Opportunity to Excavate at Alconbury (Cambs)

SAWTRY HISTORY SOCIETY (SHS)

HILL TOP EXCAVATION, 30 NOV – 3 DEC 18 AND 7 – 10 DEC 18

Venue.

Hill Top, off Vinegar Hill, Alconbury Weston. Access will be via the gate as indicated on the map below:

20181128 SHS - Excavation - Attachment 1

Google Earth image of Hill Top and surrounding area relative to the village of Alconbury Weston, the area known as Alconbury Hill and the A1(M), with site entrance marked, and the service station at Junction 13 of the A14 opposite Alconbury Weald.

Participation.

  • SHS. The excavation will be open free to all members of SHS (as at 29 Nov 18).
  • JigSaw Affiliates. Participation is free to members of JigSaw affiliated groups/societies who have provided confirmation they are participating under their group/society insurance, otherwise they will be required to participate as SHS temporary members (see sub-para 2.c below).
  • SHS Temporary Members. Non-members of SHS or JigSaw affiliated groups/societies as at 29 Nov 18 are also welcome, but for insurance purposes, will be required to take out SHS temporary membership at a daily fee of £1.

 

Application.

Those wishing to participate are to complete the SHS Participation Application Form. Further details are contained in the application form.

 

Programme.

The daily routine will loosely follow the timings below:

Day & Date     Times             Activity

Friday              1230-1245       Arrival

30 Nov 18        1245-1300       Site Safety Induction

1300-1530       Site Activity

1530-1600       Clear Loose & Pack-Up

 

Saturday         0800-0830       Arrival

1 Dec 18          0830-0845       Site Safety Induction (for new arrivals)

0845-1015       Site Activity

1015-1045       Tea-Break

1045-1215       Site Activity

1215-1315       Lunch

1315-1530       Site Activity

1530-1600       Clear Loose & Pack-Up

Sunday            0800-0830       Arrival

2 Dec 18          0830-0845       Site Safety Induction (for new arrivals)

0845-1015       Site Activity

1015-1045       Tea-Break

1045-1215       Site Activity

1215-1315       Lunch

1315-1530       Site Activity

1530-1600       Clear Loose & Pack-Up

Monday           0800-0830       Arrival

3 Dec 18          0830-0845       Site Safety Induction (for new arrivals)

0845-1015       Site Activity/Recording

1015-1045       Tea-Break

1045-1215       Site Activity/Recording

1215-1315       Lunch

1315-1530       Site Activity

1530-1600       Clear Loose & Pack-Up

Friday              0800-0830       Arrival

7 Dec 18          0830-0845       Site Safety Induction (for new arrivals)

0845-1015       Site Activity

1015-1045       Tea-Break

1045-1215       Site Activity

1215-1315       Lunch

1315-1530       Site Activity

1530-1600       Clear Loose & Pack-Up

Saturday         0800-0830       Arrival

8 Dec 18          0830-0845       Site Safety Induction (for new arrivals)

0845-1015       Site Activity

1015-1045       Tea-Break

1045-1215       Site Activity

1215-1315       Lunch

1315-1530       Site Activity

1530-1600       Clear Loose & Pack-Up

Sunday            0800-0830       Arrival

9 Dec 18          0830-0845       Site Safety Induction (for new arrivals)

0845-1015       Site Activity

1015-1045       Tea-Break

1045-1215       Site Activity

1215-1315       Lunch

1315-1530       Site Activity

1530-1600       Clear Loose & Pack-Up

Monday           0800-0830       Arrival

10 Dec 18        0830-0845       Site Safety Induction (for new arrivals)

0845-1015       Site Activity/Recording

1015-1045       Tea-Break

1045-1215       Site Activity/Recording

1215-1315       Lunch

1315-1530       Site Activity

1530-1600       Clear Loose & Pack-Up

 

Open Day.

The site will be open to visitors throughout the duration of the excavation.

 

Welfare.

  • There are no on-site toilet facilities. The nearest public facilities are at the service station by Junction 13 on the A14 and Alconbury Weald.
  • Participants should bring their own food and drinks, or be prepared to purchase from nearby commercial outlets (Alconbury or Huntingdon). Participants, should also bring additional water or other drinks as excavation and other archaeological field work is physically demanding that, despite the time of year, requires regular re-hydration.
  • Participants should wear sturdy and comfortable outdoor clothing and footwear (walking boots, steel capped boots, Doctor Martens boots, wellington boots, etc). Layered clothing allows for personal comfort to be maintained as weather conditions change.  Waterproof jacket (with hood) and trousers should also be brought as excavation will continue during showers and light rain.
  • Participants may wish to bring other items for personal comfort, such as; small camping chair to sit on during breaks and lunch, kneeler or knee pads, gloves, hat, scarf.
  • Participants are responsible for bringing any medication they will need and for having an up-to-date tetanus inoculation (refer to your doctor or surgery nurse if in any doubt).

 

Archaeological Equipment.

All excavation, recording and finds processing equipment will be provided by SHS.  However, please feel free to bring your own equipment.

Insurance.

SHS insurance includes Public Liability and small personal accident cover.  JIGSAW affiliates participating under their group/society insurance are to provide confirmation of the Public Liability and small personal accident cover provided.  Those taking part who may wish to consider their own personal accident insurance should seek advice from an insurance company beforehand to ensure the correct type and level of insurance is purchased.

Excavation Strategy.

This is the first season of archaeological excavations on Hill Top, the aim of which is to test theories developed from analysis of recent geophysical and field walking surveys:

Evaluation Trench. A 15m x 2m evaluation trench will be opened on a north/south long axis in the site grid squares highlighted on Attachment 2.  The purpose of this evaluation is to:

  • Investigate the strong high resistance mass anomaly in site grid square D3.
  • Investigate the low resistance are to the immediate north of the high resistance anomaly.
  • Investigate the magnetometry anomaly indicative of a ditch that bounds the north edge of the high resistance mass.
  •  Determine any relationships between the anomalies through dating evidence, any truncations and assemblages.

 

Location.

20181128 SHS - Excavation - Attachment 2

Google Earth image showing Hill Top with site grid overlay and site grid squares +3-B into +3-A identified.

Opportunity to Dig at North West Cambridge (Eddington) with the Cambridge Archaeological Unit (CAU)

Following on from the success of the community excavations at Northstowe, another free community excavation is starting in September alongside archaeologists from the Cambridge Archaeological Unit (CAU) at the North West Cambridge Development, also known as Eddington.

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Masterplan
Masterplan for North West Cambridge © http://www.nwcambridge.co.uk

The community excavations at NW Cambridge will start on Monday 10th September 2018 at 9am and will run for two weeks until Friday 21st of September 2018. The dig will run Monday to Friday only and is open to all over the age of 14. If you are aged under 18 and would like to take part, please note that you must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

There is no limit on the number of days you can participate, and you will be working alongside professional archaeologists from the CAU as they start to excavate the next phase of works at NW Cambridge, close to Madingley Park and Ride, recorded as Site VII in the map below. The schedule for on-site work will be to arrive for 9am and the day will finish at 4pm. There will be a break for half an hour from 10.30am and an additional break for 45 minutes for lunch at 1pm. There is no opportunity to buy food on site, so please bring enough food/snacks, although there is a Sainsburys located in Eddington. Tea/coffee will be provided and there is fresh drinking water also available. It is advised that you should bring your own mug and water bottle.

Overall Map
North West Cambridge Archaeological Sites and Underlying Geology © CAU

Sensible clothing must be worn. Layers are advised with appropriate clothing that won’t matter if it gets dirty, with waterproofs, hat and sun cream as necessary. Please wear sturdy trainers or walking boots, any open toed shoes are not allowed and you may be turned away from site. If you have one, please also bring your own trowel. There is also a CAU risk assessment that you will be required to read and sign on your first day on site to make sure you adhere to the University of Cambridge’s and North West Cambridge’s Health and Safety regulation.

Roman Pits & Ditches
A selection of Roman pits and ditches previously excavated at NW Cambridge © CAU

Previous work here began in earnest during the winter of 2012-2013. The Cambridge Archaeological Unit as a dedicated web page to North West Cambridge that can be accessed here and contains all the results on the archaeological work so far, including a British Archaeology Magazine article from 2015.

The archaeology already identified here showed that the first permanent settlements dated mainly from the Middle Bronze Age (1500-1200 BC) onwards with significant Iron Age (700 BC – AD 50) and Roman settlements (AD 50-410). Some of the highlights so far include five separate cemeteries, two funerary monuments, two Roman roads, ring-ditch ‘circles’ and thousands of finds including some 30 cremation urns, 25 skeletons, a military spearhead and an array of brooches, plus quantities of slag attesting to significant iron-working. The 2018 excavations hope to build on what is already known  about the area and it is believed that Site VII is centered around a high status later Romano-British settlement, potentially even a villa, so the possibility for some more exciting archaeology could well be on the cards!

Roman Burials
Roman burials from NW Cambridge. Left: cremations and Right: inhumations © CAU

There will also be an open day on Saturday 15th of September for members of the public (including children) to visit, with exhibitions of some of the finds, information, activities for younger visitors and tours of the current areas of excavation. The last open day was back in March 2013, when it was also snowing! Hopefully this year the weather will be a bit kinder to us as it also ties in with Open Eddington, devised by the North West Cambridge Development where there will be over 25 free events showcasing Cambridge’s newest district of Eddington. The full brochure and programme of events can be downloaded off the Open Eddington website.

Open Day
The 2013 NW Cambridge Open Day © CAU

If you would like to participate in the dig or for further information, please contact Catherine Collins at ACA on either 01223 761519 or via email on access@arch.cam.ac.uk. Places are limited and as stated above, you can attend the dig for as many days as you like, but please let us know beforehand what days you would like to attend. If you just turn up on the day unannounced you may not be able to take part.

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Northstowe Community Excavations

For a total of five weeks at the end of June and into July 2018, a community archaeological excavation was undertaken, with volunteers given the opportunity to work alongside professional field archaeologists from the Cambridge Archaeological Unit (CAU) with their ongoing work on the Phase 2 archaeology, ahead of the new town construction of Northstowe.

DSC_2735
Volunteer site hut and looking NW across part of Phase 2

Just under 60 people signed up to take part in the dig, from 18 year old university students to retired individuals and it was the flexibility of the dig that appealed to a lot of the volunteers, as they were able to attend as many days as they wanted. Some of the volunteers are already living in Northstowe that was part of the Phase 1 excavations, as well as the surrounding villages and people coming from further afield. The timescale of the dig unfortunately coincided with one of hottest heatwaves since the summer of 1976, but everyone persevered (just with perhaps more water and shade breaks!)

The aims of the community excavations were to investigate an unexplored area of large open area site that was ahead of the of the commercial excavations currently being undertaken by CAU site staff and to give the volunteers the chance to learn all aspects of a commercial excavation, including excavation and recording techniques. Matt Wood and Heather Turner of the CAU led the community side of the excavation, but the volunteers were very much included into the site staff team with one volunteer commenting:  “Thank you for the friendly welcome. It was very relaxed and informative. The relaxed atmosphere rubbed off onto the other volunteers – all friendly and happy to share what they had found. There was a good team spirit. And great that I was able to come, even though I was only available for one day.”

The archaeology consisted of a Late Iron Age (from the 1st century BC) and Roman (mid 1st to mid 5th century AD) farmstead that appears to be connected to a much larger Late Iron Age and Roman settlement, which has been under excavation since October 2016. The core of this excavation focused on the farmstead, with volunteers excavating various features including boundary ditches, pits, trackway systems and internal ditches, many of which yielded an extensive array of artefacts, all of a domestic nature, although no structural evidence has yet been found in this area.

The majority of the finds recovered would have had a personal use to the people who lived here; both plain and decorated pottery fragments were found, with animal bone, a multitude of metal work, including coins with also bone hair pins. There was evidence for small scale butchery having taken place on site, but again this would have likely been for personal use.

The results so far suggest that the settlement was continuously occupied from the Late Iron Age, through to the Late Roman period. These original Iron Age people remained on this site, but became ‘Romanised’ and could have been some of the original Romano-British occupants of the area.

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The current plan of the archaeology at the focus of the community dig

The excavations are of course on-going (but the end of this phase is in sight!) so the full interpretation of the site and the finds are yet to come. The other half of the settlement (the blank area in the bottom of the plan above), is yet to be excavated but will hopefully come up for study next spring – watch this space!

Volunteers were asked to complete feedback forms at the end of their time on site and 99% of the volunteers rated their experience as either ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’. The most enjoyable aspects were recorded as working directly with CAU staff “Working with top class archaeologists and nice people”; “The 1 to 1 instructions with professional archaeologists and meeting other people who enjoy history/archaeology” and “Digging! Also learning from Matt and Heather who are very knowledgeable about this site and generally”. Other enjoyable aspects of the dig were recorded as finding the various artefacts as well as the independent work; “The allocation of features to dig that are individual, enabling a task to be completed through to the end, even when only the odd day on site can be managed”. Others stated they enjoyed “finding a brooch fragment, but also being part of the team”, “[I enjoyed] interpreting interesting ditches and features”, “Really everything, actual digging and learning a bit about the recording procedure” and “Being allowed to excavate alone/with people when needed and meeting like minded people”.

All the CAU staff involved in the dig would like to extend their gratitude to all the volunteers who took part in the excavations, whether it was for one day or twenty days. The contribution to the on-going archaeological investigations at Northstowe has been vital and we hope that all the volunteers both enjoyed their time on site, but also hope that they have gained more knowledge on archaeology as well.

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How can I get involved with archaeology?

Have you ever wanted to get more involved with history or archaeology? With spring just around the corner maybe its time to dust off those old boots and get out there!

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There are many ways to get involed, whatever your fitness level; take a look at our list of local history and archaeological societies in your area. If you want to go further afield, there are lists of national community digs on the Council for British Archaeology website, and the Past Horizons website. You can also search for the type of dig you may want to be involved in on the Current Archaeology website and there are other organisations such as Dig Ventures, The Dig Site, Archaeology Scotland, Archaeology Wales and  Archaeology Ireland, where you can learn more.

The Archaeological Institute of America also has fieldwork opportunites, take a look at their webiste here, as well as volunteer projects abroad, and there are even a range of volunteering projects you can be involved with in this country.

For the youngsters out there, there is the Young Archaeologists Club (YAC) for ages 8-16 to get hands on with digging as well as a range of other activities. See their website for more details and where your nearest branch is.

So get out there and make 2017 the year that you discover something new!

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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-locations
2016 HEFA locations in red

 

sawtry-2016
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.

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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.

cathedral-1
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!

cathedral-2
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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