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Garboldisham 2014 Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA)

last modified May 28, 2014 11:49 AM
ACA returned to Garboldisham, Norfolk, last week for a fourth year of test pit digging with local students as part of the University of Cambridge’s Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA) programme.


Ten test-pits were dug by 39 students from King Edward VI School, Hartismere School and Thetford Academy last week bringing the total number of archaeological test-pits dug in Garboldisham to 44.

A couple of test-pits were located on Church Road, including one in the far corner of the churchyard and another in the adjacent field, east of the church. Five test-pits were dug along Back Street, and one further north of the village near Garboldisham Hall. South of the A1066 between Thetford and Diss, there was a test-pit behind the village shop and post office and a pit in the hamlet of Smallworth. The sites were identified with help from Pauline Hinton of Garboldisham History Society. The field academy was based at the village hall for the first day but as the building was being used as a polling station on the second day, the base then moved to the parish church of St John the Baptist. Despite unpromising forecasts at the start of the week, the two days on site remained dry and bright.

Freelance archaeologist and finds specialist, John Newman, joined the HEFA on the second day as did Jessica Rippengal, faunal remains specialist from the University of Cambridge. On Back Street, test-pit 2 produced an unabraded sherd of possible Bronze Age pottery in an undistrubed context with burnt flint. Pupils from Garboldisham Church Primary School visited this site on both days (shown above) to follow the group's progress and were fascinated to see a cow metatarsal found in the pit. Another sherd of probable prehistoric pottery was also found along Back Street at test-pit 5, dating to the Iron Age (shown below), along with several large rim sherds of Romano-British pottery and a large quantity of pig, sheep and cattle bones suggestive of occupation nearby. A sherd of Saxo-Norman Thetford Ware was discovered in test-pit 7 near the church, adding to the cluster of Late Saxon pottery found in the north of the village so far. Test-pits 1, 2, 3, 4, 7 and 8 all produced High Medieval pottery but of these, it appears that only test-pit 3 found any Late Medieval pottery suggesting there was a dramatic decline and contraction of the village at this time. The full pottery report will be available on the Garboldisham webpage here soon.


A photographer and reporter from the Eastern Daily Press visited the excavations and an article about the HEFA featured in last Friday's edition of the newpaper, which you can read here. The on-line article also includes a gallery of photographs from the HEFA here.

The School Liaison Officer for Gonville & Caius College in Cambridge, and a recent graduate in Archaeology and Anthropology, Ingrid Hesselbo, also visited Garboldisham on Thursday to meet the participants and talk to them about Higher Education and their options for the future. Most of the students were in Year 9, with some already in Year 10, and they all spoke enthusiastically about choosing their GCSE subjects and were keen to learn more about how their current studies and interests would shape their opportunities at university. Afterwards, one student said that the field academy "made me think about and consider my future more" (EB) and another said "(I enjoyed) getting a better idea of how university works and how I would go about applying" (AD).

On the third day of the HEFA, the students had the chance to visit the University of Cambridge for themselves and learn about how the results of their excavations are contributing to new ideas about rural settlement change over time in an academic research project at one of the world's top universities. This opportunity was really appreciated by the students, one of whom said that she gained "a better idea of how... what we did helps people to find out and understand what has happened in the past and why we need to know this" (EW). The students also received lunch and a tour of one of three Cambridge's Colleges: Gonville & Caius, Magdalene and Trinity Hall.

In feedback after the Garboldisham HEFA, 95% of the participants rated the field academy as 'excellent' or 'good' and many of the students wrote additional comments thanking ACA for the opportunity: "I really enjoyed it. Thank you to the people who organised it" (EP); "It was very enjoyable. Thank you" (AB); "It was a great experience" (KW); "A fantastic 3 days. Very enriching and rewarding!" (WA). The students worked very well in mixed school teams and one of them wrote afterwards that he "really enjoyed meeting, getting to know, and socialising with new people" (JS).

After half term, ACA will be in Daws Heath (Essex) for the next Higher Education Field Academy.

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