A Year as an Archaeologist

As we come to the end of 2012 we can look back on what proved to be a busy year within the world of Community Archaeology.

Throughout 2012 our Adult Education programme continued to grow at venues including Bolsover, Creswell, Alfreton, Chesterfield and Pleasley in Derbyshire and Southwell in Nottinghamshire.This programme saw non-accredited archaeology courses on a variety of topics, from the Archaeology of the Peak District through to Prehistoric Religion and The Vikings. Enrolment numbers also grew throughout the year – Chesterfield saw its highest enrolment in the five years it has been running, with 20 people attending the Prehistoric Religion course, and Bolsover was fully booked each term with a growing waiting list, so much so that we decided to run a second archaeology course at the Bolsover ACE centre. In January 2013, both of these (the new Beginners course and the existing Intermediate course) will run as numbers continue to grow. One of these courses saw a Community Evaluation of five Derbyshire museums, from an archaeological perspective, take place and provided feedback from a community perspective (this can be downloaded under the Publications tab).

 

We also ran an accredited course at the Bolsover ACE centre (LANTRA Level 2 Historic Landscapes) which saw 8 existing learners progress and successfully complete the module. This looked at the historic landscape of the Bolsover region, and comprised class-based lectures and practical sessions, case studies and field visits, including prehistoric caves, Iron Age hillforts and the Medieval defences at Bolsover. The course will run again in June 2013.

Family Learning sessions in 2012, funded through Derbyshire County Council, took the form of Young Archaeologists Club and provided sessions on the Romans and Vikings, Life in the Bronze Age and A Day as an Archaeologist. Over sixty children with their parents/carers took part. This is leading to a growing relationship with the local school at Bolsover, and plans for 2013 are looking at offering a more practical, hands-on project to be run over the summer.

 

March 2012 finally saw the new book on Creswell Crags published, and this was supported through a series of talks at local venues, attended by around 250-300 people. Beyond The Ice: Creswell Crags and its place in a wider European Context was published through the Oxford-based publishers Archaeopress to mixed reviews. Most critical were the two archaeologists who discovered Creswell’s cave art back in 2003 and who continue to write about the site themselves. The book was better received within the community, with the first print run selling out and subsequently a second print run is now available. 2012 also saw six archaeology reports published and a four page feature in the November/December issue of British Archaeology magazine.

On the theme of the community, January saw the Community Archaeology project based at Creswell Crags win an award for Best Volunteer Project in the Bolsover District for 2011, and we continued our work at Whitwell Woods surveying and planning two bank and ditch enclosure sites. One of these had been previously excavated and was known to be Roman, whilst the other was undated but thought to be Medieval in date. The Forestry Commission, who owns the woods, kindly allowed us to carry out test pit excavations on the site, and we discovered the enclosure seems to have its foundations as early as the Iron Age. Finds inclued one sherd of Iron Age pottery and a small stone ‘spindle whorl’ or weight, used for spinning. The report on this season of fieldwork is available under the ‘Publications’ section of the website.

A second Community Archaeology group was established towards the end of 2011 at Southwell, Nottinghamshire and this continued to develop throughout 2012. Regular class-based sessions are held for the group in order to provide introductory tasters of various archaeological topics and periods as well as field trips to local sites and beyond. Practical sessions were also developed that included test pit excavation training alongside the University of Nottingham’s ‘Southwell Peculiar’ research project. The University kindly funded workshop days including introduction sessions on Surveying, Finds Analysis and Dowsing in Archaeology. A project proposal and funding bid was developed in conjunction with the wider Southwell Archaeology community group and submitted to the Heritage Lottery’s All Our Stories stream. This was successful and funding was awarded for the project to commence, archaeologically, from January 2013. This will include training and fieldwork in surveying, drawing, geophysics, excavation and finds analysis.

Other practical projects saw a six month research project at Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire where we investigated the Old Duck Decoy, World War Two Camp and the site of the Medieval village known as Blingsby. Here, test pits revealed stone wall and floor foundations and both Late Saxon and Medieval pottery. We are currently looking at developing a wider excavation project in conjunction with the National Trust’s Regional Archaeologist.

 

 

 

 

 

Research is also underway at Elmton in Derbyshire, again looking for the Medieval village. Geophysics carried out towards the end of 2011 with the Creswell-based Community Archaeology group revealed traces of building foundations and a trackway, and test pit excavations around the village have revealed Late Saxon and Medieval pottery. Document and map research and a continuation of the test pits are planned as we move into 2013.

Finally, at the end of 2012 we undertook some surveying at the Deserted Medieval Village site at Backworth, near Whitley Bay, Northumbria. Archaeologist David Astbury is currently researchng the site through geophysics and GIS surveying and we are looking at comparing this work to Elmton in 2013.

From an outreach perspective a number of events and visits were undertaken in 2012. These included the Limestone Journeys project Celebration Event at Hardwick Hall in October, the Olympics Celebration event at Bolsover Castle, a visit to the Holy Trinity school in Southwell to talk to around 50 six and seven year olds about archaeology, Community Days at Elmton and Southwell and talks to around 12 Local History and Archaeology groups throughout Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. A Community Archaeology Newsletter was also trialled with the Southwell Archaeology group, as was a monthly ‘pub night’ in order to inform the wider community about what was going on.

In 2013 the Adult Education programme will continue at Bolsover, Chesterfield, Alfreton and Southwell and the Community Archaeology groups/projects will focus on Elmton (Creswell group) and the potential Iron Age hillfort at the Burgage (Southwell group), whilst the ‘What’s Under Your School?’ project will work with young children and their parents/carers to investigate a school at Bolsover. A research project looking at Early Bolsover (from prehistory through to the Medieval period) that began in 2012 will continue and aims to carry out active fieldwork in the town.

 

Archaeology talks are already pencilled in with a number of groups (see Current Projects tab) and these will be added to throughout the year, as well as Community Days in a similar vein to 2012.

New publications for 2013 include a study on the werewolf myth that looks at the historical and archaeological evidence as well as folklore, mythology and literature (The White Devil: the Werewolf in European Culture, Reaktion, London) and a field guide to archaeological sites in the Peak District that were investigated by the local antiquarian archaeologist Thomas Bateman (In the Footsteps of Thomas Bateman: a nineteenth century Derbyshire archaeologist, Albion Castle, Heanor). Supporting talks will be arranged for both.

In 2012 we have been pleased to work with (in no particular order) Derbyshire County Council, Workers’ Educational Association, Bright Ideas Nottingham, Albion Castle, Buxton Museum & Art Gallery, Derby Museum & Art Gallery, Bolsover CVP, Chesterfield Museum, Creswell Heritage Trust, Univeristy of Nottingham, University of Leicester, National Trust and Bolsover District Council.

Surveying at Backworth

 

 

MBArchaeology is currently working with archaeologist David Astbury who is researching the Deserted Medieval Village at Backworth, Northumbria. We have just surveyed one of the enclosure features at the site and further GIS surveying and geophysics is planned for early 2013.

 

We will be using the ongoing research at Backworth to carry out a comparitive study of Elmton, Derbyshire where a research project is focussing on the medieval village there.

 

 

In 2013, further geophysics, documentary research and excavation will be undertaken as look to discover more evidence for the early occupation at Elmton.

 

University of Nottingham Challenge Fund Award

SACG archaeological finds analysis July 2012

(Above) Archaeologist Matt Beresford of MBArchaeology examining artefacts with Southwell Archaeology group members during the Finds Analysis day

 

Between May and August 2012, MBArchaeology provided training days to Southwell Archaeology group in preparation for the larger Heritage Lottery Funded Burgage Earthworks project.

These training days were funded under The University of Nottingham’s Challenge Fund and included An Introduction to Surveying, An Introduction to Finds Analysis and An Introduction to Dowsing (joint led with Albion Castle).

A brief report on the three days can be viewed at: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/connectedcommunities/newsandevents/news/scag-challenge-fund-report.aspx

For more information on the new Burgage Earthworks project or to get involved visit www.burgageearthworks.wordpress.com