The Histon Independent Learning Archaeology Field School has been our largest ever field school! 49 pupils from 5 different schools squeezed themselves into the Stable room at St Andrew’s church Histon on Wednesday morning. Sohamn Village College, Ely College, Bottisham Village College, Witchford Village College and Cottenham Village College all brought a selection of keen students for the 3rd of our field schools this year.
The students listened attentively as Cat Collins, explained the process of excavating a test pit, and what the students could expect to get out of the experience. We’re keen for these three day to really tie together different areas of learning; taking real evidence and relating it to concepts as well as less definable skills such as lateral thinking, teamwork and perseverance. All are needed to learn independently at university and we try and highlight this in our morning talk.
After a quick fueling up on squash and biscuits, it was out to site to begin their test pit getting the first context out before the rain started. But even that didn’t dampen their spirits! As well as their teachers, volunteers from the Department of Archaeology at the University of Cambridge were helping out, guiding students and giving them the benefit of their archaeological knowledge and excavation skills. 4 test pits were located near the remains of the ancient St Etheldreda’s church which can be seen as mounds and platforms in the field. Nearby test pit revealed some medieval pottery, and a few animal bones, but no human remains. All the test pits in this area have been kept open by the Histon and Impington History Society to dig a little further and see if any other finds become apparent.
While this is the first year ACA have excavated in Histon, the Histon and Impington History Society have previously excavated 28 test pits themselves so we are well on our way to building up a large dataset for the area! Locations of this years test pit are available from our website. Other test pits throughout the east of Histon village revealed a brick-lined well (we quickly moved the test pit away) as well as other pottery, clay pipes, metal work and possible metal manufacture. As we are scattered throughout Histon, we will get a great picture of how old various parts of the village are. Keep an eye out on our website for the pottery report.
On Day 2 we had a visit from Cambridge News, who produced a lovely video and article about the excavations, highlighting how the experience allows pupils to develop new skills as well as learning in a different way. . Pupils were still full of energy after a full 2 days digging and at all times displayed amazing determination and an eagerness to participate and understand. A very well-deserved Thank -you goes to David Oates for doing such a great job, coordinating all the test pit locations, and convincing homeowners to give up their gardens for the cause of archaeology!
Back in Cambridge for the third day of the field school and although most of the students have seen Cambridge, and know of the university, this is the first time many of them get to experience it first hand, from a student’s perspective. The morning was taken up by a lecture looking at the study of settlements and guidance on writing their reports given by Eoin Parkinson. We ask all students on the field school to produce a written report, examining the evidence they discovered during excavation, together with other sources of information to evaluate the history of the Histon and see how human events and influences have changed the settlement over time. Writing the report also gives an excellent practice at writing coursework, developing those skills which they will rely on at A-level and university. At lunchtime the schools were hosted by Emmanuel and Pembroke Colleges who very kindly took on the unusually large group all by themselves! The group also filled the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in the afternoon. They were given an exercise relating to the points on settlement history discussed in the morning, and asked to use the museum’s collections to discover what they could learn about the settlements represented in the collections. This involved thinking about some of the same questions they had used to examine their own finds; where did the pottery come from, what could it tell us about trade links, what was the land used for, was it valuable land?
Rounding off the day was a talk from Anita Magee, Schools Liaison Officer at Emmanuel college, who spoke to the students about university, and the choices and the choices they have. We really hope that their experiences over the last three day will set them thinking about what they do now can set them up for the future, as well as equipping them with the skills to succeed. Skills and experiences highlighted by teachers included “getting a feel for university”, “an opportunity to be challenged beyond what they do in the classroom”.About their experiences students said: “I have gained the skills to be able to adapt to a new activity and be able to persevere.” (IA-C, Bottisham Village College).