Eleven archaeological test pits were dug in Long Melford, Suffolk last week as part of ACA’s Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA) project. 39 students from Thomas Gainsborough School, Ormiston Sudbury Academy, Samuel Ward Academy and Hedingham School excavated 1m2 pits 22nd-23rd June.
This is the third year ACA have held a HEFA in Long Melford; previous findings and reports can be found here. ACA also participated in the Long Melford Big Dig in 2011 with Michael Wood and information from those excavations is available here.
The test pit sites were organised by local councillor, John Nunn, and the beacon school coordinator was Clare Gillibrand of Thomas Gainsborough School in Sudbury. Our base in the village for the two digging days was at the Football Club. ACA would like to especially thank Andrew Dawes of the East of England Co-Op in Long Melford for supplying snacks and goodies for the participants – they were much appreciated!
The students worked in mixed-school groups of 3 or 4 and were supervised by teachers, local volunteers and sixth-form students. The test pits were located on St Catherine’s Road, Hall Street, Cordell Road, New Road and Meeting Field.
The aim of every HEFA is 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.
After receiving a briefing on Day 1 from Dr Carenza Lewis, Director of ACA, about how to excavate and record the test pits, the students went out and started digging! The students recorded all of their findings context-by-context in their individual Test Pit Excavation Record Booklet. We stress that the recording process is just as important, if not more so, than the physical digging aspect. This record booklet and their recordings and findings form part of the permanent archive kept at the University of Cambridge. It is also crucial in helping the participants produce a written report about their individual test pit.
We were pleased that both the East Anglian Daily Times and the Suffolk Free Press covered the event. When those articles become available online they will be included here.
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, faunal remains and pottery sherds. We were also joined by Allison Whitlock, a PhD student from New York University, who is researching medieval settlements.
Expert knowledge from professional archaeologists is invaluable to the participants and is always reflected as such in the feedback. Participants commented, “I enjoyed learning about the history of my region” (AD), “I have gained knowledge and experience of archaeology not only from the practical side but from the experts too” (CN) and “I enjoyed finding out which era everything we found came from.” (MB) The finalised pottery report is available for download here.
The test pits this year were located close to the known Roman villa site on the field just south of Liston Lane. This fact was reiterated with the finds this year. TP 7, located in the grounds of St Catherine’s Church produced a single tessera, probably from a mosaic floor. The majority of test-pits also produced Roman pottery, including a few sherds of Samian ware. In fact, only one of the eleven test pits failed to produce any Roman pottery.
Only two test pits produced any medieval pottery. These were test pits 4 & 6 and the type of pottery was Early Medieval Sandy Ware and Medieval Shelly Ware. 45% of the pits produced late medieval pottery indicating a possible increase in population around the time of the Black Death.
There was also a nice find at TP 9. They had a lovely carved bone bobbin of probable 18th century date. To find one of these in such intact, pristine condition is rare on a test pit.
The third day of the HEFA was held in Cambridge. Students attend a lecture presented by Carenza which is all about medieval settlement studies and the Currently Occupied Rural Settlement (CORS) project. Each HEFA test pit provides vital information used in this research – a small piece of a very big puzzle.
The students then split into groups for lunch and a tour at one of Newnham, Sidney Sussex and Emmanuel Colleges. After lunch, Dr Sam Lucy, archaeologist and Admissions Officer for Newnham, gave a presentation about life at university, The University of Cambridge and future choices. One student commented, “I enjoyed learning more about university and I have gained knowledge on how to apply, about different options I could have after Year 11 and college.” (BL)
This was followed by a presentation on how to structure and present a written account of the excavation by Laure Bonner, ACA Administrator. The mark scheme and additional information about the written assignment can be found here.
In feedback after the HEFA, 90% of participants rated the event as “Excellent” or “Good”. Students commented, “I’ve met new people and learnt about working in both a team environment and individually.” (FPT), “I’ve gained new skills in archaeology which will also develop my history, geography and English skills.” (EP) and “Thank you for this opportunity, I really enjoyed it!” (MG). School staff commented, “The students have gained an insight into the world of academic study and how learning might be different at university.” (IS) and “This has become a trip to aim for during the year.” (NW).
ACA would like to thank the students and staff of the four schools involved for making this another successful Long Melford HEFA. Special thanks to John for organising the pits, Clare for organising the schools, the local residents for allowing us into their back gardens and the East of England Co-Op for the tasty supplies!