For the last few years I have worked as a community archaeologist on a variety of projects. I have also just completed my PhD where I have created a model of best practice for community archaeology- coming to a publication near you soon!

Community archaeology- behind the scenes. #YourArchaeology with @landbonestone

Today I am office bound. My day has started by writing up records for a project I have been conducting for the South Dorset Ridgeway Landscape Partnership (Dorset AONB). Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, its objective is to engage with the local community about the archaeology of the landscape in which they live, whilst also conducting important research. We’ve called it #YourArchaeology because we want to ensure that the Historic Environment Record is relevant to those who live and work in the landscape.

Assessing the condition of strip lynchets and a quarry

I am working with local people to ‘ground-truth’ these records. Not only have we been condition assessing but also re-evaluating interpretations and discovering new sites. This has included adding types of sites that were not originally included, for example agricultural farm buildings. These are seen by local people as important landscape features but they are slowly disappearing and have not previously been recorded.

North Farm Barn; Not previously recorded in the Historic Environment Record

The team has also added rich detail to many records; for example, some sites have been dated because local participants can identify bricks made in the local brick factory. On other sites we have included folklore about their usage, and have even included some interpretations based upon dowsing results.

We had walked half way along this footpath before realising it was actually one in a series of terraces or lynchets which have become woodland. These were unknown to the historic environment record or to local people.

I also had the pleasure of speaking to a landowner this morning who is willing to allow a group of volunteers onto his land to record the details of a water meadow. Although the presence of a water meadow had been previously noted in the historic environment record, more detailed documentation will really enhance understanding of the site.

A sluice that feeds the water meadows. We are going to return to conduct a detailed survey of this feature and any others we can find.

My final job for the day has been to create a celebratory and thank you event for all the participants as #YourArchaeology comes to the end of this particular phase.

A brief visit to South Cadbury

Whilst working at Ham Hill in Somerset it would be a crime not to visit any of the other archaeology in the area so today I went on a brief visit with some of the students to South Cadbury. 

A cool site, very dramatic, as hillforts tend to be, and relativly easy to see and understand.  Its just pasture on top with some wooded areas on a limited area of the ramparts, making for good preservation and easy access. 

It is a shame that there is limited interpretation on site, with just one small scratched panel in the car park.   The local pub however have made us of this and have a small but good display all along one wall!  Heritage can bring in business!


Hamhill 2011

On this day, the 29th of July Cardiff University and the University of Cambridge are currently one week in to an excavation field season at Ham Hill hillfort.  This is in advance of quarrying by the Ham Hill Stone Company but is also an important training dig for the Cardiff Students.  It is a typical training dig in that we are all staying on site and living and working together for the 8 weeks of this year’s season of project. 

Around 7.30am students and staff alike begin to emerge from caravans and tents, making their way across the long dewy grass to the toilet block and large mess tent.  Breakfast is a generally quiet affair with everybody helping themselves.  The kettle is always on.

Boots, suncream and hats are then donned for work on site at 9.00am.  We are extremely lucky here in that our trip to site is only a two minute stroll! Camping on site has its disadvantages but also advantages!

Today we are digging test pits.  Overlying the archaeology is a soil deposit that we are trying to understand better by digging the test pits.  We are looking to see if there are any artefacts in it, which will hopefully tell us when it formed.  Everything is sieved.   Once this is complete we will remove the rest of this layer with a machine and will then be able to see and plan the archaeology (this will take more than a day though!).  Adam the site director is usually wandering around, sometimes talking to himself, planning the next stage of digging, but more often is joining in and helping to teach the students.  Andy, the Cardiff Supervisor, is watching our big yellow machine during the removal of the top soil.  This is one of the most important jobs on a site, if you take off too much soil you will remove the archaeology, if you don’t take off enough you won’t see the archaeology!  It can be quite stressful but he does get to see the archaeology first as it emerges from the ground. 

Lunch is a simple affair with bread, ham and cheese.   There are many different people on site; we have students and staff of different levels from Cardiff University.  A real mixture of backgrounds is making for interesting conversations!   Members of Cambridge Archaeological Unit are teaching the students, we have a machine and a truck driver and many members of the public that keep wandering over to see what we are up to.  The quarry manager has popped over to see how things are progressing and I’m sure we’ll get many other visitors. 

We are also processing our finds on site (well, close to site in a shed that the quarry have lent us).  This is also where the environmental processing will occur.  Selina is our finds manager for the site and has things running smoothly.  We have a finds bucket on site, where once bagged and labelled, finds are put.  She then collects these and with a couple of students spends the morning, tooth brush in hand, cleaning and then letting them dry before identifying them.  This can then be instantly fed back into our understanding of the site as we are excavating.  Our find of the day is the tip of a flint arrowhead/dagger.  It has yet to be identified properly.

Selina is also our site ‘mother’.  The group on duty for cooking dinner provide her with a list of ingredients so that they are ready prepared to cook for 25.  Looking forward to tonight’s tuna pasta J.

This project, although we are only a few days in is revealing some important things.   Archaeologically it is very exciting, digging on the top of a hillfort is cool, there’s no doubt about that.  We have already found some interesting artefacts and features but I think the most important things to have come out have been summarised by Joe, one of the students. 

‘I’d be a liar if I said the thought of excavation didn’t worry me. As someone who has never been on a dig- let alone camped before I had horrific expectations and ridiculous hopes.’

It was no secret that I looked forward to learning practical skills  the most, camping was definitely my biggest worry but the first thing I learnt was just get on with things – go with the flow.  I came to excavating a few days ago with no practical knowledge and already I’ve learnt about dumpy levels, sieving, and the importance of paperwork (yeah, you even escape it in a field…) I also learnt that the people you don’t talk to in class or never heard speak before will become the best people in the world when you live together for weeks.  But practical skills weren’t the only thing on my excavation wish list.  I wanted to (hopefully) find something- and here lies an important lesson: don’t get your hopes up and be patient instead.  You can work and work for hours on a test pit whilst it seems like the world and his dog are finding things but you’ll find the camaraderie makes the rewarding feeling a shared experience.  You are, after all, a team.  As of yet I’ve not found any of the interesting or significant things I wanted to find but there is still time and plenty of it, so I have to be patient. 

And the other thing I have learnt so far this week?  Getting messy is rewarding!’


Outreach on a Hillfort


My name is Hayley Roberts and I currently work as the Outreach Officer for Cambridge Archaeological Unit.  I am also studying for an MA part time, so my days are generally packed full of heritage and archaeology.  This summer I am working as the outreach officer for a commercial/research dig at Ham Hill Hillfort in Somerset.  We are working in advance of a quarry but also teaching Cardiff University Students.

On emerging from my caravan this morning to find it drizzling slightly and a few students hanging about eating breakfast I head for the showers to have a brief but refreshing wash (can’t spend too long or the waste tank will over flow).

First hour of the day is spent blogging, checking emails, uploading find of the day etc.  (There is no real day off for an outreach officer.)  Telling people about our work and keeping the local passers by updated should be the most important part of any excavation.  It is their heritage as much as ours.  This morning was an excellent example.  One of the diggers was up early having breakfast and came across Paddy Ashdown and chatted to him about our work over a cup of tea!  He lives locally and hopefully is now prepared to support archaeology a bit more.

Then I plan to head out into see the local country park and their little exhibition but I’ll keep you updated…