunal remains expert, toured the Hillington test pits offering guidance on excavating and recording techniques. We were also delighted that the local newspaper, Lynn News, sent a reporter out on Thursday 19th March to cover the event. That news article will be available here once it has been published online.
On-site pottery expert, Andrew Rogerson, identified a few sherds of Iron Age pottery coming from test pits 4 and 8 in the grounds of Up Hall, initially indicating perhaps that the oldest known settlement at Hillington originated in this southeastern part of the modern village near St Mary’s Church. Such large sherds of prehistoric pottery are an unusual find. 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.
On the third day of the HEFA, the students arrived to a rather overcast Cambridge (no visible solar eclipse here!) and all the schools took the opportunity in the morning to spend a little extra time seeing what the city has to offer: a tour around the Fitzwilliam Museum, a wander around King’s College, a bit of shopping.
Day 3 of the HEFA began with a taster lecture on medieval settlement studies and the Currently Occupied Rural Settlement (CORS) project by Dr Carenza Lewis. The students then split into groups for lunch and a tour at one of Trinity Hall, Sidney Sussex and Peterhouse Colleges.
The two-hour afternoon session was comprised of a talk from Katie Vernon, Schools Liaison Officer for both Trinity Hall and Robinson Colleges, about life as a university student followed by a presentation from Dr Jenni French on how to structure and present a written account of the excavation.
In feedback after the event, 100% 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: “It was fun and enjoyable and you don’t need to like archaeology to have a go. I think everyone should take part.” (SS) Another “enjoyed being able to work in a new place and know that no one else had touched that piece of land” (GN). One staff member said afterwards that she thought her students had gained “a greater awareness of what archaeology is, what it involves and how it helps us understand more about humankind’s history over time. Also, they’ve gained a greater appreciation of the importance of procedures and detailed studies in doing research.” (LW)
ACA would like to thank all the students and staff of the three schools involved as well as the dedicated members of WNKLAS for making this first HEFA of 2015 such a success!