Council of British Archaeology

Bagging Up Some Fun!

This year I am not away in the field for Day of Archaeology – I am at home – packing my bags!!

With so much of the world’s heritage being destroyed through accidents, deliberate destruction, and even war, I feel it is important that we engage the youth of the world in the importance of history and archaeology, in order to protect its future.

So much valuable time is spent on technology and this is a great way to spread the word of protecting our past. However, we also need to encourage people to get outside and to actively become members and ambassadors of organizations that protect our heritage and for youngsters in the UK this would be through the Council of British Archaeology  and their YAC! programme (The Young Archaeologist Club).

Racking my brains and figuring out how best to encourage the younger generation to become involved, I designed a Young Archaeologist Kit which includes everything a Young Archaeologist will need to understand some of the processes used by professionals.

The kit does not encourage youngsters to go dig up their local park. It comes with a parents instruction booklet on how to plan and undertake a dig in their own back yard. It also has a booklet on what all of the tools included are used for, how to use them, plus a glossary at the end.

To assist youngsters in understanding the world of archaeology I have also created a blog called The Young Archaeologist, where each week a new question is answered, an archaeological find is looked at and we visit a site from around the world. There are so many amazing and incredible sites that are unique, amazing, and that people need to know about.

Getting involved locally, and nationally where possible, is a valuable aspect of promoting the future of our heritage. History being taught at school is just the beginning. A seed can be planted in young minds that encourages them to find out more about their local history, and to visit their museum or library to undertake further research; to understand the importance of such institutions and what they can offer a community, and why we need to make sure they continue to operate.

To be able to physically see artefacts that come from their village or town, and understand the meaning they represent in understanding the past is of huge importance. The sharing of ideas centered around local history and being able to take part in re-enactment societies gives a much greater understanding of the past as well as sharing valuable knowledge and ideas.

To learn about and to interact with the past through archaeology and history is like travelling back in time. Discovering how our ancestors lived, loved, worked, played and existed in a world so very much different than it is today. Encouraging youth to become part of this exciting adventure can open up their imaginations and finding ways on how to better protect our past so it does indeed have a future!

A visit behind the wire at Caerwent Military Base

Hello! My name is Ffion Reynolds and I’m the Council of British Archaeology’s Community Archaeologist – placed at Cadw, which is the historic environment service for the Welsh Government. My post is part of a project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and you can find out more about it here.

Usually, I’m a Neolithic specialist; working with the Council for British Archaeology and Cadw, however, I find myself travelling from one period to another. One minute, I’m exploring community projects about Neolithic archaeology; the next I’m organising medieval open days for the Festival of British Archaeology.

My activities this weekend will take me even further from my period of specialism, as I take 160 visitors to a twentieth-century military base, otherwise known as the Caerwent Training Area. Accompanying me and sharing their knowledge on the tour will be Jonathan Berry (Regional Inspector of South-east Wales), Medwyn Parry (Royal Commission Ancient and Historical Monuments Wales) and Don Waring (Caerwent Historian). This will take place on Sunday the 31st of July as part of the Festival of British Archaeology: the last day of the festival for this year.

As this is the Day of Archaeology, I thought I’d flag it up here, as it would be great to share this experience with you over the weekend – especially since military sites are pretty strange and interesting places.

Caerwent Military Base is a huge site, the location of a former propellant factory and munitions dump. Within the wire (or the boundaries of the MOD Training Area) there are 414 original buildings, built and used between 1938 and 1942. Later developments include the rocket manufacturing plant, within the former Royal Naval Propellant Factory; and 64 American magazines – places in which ammunition was stored. In addition, there are 75 air raid shelters, and most are still intact.

Since the departure of the Americans in 1993, the site has become a troop training area, as well as an explosives demolition practice area, which is limited to a few structures. These days, a number of buildings are used by visiting troops for training purposes, and also by civilian companies as storage.

Recently twentieth century military sites have been recognised as an important element of our heritage and, as such, we’re hoping to set up more community projects at the site….

…so I’ll be back on Sunday with more about how the tour went!