Last week, 29th – 30th June, 43 students from Alderman Peel School, Reepham High School, Fakenham Academy, Litcham School and Cromer Academy excavated 11 archaeological test pits in Hindringham, Norfolk as part of ACA’s Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA) project. This is the third year ACA have held a HEFA in Hindringham; previous findings and reports from the 2014 and 2007 academies can be found here.
The test pit sites were organised by Simon Hester and the beacon school coordinator was Jo Stone from Fakenham Academy. Our base in the village for the two digging days was at the Hindringham Village Hall on The Street.
The students worked in mixed-school groups of 3 or 4 and were supervised by sixth-form students and former HEFA participants. The test pits were located on Moorgate Road, The Street and Emm’s Lane.
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 (in the glorious sunshine)! Cat Ranson, ACA archaeological supervisor, and Jessica Rippengal, faunal remains specialist, toured the test pits providing guidance on excavating and recording techniques as well as identifying finds. Andrew Rogerson from the Norfolk Historic Environment Record was also on site on Day 2 to help identify finds and date pottery sherds and we were aided again by Allison Whitlock, a PhD student from New York University, who is researching medieval settlements.
Having experts on hand to provide real-time feedback about finds and dates is highly appreciated by the participants and is always included in the feedback: “I enjoyed learning what came from different time periods and learning about it outside of the classroom” (EH), “I really enjoyed talking to the experts about our finds” (AG) and “I enjoyed learning how the things we found related to the history of Hindringham.” (MJ)
Although the final pottery report, produced by Paul Blinkhorn – post Roman pottery expert, won’t be available here until the end of this week, initial thoughts seem to suggest that the finds from this year’s HEFA have filled in gaps left by those from previous years. A single sherd of probable middle-Saxon Ipswich Ware, c. 720-850 AD was recovered from TP 9 at 41 The Street, just north of the church. In previous years, early Saxon pottery was found in the south section of the village. Based on this year’s to-be-confirmed pottery evidence it appears that Hindringham started as a small settlement sometime in the 5th century but only began to really prosper in the late Saxon period. This bit of purported Ipswich ware would be a ‘missing link’ between the two periods.
TP 2 located at 5 The Street, came down onto a late Victorian/early Edwardian rubbish pit, full to the brim with glass and metalware, including some intact bottles. TP 1, next door at 3 The Street, discovered the remains of a juvenile pig, identified as such by Jessica Rippengal. And, an especially rare test-pit find in the form of a copper-alloy Georgian trade weight came from TP 8 just north of the church. You never know what’s going to turn up next!
But, the aims of HEFA are many and once the practical archaeological portion had been completed, it was time to learn more about higher education. Students spent Day 3 of the HEFA at the University of Cambridge. They learned about how their hard work contributes to ongoing university research, including the study of Currently Occupied Rural Settlements, and how to develop and deploy skills for life, learning and employment such as data analysis, communication skills and team working.
After lunch, Vix Harvey, schools liaison officer for Trinity Hall and Robinson College, gave a presentation about life at university, the University of Cambridge and future choices, which was commented on afterwards by one participant, “I really enjoyed the lecture on university applications. Thank you!” (TC)
This was followed by a presentation on how to structure and present a written account of the excavation by Laure Bonner, ACA Administrator, which again was commented on in feedback, “I wasn’t sure how to write a report before – it’s made it clearer for me.” (SB) The mark scheme and additional information about the written assignment can be found here.
In feedback after the HEFA, 93% of participants rated the event as “Excellent” or “Good”. Comments in feedback included: “I loved it! I will volunteer in Year 12” (SB), “I’ve gained skills I can use in life when I am applying to university” (JC) and “I think that my eyes have been opened up to the prospect of a career in archaeology, and I have gained a big experience of university life.” (TC). Staff commented, “The students enjoyed the day in Cambridge – always a benefit for the students to experience a taste of university research and teaching.” (KH) and “The students have gained a much greater awareness of how the university system works, worked in a new team, and acquired a good understanding of what archaeology involves.” (AW)
ACA would like to thank the students and staff of all the schools involved, the supervisors and the residents of Hindringham for making this another successful HEFA. Special thanks go to Simon for organising the pits and to Jo Stone for coordinating the students and staff.