In 2010-11, Access Cambridge Archaeology (ACA), directed by Dr Carenza Lewis continued with its extensive programme of schools outreach activities alongside an expanding portfolio of community archaeological investigations. Catherine Ranson and Clemency Cooper continued their full-time involvement with ACA, with Jessica Rippengal (Department of Archaeology) and Sean Taylor (PhD student, Cambridge) providing occasional and part-time support for excavation and assessment. Alex Pryor (PhD candidate, University of Cambridge) provided additional office support as needed. Many graduate and undergraduate students were also involved as volunteers during fieldwork.
Funding from Aimhigher, English Heritage and the University of Cambridge in 2010-11 enabled more almost 500 school pupils to spend nearly 1,500 days on Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA) courses, carrying out 1m square archaeological ‘test pit’ excavations within currently occupied rural settlements (CORS). Settlements which were excavated for the first time during HEFAs in 2011 include Garboldisham (Norfolk) and Manuden (Essex). It is regrettable that Aimhigher ceased to exist in July 2011, but ACA plans to carry on the HEFA programme in 2012 and beyond, as its proven success in educating and inspiring young people shows the value that archaeology can bring to the wider community. On a similar theme, as awareness of ACA’s activity spread, we were asked to run several community-focussed test pit excavation programmes. Between April and August 2011 this involved ACA in HLF-funded excavations in the villages of Clare (Suffolk) and Mount Bures (Essex) as part of the Managing a Masterpiece project. In July 2011, filming for a second series of Michael Wood’s television series involved ACA in community excavations of more then 40 test pits in Long Melford in Suffolk. The series will be broadcast in 2012. Beginning in September 2011, ACA was involved with the Arts Council-funded Cultural Olympiad programme of cultural activities linked to the London 2012 Olympic Games. ACA is working with the Pacitti Company to deliver archaeological excavations within living communities as part of the ‘On Landguard Point’ project - a series of large-scale participatory, outdoor events exploring notions of home which take place across the Eastern region and will be the subject of a community feature film to be screened in 2012.
The number of test pits excavated under ACA’s supervision has now passed 1,000, building up a substantial corpus of information about the character, extent and value of the archaeological resource underlying modern villages and hamlets and illuminating the progress of settlement development over the last 1500 years. Research and development in collaboration with the Assessment Research Division (ARD) at Cambridge Assessment (that part of the University of Cambridge organisation which also owns the OCR exam board) has now reached the point where test pit excavation can now be carried out as part of syllabus study for GCSE History, thus providing a means for archaeology to enrich curriculum learning and boost examination attainment while also ensuring that the results of university research into historic settlements benefits audiences well beyond academia.
In August 2011 HLF-funded public excavations run by ACA on a medieval motte in Essex provided for the first time a definite date for the monument, showing it to be a construction not of the aftermath of the Norman Conquest but to have been built around a century later, probably during the civil war between King Stephen and Matilda from 1135-43 AD. Few excavations take place on such monuments, whose importance is indicated by their almost universal protection as Scheduled Ancient Monuments, and it is thus particularly useful to have both an accurate date and important new evidence about the way the site was constructed and used, probably as a lookout post and certainly not as a residential site.
ACA’s programme of ‘Discovery Day’ day-schools held in Cambridge aimed at 11-13-year-old school pupils expanded in 2010-11 with the support of the Cambridge Admissions Office to include a wider range of courses themed around aspects of archaeology, attended by nearly 200 academically very able teenagers.
Lewis, C. 2010. ‘Test pit excavation within currently occupied rural settlement in East Anglia – results of the HEFA CORS project in 2009’ in Medieval Settlement Research Group Annual Report vol 24, 43-58.
Lewis, C. 2010. ‘Exploring black holes: Recent investigations in currently occupied rural settlements in Eastern England’ in N. Higham (ed) The Landscape Archaeology of Anglo-Saxon England (Manchester Centre for Anglo-Saxon Studies Series) (Boydell and Brewer).