ACA’s annual thank-you day event

On Saturday ACA welcomed over 50 guests to the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research on the Downing Site in Cambridge for our annual thank-you day event, to celebrate and review our past years achievements and to thank all the local coordinators and volunteers who support our ongoing work both within schools and the wider community.

The morning session was led by Alison Dickens, both manager at ACA and a project manager at the Cambridge Archaeological Unit (CAU), in which we reviewed our 2016 field schools in 14 villages across East Anglia as well as in Lincolnshire and Hampshire and briefly talked about the archaeological results for each settlement.

2016 HEFA locations in red


A round up slide of the HEFA excavation in Sawtry 2016

The talk also included some examples of the reports that the students submit after the dig, which are then graded by us and the participants then not only receive a grade for their written work but also an overall mark for their participation over the full three days (the first two days are digging in a village and on the third day the students visit the University of Cambridge and have lunch in one of the colleges).

Feedback from these excavations is almost always rated as good or excellent, some quotes from 2016 students that were shown on Saturday can be seen below.

I especially enjoyed how independent the process was in a close group.”(TP BLO/16)

“The lectures were good and taught us to a level we are not used to. The information I have learnt will be invaluable to the writing of the report.” (TM BLO/16).

 “I feel I have gained courage and communication skills.” (LB SOU/16)

“I think this has been very helpful for my plans for the future and also very influential. Thank you!” (SE HAD/16).

“I enjoyed learning more information about the university. Also, I like that any questions we has could be answered by students and we were treated as students.” (KH RIS/16)

“Day Three at Cambridge was incredibly valuable. The experience confirmed my every aspiration and expectation!” (ZC NWA/16)

“I felt that this was a great experience and has been very beneficial for me. I felt that the staff from HEFA or ACA have been very helpful in terms of making information very accessible to everyone.” (PG NWA/16).

“I really enjoyed doing something practical, because in school we just learn from books.” (EP-R ERU/16)

“[I enjoyed being] Given responsibility of working with equipment safely and being treated like and adult.”  (RGD CLV/16)

The morning session was rounded off by brief introduction by Emily Ryley about ACA’s new Cambridge Archaeology Learning Foundation (CALF) primary school days in which ACA go into primary schools, teaching pupils age 7-11, to gain an understanding of how we discover the past through a range of hands-on activities with real artefacts. Our guests then enjoyed a buffet lunch with time to mingle and chat with the ACA team as well as other local coordinators past and present.

Pupils learning on ACA’s new CALF day

After lunch, the afternoon session focused on ACA’s community work from 2016 and included the archaeological test pitting in Snape with Touching the Tide, and ACA’s joint projects with the CAU that included the excavation of five test pits at Jesus College, Cambridge as part of an archaeology summer school for prospective Cambridge undergraduate students that was funded by St Johns College, Cambridge. The largest of ACA’s projects in 2016 was the two week commuity led excavation at Peterborough Cathedral. The dig was part of the Cathedral’s ‘Peterborough 900: Letting it speak for itself’ project which had been awarded money from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) as part of these 900th anniversary celebrations of the cathedral in 2018. This will also include the construction of a new Heritage Centre at the cathedral which from March this year will also house a number of finds from the excavations.

Aerial view of Peterborough Cathedral with the excavation area outlined in red

The post-excavation work at Peterborough Cathedral is still on-going, but Alison was able to touch upon some of the results so far, the intial blog for the excavation results can be seen here. A number of both local volunteers and primary school children were involved in the excavations in some way and the dig culminated in the Peterborough Hertiage Festival with nearly 1000 visitors to the site over one weekend!

The younger volunteers and school groups at Peterborough Cathedral

Feedback was again incredibly positive from the younger volunteers when asked ‘Why would you recommend this activity to others?’ and responded with:

“because it is fun and awesome”

“because you learn and come together”

“It’s something to do outside instead of TV screens”

“It’s an enjoyable way to learn about history of places”  

The day ended wtih us looking forward to 2017, particularly with the 15 field schools that are already scheduled to take place. ACA are changing the name of these from HEFA’s (the Higher Education Field Academy) to ILAFS for 2017 and beyond, which now stands for the Independent Learning Archaeology Field School and the upcoming community work that ACA will again aid the CAU in as part of the large excavations at Northstowe, to the north of Cambridge. More information about how to volunteer at Northstowe as well as the open days and potential test pitting in the neighbouring village of Longstanton will be available soon. Keep an eye on ACA’s blog, facebook and twitter pages to keep up to date with all our on-going activities!

The thank-you day though is really about all the local village coordinators, both past and present who support us tirelessly in making the test pitting field schools a reality each year and enabling us to continue to directly engage with around 500 secondary school students each year, boosting their confidence and aspirations towards higher education. So a very big thank you to all our coordinators, volunteers, beacon schools, all our visitors and to those we have worked with over the last year, it has been a great year for ACA and we look forward to working and seeing as many of you as possible again this coming year.


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