The penultimate HEFA of the 2015 season took place 8th – 10th July in Riseley, Bedfordshire. A total of 37 Year 9 & 10 students from Sharnbrook Upper School, Hastingsbury Business and Enterprise College, Stratton Upper School, and St Thomas More Catholic Teaching School excavated 10 archaeological test pits throughout the village. Members of the Riseley Historical Society also excavated a test-pit. The pits were dispersed throughout the village and were located on Rotten Row, Gold Street and the High Street.
The test pits were organised by Michael Stubbert of the Riseley Historical Society and the beacon school coordinator was Radha Randhawa from Sharnbrook Upper School. The site for the two digging days was the Riseley Village Hall. This is the second year ACA have held a HEFA in Riseley; previous findings and reports can be found here.
The students worked in mixed-school groups of 3 or 4 and were supervised by sixth-form students from the schools involved.
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 Laure Bonner, ACA administrator, toured the test pits providing guidance on excavating and recording techniques as well as identifying finds. Paul Blinkhorn, pottery specialist, was also on site on Day 2 to help identify finds and date pottery sherds. We were also joined both days by Nina O’Hare, archaeological intern from the HLf-funded Touching the Tide project.
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 have gained knowledge and insight about archaeological finds from experts – I may study archaeology in the future!” (BT) The finalised pottery report can be found here.
This year provided the first evidence of the Early Anglo Saxon settlement with a sherd of 5th-7th century pottery. This came from the community-dug test pit on Gold Street. In 2014, the same garden produced Late Saxon pottery and a probable medieval wall. This year, further Late Saxon pottery was discovered along the High Street indicating that perhaps the original Saxon settlement was located to the south of the current church, and in the later Anglo-Saxon period moved further to the southeast.
Lots of interesting finds came from this year’s HEFA. Test Pit 8 on the High Street uncovered a Victorian rubbish pit which contained not only loads of tile, but glass bottles, a porcelain bell, a pendulum etc.; a very interesting collection of Victoriana!
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. Carenza’s lecture on the CORS project was commented on afterwards: “I enjoyed gaining knowledge on previous settlements and the way in which they have developed in the UK.” (RA)
HEFA students also had the opportunity to tour around and have lunch at one of the colleges here at Cambridge: Peterhouse, Robinson, Pembroke and Emmanuel. Students always enjoy this opportunity and specifically commented in feedback, “I enjoyed having the tour of the university to find out a bit more about what uni life is like, especially at Cambridge, from someone with first-hand experience.” (FH)
After lunch, Dr Sam Lucy, admissions officer for Newnham College, gave a presentation about life at university, the University of Cambridge and future choices. Comments afterwards included, “I now understand what A-Levels to take and why to take them.” (JP) and “I’ve gained lots of information about university life and things to consider when applying to university.” (FH)
This was followed by a presentation on how to structure and present a written account of the excavation by Dr Jenni French, Research Fellow at Peterhouse. The mark scheme and additional information about the written assignment can be found here.
In feedback after the HEFA, 95% of participants rated the event as “Excellent” or “Good”. General comments in feedback from the students included, “I was not expecting to have so much independence when it came to digging the pit and this made the experience all the more enjoyable.” (BT), “The people were lovely, the instructions were clear, good fun!!” (RH) and “I enjoyed doing something new and different and creating for myself a new experience and using my creative thinking skills to guess what objects were.” (BG). Staff commented, “Excellent outreach programme to open eyes of prospective university students.” (BW) and “The students have gained not only transferable skills, but have been enlightened about the high expectations and demands of Cambridge University.” (IM)
ACA would like to thank the students and staff of all the schools involved, the supervisors and the residents of Riseley for making this another successful HEFA. Special thanks go to Michael for organising the pits and to Radha for coordinating the students and staff.