Jigsaw

Clemency Cooper: Heritage, Society and Legacy

This time last year, I was still relatively new in my post as Community Archaeology Manager for Oxford Archaeology and renewing acquaintance with the many active community archaeology groups in Cambridgeshire. I’ve been charged with supporting the legacy of the Jigsaw Cambridgeshire project. It started as a five-year Heritage Lottery Funded project (2011-2016) by Oxford Archaeology East and Cambridgeshire County Council to assist local history and archaeological societies in historical research, excavation, artefact identification, recording, and much more. Since the end of the Heritage Lottery Funded term, we’ve continued to provide support to the societies affiliated to Jigsaw and maintained the resources bought and developed during the project.

In 2017, we’ve hosted 2 meetings of the community groups at Bar Hill, affiliated a new society, the Jigsaw website has been redesigned and relaunched, a new artefact identification guide on early prehistoric pottery has been added to the thirty-two existing Best Practice Users’ Guides already available, and the groups continue to undertake their own research and fieldwork, reporting on the results to Cambridgeshire HER and sharing their discoveries with others locally.

I was delighted to recognise a photo on Historic England South West’s Twitter feed yesterday showing the Warboys Archaeology Group. This was to launch Historic England’s latest report on ‘Heritage and Society’ which features Jigsaw on page 4 as a best practice case study for community archaeology. If there’s been one lasting legacy of the Jigsaw project, it has been the creation of a network of like-minded people who support one another, sharing skills, knowledge and resources.

HE South West tweet about the Heritage and Society 2017 report

Earlier in the week, I spent the morning in the village of Covington, on the western edge of the county bordering Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire. Two people who have been the driving force behind the Covington History Group are leaving the village this summer so I was there to meet a couple of the other members who are taking over the reins. It was an opportunity to introduce myself to them, learn about their vision for the group with a smaller membership and discuss what support they need. Starting with test pit excavations during the first year of Jigsaw in 2011, Covington have since undertaken fieldwalking, geophysical survey and excavation, hosting the Jigsaw training excavation for other volunteers in 2015. In 2014, they were awarded a Heritage Lottery Grant for their project ‘Looking back, moving forward: Learning and sharing through archaeology in Covington.’ As part of this project, the group had pottery identification training sessions and put together their own local reference collection including Prehistoric and Saxon pottery, Roman and Medieval. I particularly enjoyed the chance to see this fantastic resource and to walk around the village to see the sites the group have investigated in recent years. Covington History Group are a testament of what the enthusiasm and interest of a few individuals can achieve with guidance, training and resources from the professional heritage sector which, as the Heritage and Society report illustrates, can have an enormous impact on society as a whole. I’m very proud to say that I play a small part of that in Cambridgeshire in continuing the Jigsaw legacy.

Clemency Cooper is the Community Archaeology Manager for Oxford Archaeology, based at our East office in Cambridge. For more information about Oxford Archaeology and our work with community groups and schools, visit our website: https://oxfordarchaeology.com/community-training

Clemency Cooper: Joining the Community at Oxford Archaeology

Oxford Archaeology is a registered educational charity with a long history of instigating and participating in public archaeology, and I have a new role at the company as their Community Archaeology Manager – today marks the end of my seventh week! I’m based at OA’s East office in Bar Hill, just outside Cambridge. I’ve been liaising with my colleagues, and fellow communications ‘champions’, Ed in our South office and Adam in our North office, to coax and coerce our colleagues to join in with the Day of Archaeology. I think this is a great opportunity to capture the work that we do and share it online to give people a snapshot of what goes on behind-the-scenes at a national commercial archaeological unit like Oxford Archaeology. Charlotte, one of our illustrators at OAE, designed some very fetching posters to advertise the campaign in-house and you can read her Day of Archaeology blog post here. If you’re interested in learning more about archaeological illustration, make sure to check out the live tweets from the graphics department in our Oxford office today on our Twitter account here using the hastags #graphix #dayofarch

Close up of posters, mug and keyboard

Posters advertising the Day of Archaeology at Oxford Archaeology

In between the steady stream of emails today, I’ve been kept busy uploading the text and photos from the blog submissions I’ve received from my colleagues. I first started blogging five years ago and I think it’s a good medium for quick site updates and event promotion, interacting with readers and sharing content across different platforms.

Besides the blogging, I’ve also been making arrangements to loan out survey equipment to community groups in Cambridgeshire as part of the Heritage Lottery Funded project, Jigsaw. The Fen Edge Archaeology Group recently finished their geophysical survey, and the Covington History Group and the Warboys Archaeology Project are also conducting magnetometry and resistivity surveys during the next couple of weeks – harvesting permitting!

I’ve also been working on the deployment schedule for our volunteers for next few weeks. It’s really gratifying to be able to offer people the chance to take part in excavations alongside our field staff. We have some very enthusiastic and experienced volunteers who return year after year, as well as a steady of new volunteers interested in fulfilling a life-long ambition to take part in an archaeological dig, or looking to develop the skills and experience for a career in the field. In fact, one of our volunteers has just been accepted onto the Oxford Archaeology graduate trainee scheme and she came into the office for her induction today.

I hope you enjoy exploring the posts from Oxford Archaeology this year, and that they give you a taster of the different work going on across our offices. You can read them all here.

Clemency Cooper is the Community Archaeology Manager for Oxford Archaeology, based at their East office in Cambridge. For more information about Oxford Archaeology and our work with community groups and schools, visit our website: http://oxfordarchaeology.com/community

Bones without Barriers, Jigsaw, Pimms and Strawberries

conference poster

A busy week for outreach here at Oxford Archaeology East! I work on the Jigsaw Cambridgeshire community archaeology project linking up with local archaeology groups across the county and providing them with free training, equipment and advice (courtesy of HLF!). I also work on other outreach projects for the company.

Yesterday I was working on the Bones Without Barriers project – the outreach arm of the Oakington Anglo Saxon dig, of lady buried with cow fame! I was digging testpits with Trinity School Foxton, a special school with 25 students. We’ve been on a number of school trips together and this was the most engaged I’ve seen them – a really happy atmosphere as they enjoyed digging, sieving and washing finds. We dug a 1m testpit and uncovered a concrete wall foundation. We then extended the testpit widthways and to our surprise found another concrete wall foundation running parallel to the first one! It was sitting on top of a pit cut into natural and filled with Victorian rubbish – so maybe it was a Victorian loo! We need to do some documentary research to find out….

Today I’m loading the van, printing off name stickers, buying strawberries and making Pimms mixture for our annual Jigsaw Groups’ Summer Conference. Many of our 21 groups are bringing displays of their group’s recent archaeological research, and will be mingling, drinking Pimms, eating strawberries and admiring the archaeology-themed cake! This after a morning course on Testpitting, for which we have 35 people booked already. It’s great to be working on such a successful project which is engaging so many people across the county. www.jigsawcambs.org

On Monday we’re off to the British Archaeological Awards for which we’ve been shortlisted to the top three for the Best Community Engagement Archeology Project! We’re very excited, so will be cleaning the mud out of our fingernails and dusting off our best frocks for the occasion… Not many chances to dress up in community archaeology!