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Take part in an archaeological dig

Leanne Hyland takes a look at some of this years archaeological excavations. Whether you're looking for a family day out or a chance to brush up on your skills, delve into the past with these exciting events

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Join an archaeological dig in the Lost City of Trellech, Wales

Once the largest urban centre in Medieval Wales, Trellech was equal in size to one quarter of 21st century London. The Trellech project welcomes people of all ages, backgrounds and skill levels to experience first hand archaeological excavation, helping to discover the secrets and workings of the medieval village. During the sites 5th annual excavation, a manor house complete with gardens and a well were uncovered. The quality of artefacts found among these structures suggest the buildings were once of great importance. The next step is to uncover the purpose and ownership of these items.

Open July 16th to August 14th, 10am – 4pm daily. No cost to take part but donations welcome. Refreshments and toilet facilities are available on site, with all specialist equipment provided. Team training offered at a fee. Contact: Stuart Wilson 01600 715938.

Try bronze casting at Flag Fen, Peterborough

This Bronze Age site is home to a ritual causeway, a ceremonial platform previously used as a place of worship by the Celtic fen community. Buried deep in the earth are thousands of timber planks along with swords and other precious personal items. Flag Fen’s family fun day will feature a range of exciting archaeological activities including log splitting, bronze casting, guided tours, Celtic re-enactors and creative cave art workshops for children. Further excavation of the site has led to the discovery of round houses, livestock farm heads, Neolithic enclosures, paired ditches and animal skeletons. The waterlogged nature of the fens mean they have been preserved in an excellent condition.

The event is free and runs on March 20th from 10am – 5pm. Free car parking is available on site with light refreshments provided. Contact: 01733 313414.

Search for swords and coins at Bamburgh Castle, Northumbria

Investigate the stunning Bamburgh Castle located between Hadrian’s Wall and the Antonine. Learn secrets from the castles amazing history and its environs from pre-history to the present day. Community volunteering at Bamburgh gives archaeology enthusiasts hands on experience and direct involvement with excavation. Artefacts discovered include pattern-wielded swords, the Bamburgh beast and styca coins relating to both the early and late Roman layers. The first defence of the castle has been unearthed in the form of trenches, as have areas of the Saxon industry such as metalworking, textile production and early mortar mixer equipment.

Volunteering sessions are free and open to all. Booking is essential; digs run between June 6th and July 31st. Dig for a day packages are available at £35 per person. Contact: Rachael Barnwell 07711 187 651.

Learn to process human remains in York

Explore Roman, Viking and Medieval remains on the central and eastern extents of York’s main excavation site. The dig provides keen archaeologists with the chance to develop key skills in recording, planning, finds processing and environmental sampling. Opportunities for additional training in waterlogged deposits, the excavation and processing of human remains and historical archaeology are available and taught by professional field archaeologists. Excavations in 2000 and 2002 revealed burials, structures and road surfaces dating back to the 3rd century AD.

Open April 4th to April 15th; prices vary depending on course length and structure. Taster sessions and week long courses are available. Contact: Jon Kenny 01904 663020.

Discover geophysics at Alton, Hampshire

From Winchester to London, the Roman Road has been surveyed as far as the Hogs Back near Farnham. The remains of a Roman field system have been indicated by numerous field boundaries found parallel and at right angles to the road. All ages and experience levels are welcome to lend a hand; an adult must accompany under 16’s. Training courses are available and modules consist of site layout, recording, excavation, surveying, finds processing, geophysics and new Roman Road methods. Last year’s excavations near Farnham revealed an ironstone roadway, terraces and religious features while Medstead’s site found the southern edge of a large ditch where the Roman Road ran in metalled lanes.

All excavations are held on bank holiday weekends between April and September. Membership and manuals are required at a cost of £16. Camping on site is available at £5 per person per night. Working hours are 9.30am – 5.30pm. Training exercises are offered at a price of £50. Refreshments and trowels not provided. Contact via website.

Unearth the secrets of Segedunum in South Shields

Close to the river Tyne and North Sea, this large-scale excavation ground lies within Hadrian’s Wall Heritage Site. Led by Paul Bidwell, Dr Nick Hodgson and Graeme Stobbs, this course is designed to improve understanding of the interaction between Europeans and ancient Romans. Planned activities and excursions will take place throughout the six-day event and are to include an introduction to fieldwork, research, excavation, and visits to Segedunum Roman Fort and Museum. The site surrounds Arbeia, a Roman fort overlooking the harbour from Lawe Top. Arbeia was one of the busiest supply depots in the northern Roman Empire. Teams at the site have excavated such items as jewellery, armour, ceramics and game pieces.

A minimum contribution of £495 is required to take part in this family event. The course runs from July 31st to August 5th. Meals and accommodation are not provided. Working times vary depending on excursions. Contact: Earthwatch on 01865 318831. 

Join the festivities in Yorkshire

With hundreds of events ranging from excavations, guided walks and illustrated talks to specialised workshops and behind-the-scenes tours, the Festival of British Archaeology presents endless opportunities to learn about local heritage and get involved in some archaeological action.

This years festival dates have been confirmed as Saturday 16th to Sunday 31st July. Events are held at a huge variety of venues. Contact via website.

Have a go at experimental archaeology in Cornwall

From the Mesolithic to the 17th century, Pagan swan feather and goat pits are just some of the unique discoveries made at Saveock Water. Learn excavation techniques in the field and dabble in experimental archaeology with talks and lectures each week. The south facing peat bank has seen Mesolithic dwelling platforms uncovered, as well as a Neolithic ritual area. Other finds include pottery, furnaces, flint tools and a hovel.

Dates run from April to August at a cost of £195 per week. £25 for lunches, or you can bring your own. Equipment is provided. Toilet facilities and internet access are also available. Contact: Jacqui Wood 01872 560351.

Work as a team on Insula IX, Hampshire

Originally surrounded by the woods of the Atrebates, the Parish of Silchester lies in the north of Hampshire between Reading and Basingstoke. The large Roman town, also known as Calleva Atrebatum, was abandoned for some time yet its defensive walls still stand. Join in with the 15th season of work on the Insula IX this summer. Help trace the sites development and origins before the Roman conquest to the 5th century AD when it faced abandonment. Groups will be introduced to basic excavation techniques and recording systems used on site. Activities will promote teamwork, understanding and communication skills. Iron Age and early Roman occupation has been suggested through the discovery of an amphitheatre and forum basilica, with huge expectations of other incredible finds in the future.

Open from July 4th to August 14th at a cost of £250 for six days on site. Hours are 9am – 5pm every day. Ages 16+ welcome. No previous fieldwork experience required. Food is provided and toilet facilities are available on site. Contact via website.

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