Just over a year ago two of us decided to see if we could set up a community archaeology group. One of us is quite definitely not an archaeologist and one of us quite definitely is, although she has been known to deny it.
Others seemed to think it was a good idea as well, and we’ve finished up a year later with about ninety paid up members. This came as a bit of a shock, as we were expecting about twenty.
So, one year on, what have we done? Or to start with, what haven’t we done?
Well, we haven’t dug any holes. We were going to but it rained, so we went to the pub instead. (We did, but I’ll explain the real reason why later, and we definitely will be digging next year.)
So, what have we done? We’ve worked with the Norfolk and Suffolk Medieval Graffiti Projects recording the wealth of medieval and later (Adolf Hitler anyone?) graffiti in our churches. We’re helping the 8th in the East Project to record what’s left of the Second World War USAAF airbases in the Waveney Valley. We’ve run training courses on archival and digital research, standing buildings and GIS. We’ve had a good number of meetings with speakers on everything from pre-history to the Norwich Blitz and all stops in between. We’ve had tea and we’ve had custard creams, from McVitie’s through to Happy Shopper and all stops in between.
But most surprising of all, at least to us, we got an HLF grant for our First World War project, The Hidden Commemoration in the Waveney Valley (hiddencommemoration.org.uk) a four year project to find and record the overlooked, the informal and the more arcane memorials to the Great War in the parishes of the Waveney Valley. Because this is clearly now our major project we decided to postpone our digging project until next year.
We set the group up to be as informal as possible and we wanted to engage people of all abilities; all we wanted was a flicker of interest, and I think by and large we have succeeded.
We also wanted to make any findings and research publicly available and easily accessible to all, in language understandable by all. Having tried to read a number of archaeological papers, books and articles over the last year, I found some of them utterly incomprehensible, extremely heavy and full of extremely long words. I’m naming no names, but I’ll just add two words of my own. The first is ‘recondite’ and the second is ‘prolix’, which might be rhyming slang but isn’t.
Archaeology for Everyman. That about sums us up.