Category Archives: Community Archaeology Events

Looking for loot in Leintwardine

1390944_10151790377237762_45851969_oOn Saturday 19th of archaeology I joined Peter Reavill (Finds Liason Officer for Shropshire and Herefordshire) and the Leintwardine History Society for a community project in the centre of Leintwardine that aimed to learn more about the varied history of this parish. The village of Leintwardine (Herefordshire) is a built upon the site of a Roman fort controling the crossing of the River Teme/Clun. Alot is known about the Roman history of the village but little is known about what happened after the Romans left. Therefore, the aim of the day was to try and find out as much about the history of the village from the artefactual assemblages as we could.

On friday afternoon I spent several hours creating a map of the village hat was nearly as big as I was, to mark locations of finds as they came in. Members of the Leintwardine Historical Society had delivered nearly 300 flyers around homes in the village asking them to collect any objects they could find on the surface in their gardens (as much of Leintwardine is a scheduled monument we didn’t want anyone digging holes without permission). We had a steady flow of people bringing things in throughout the day, including many bits of pottery, glass and metalwork of varying dates. Objects that were identified included mineral water1375340_10151790377492762_2014109046_o bottles made by the company that eventually became Tanners Wine Merchants, several sherds of Roman pottery, including a lovely piece of samian ware, a broken piece from a rotary quern stone that could easily be roman or medieval, and a post medieval marble motar. We even had a small socketed iron 1408047_10151790378177762_1858555565_oimplement brought in that looked like something out of a horro movie which Peter suggested may have been a homemade eel or fish spear. The highlight of the day however, was this fantastic piece of modern art which one occupant of the village had made by sticking all their garden finds to a rather large glass bottle or jar. 1395654_10151790377707762_1399738603_oOn here we identified some medieval pottery, 17th and 18th century slips wares, many pieces of clay pipe, some of which were decorated, and many sherds of victorian or later ceramics.  Some of the more interesting objects were recorded to be added to the Portable Antiquities Scheme database by Peter and myself, but everybody who bought something in was given details on all the objects they brought in, whether we recorded them or not.

This was a great day, and demonstrated how easy some community archaeology projects can be. We didn’t need any specialist equipment and all we needed was someone who had an idea about finds – Peter was perfect for this. I would certainly think about running similar projects abd would recommend the approach to local archaeology and history groups nationwide. I learnt a lot and hopefully so did everyboday else, a fantastic day all around.

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Inspiring the next generation

What feels like months, but was actually only a matter of weeks ago, I spent two days working with Year 4 pupils at Dothill primary school in Wellington. This was great fun and started me off down the road of working with the younger generation. Inspiring kids about archaeology is not always easy, a lot of time the work of an archaeologist can seem mundane and boring to a child, who essentially wants to dig a big hole and find lots of stuff. This is not always possible, I very rarely seem to dig a big hole anywhere and find lots of stuff. Furthermore, the safety aspect of allowing children onto archaeological sites can also limit their involvement. Sometimes its the safety of the archaeology which is in question, a colleague once told me how when showing a group of children a beautiful and delicate Roman bone pin, one child asked does it bend and then proceeded to break the pin into two pieces. However just because involving children with archaeology is not always plane sailing it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it, after all these are the archaeologists of the future.

Sometimes you just need to think outside the box a little. As part of the Festival of Can You Dig It? - Reconstruct the pot Archaeology we organised an event called ‘Can You Dig It?’ which allowed children of all ages to come and have a go at archaeology in a safe environment. We built a 8m x 2m trench and filled it full of rubber chippings (all very green as they were made from recycled shredded tyres) and then buried a selection of objects including pottery sherds, pieces of slag, keys, bone and even a massive lump of unprocessed clay. Each child was given a toolbox talk and then presented with a hard hat, a high viz vest, a pair of gloves, a bucket, a shovel and a trowel (all kiddy sized) and off they went to excavate our trench. After that they then had the opportunity to see what archaeologists do when they finish digging in the ‘finds processing’ area. Here they could have a go at washing, recording, catagorizing and even reconstructing finds. Although I have to say that I think it was the parents and grandparents that were most interested in reconstructing the broken pot, they were there well after the kids had lost interest! This event was really sucessful with what must have been over 100 people through the doors over the two days.

You don’t have to be restricted to indoor archaeology either. On Tuesday I spent the morning with the Little Acorns showing off what they have found Severn Gorge Countryside Trust family nature group, the Little Acorns. Our aim for the morning was to try and find some archaeology in both Dale Coppice and Lincoln Hill, following the paths known as the Sabbath Walks. Each child had a sheet on which they could record any structures, artefacts or ecofacts that they found along the way. The enthusiasm from the group was brilliant and I think I must have heard the phrase ‘I’ve found something’ so many times I lost count. We found bits of brick, tile, pottery and slag, we found animal bones and glass bottles, and we even found a bovril jar with must have dated as far back a c.1960! It was a great day and such a simple activity to do.

Here at IGMT, we’re just about to launch our new branch of the Young Archaeologists Club. From September we’ll be holding monthly meetings where we’ll be learning all about different periods of YAC taster history from the ancient egyptians to the industrial revolution. We’ll be playing games, making things and generally having fun, all whilst trying to educate and inspire kids between the ages of 8 and 16 all about archaeology. We can’t wait to get started and if any of the activities I’ve been involved with inspire just one child to go on to a career in archaeology or heritage then I can say I’ve done my job well

Festival of Archaeology 2013

So I’m eventually back from holiday after what was and exhausting but thoroughly enjoyable fortnight of the Festival of Archaeology. We had a range of events run throughout the festival including guided walks around Coalbrookdale and Jackfield/Coalport, have a go excavations for kids and the Caughley China recording drop in at Coalport China Museum. We even ran a taster session for the soon to be launched Ironbridge YACs, from which we’ve already got 15 or so names signed up. Below are a selection of photos from the events that took place.

Busy as an Archaeological Bee

Wow, what a week! Although with hindsight we may have gone a little overboard, the Festival of Archaeology here at Ironbridge has so far been a huge success. Starting with the Iron Trail last Tuesday, we’ve had a Caughley China recording drop in at Coalport China Museum (Wed 17th), and the mock excavation for kids, Can You Dig It? last Saturday (20th). Unfortunately we did have to cancel the historic cycle ride on Sunday (21st) due to a lack of bookings, but I am hoping that we will rerun that event later in the year. And of course the Ironbridge Archaeology Scavenger Hunt has been available from the Museum of Iron with a prize draw to win a years membership of the Ironbridge Young Archaeologists Club from September.

However, its not all over yet! This afternoon, we’ve got another guided walk around Jackfield and Coalport entitled ‘the ceramics trail’, we’ve got a taster session on Saturday afternoon for our soon to be launched Young Archaeologists Club, and then on Sunday we’re giving everybody another chance to come and take part in Can You Dig It?

Once it’s all over, I suppose I’ll have to start thinking about next year…..

Tomorrow is the big day

Tomorrow is the start of the Festival of Archaeology, with hundreds of events organised up and down the country. This annual event is organised by the Council for British Archaeology and is a great way for anyone interested in archaeology or local history to get involved as there are a huge range of activities including guided walks, workshops, excavation visits and hands on activities for children. Visit http://www.archaeologyfestival.org.uk/whatson for further details and to see whats on near you.

Here at Ironbridge we’ve got a number of events organised, a list of which can be found on the Community Archaeology Events page. Everyone is welcome to get involved, whether you’ve been digging as an amateur for some time, or you’ve often thought that archaeology looks to be an enjoyable and interesting past time but you never knew how to get involved. There is an event for everyone so make the most of this nice weather and go outdoors to experience the amazing archaeology this country has to offer.

The most important piece of equipment you’ll need is your pencil

On Saturday morning IGMT hosted the first of a series of educational workshops related to the field and profession of archaeology. This first workshop, ran by me, focused on the skills and techniques associated with archaeological illustration and drawing. The drawn record is an extremely important aspect of any archaeological project, and this workshop was put together to introduce the participants to drawing both site plans and sections, and the artefacts that they might find.

We started the day with artefact illustration, and after a short intorduction to the topic we started to have a go at drawing some artefacts including what looked to be an iron hedging bill, and a variety of ceramic vessels. The aim of the exercise was to create an accurate scale record of these artefacts, thinking about shape, size and texture, and not to produce a beautiful oil painting. This is probably the most important thing to remember about archaeological illustration, and sometimes the hardest to grasp. Any drawing, whether is be on site, or of an object, is a technical drawing, not a picture. As such it quite often means that if you’re not very good at art, you may well be good at archaeological drawing – lucky for me as I struggle to draw stickmen!!

Having drawn all our artefacts we moved our attention to site drawing, specifically how to draw both plans and section drawings to record the statigraphy and features on archaeological sites. This mean that we had to move outside, thankfully the sun was out so for once we got to draw in the dry – it always seems that when I have to do planning or section drawing on site, I have to do so in the pouring rain.

I really enjoyed running this workshop, and I hope that those who came along to it not only learnt something but enjoyed doing so. Going by the comments on the evaluation forms I think they did.

The next workshop is planned for the end of August and will focus on both archiving and conservation with archaeological collections. If you’re interested in coming alongbook you’re place with me via the contact page.

A fantastic turn out for the World War War and Blitz Hill was pretty good too.

I woke up Saturday morning and looked out of the window hoping that the weather man was wrong and that I would see bright sunny skies, but no, it would appear that Saturday 22nd June 2013 was a momentous day in the history of the world – it was the one day where the weather man got it right! It was raining – heavily!!

The wonderful thing about archaeologists is that no matter what the weather, we’ll always brave the elements and Saturday was not going to be an exception. We arrived at Coalbrookdale and by 10am we had 15 people and 1 dog ready to embark on this adventure whether the rain poured or the sun shone. Luckily as we set off on our walk the clouds started to depart and the sun guided our way.

We started at Coalbrookdale, the site of a munitions factory during the First World War and from there visited the Lancaster bomber wing shop and the Coalbrookdale War Memorial where I told the story of the tragic death of Maurice AA Darby, the great-great-great-grandson of Abraham Darby I, at the battle of Neuve Chapelle in March 1915. From there we visited the Ironbridge War Memorial and everyone heard the tale of when they Nazi’s nearly blew up the Iron Bridge. We also visited anti-tank defences in Jackfield, a Gun Emplacement or Pillbox at Coalport East station and the group were told about the various buildings used as Air Raid Shelters during the Second World War, including pub cellars, a drying kiln at Doughty Tile Works and the famous Tar Tunnel at Coalport. I’m not sure which of those I’d least like to have been in if there had been a direct hit!! I also told the story of local hero, George Gough, who on the night of 15th October 1940 risked his life to remove incendiary bombs from the roof of Gitchfield Tile Works, which during the war was being used at an ammunition store. If that place had gone up it would probably have taken the whole of Coalport with it, if not the entire Gorge! We finished our walk on the Jackfield and Coalport memorial bridge, the only war memorial I know of that is a bridge! It was a fantastic couple of hours, the rain stayed away and I think everyone, including Sally the dog, really enjoyed it.

After the end of the walk my day was not done however. From Jackfield I headed up to Blists’s Hill Victorian Town as that evening IGMT were going to create Blitz Hill. All evidence of Queen Victoria needed to be removed and so between 3pm and 6pm staff and volunteers at IGMT entered the time warp and Blist’s Hill was catapulted 40 years into the future to become 1941 Blitz Hill. We had the Home Guard on site training up recruits, there was also a concert which replicated the BBC’s Workers Playtime. We had so many visitors once the doors opened at 6pm the town was buzzing, and many of them had even made the effort to come fully dressed in 1940’s attire – including many of the staff! It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening!

Pictures will follow.