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.
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