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Cottenham 2009 Community Dig

The first test pit excavations funded by the University of Cambridge 800th  (UC800) anniversary fund specifically for community excavations, took place over a weekend during the middle of May in 2009, where members of the Fen Edge Archaeology Group (FEAG), with local residents and the support of ACA, excavated 9 test pits that were spread over the south Cambridgeshire village of Cottenham.

The weekend started with a brief introduction talk in Cottenham VIillage College on how to dig the test pit, before volunteers were divided into groups and assigned test pit sites, mainly in people's gardens with one test pit sited in Cottenham Primary School.

The UC800 Digs brought the number of test pits dug in Cottenham in 2009 to a total of 17. The most impressive discovery was in the centre of the present village (nearly 1km away from the church!), where a pagan Anglo-Saxon settlement was founded in the 6th century AD which has continued in existence ever since. This is unusual, as early Anglo-Saxon settlements were mostly short-lived and shifted site every few generations. One piece of pottery also provides an enigmatic hint of a pagan Anglo-Saxon cemetery near the later church! Cottenham expanded hugely from its early core in the 11th – 14th centuries (the era of the foundation of the university), but contracted severely in the 14th century, probably at least partly because of the Black Death. It bounced back, however, from the 16th century to become the busy place it is today.

As part of the UC800 digs, the Naked Scientists, a group of physicians and scientists from Cambridge University, visited the community dig in Cottenham, talking to both the volunteer diggers and the ACA team.

Feedback

Some quotes from volunteers who dug over the weekend:

"It's good to get out and educate yourself and your children and to meet new people." (PD, a resident of Cottenham).

"Fantastic experience for kids. A good day of fun." (TL, a resident of Cottenham).

 

Excavation Project Report