British

Archaeology

The voice of archaeology in Britain and beyond

Cover of British Archaeology 101

Issue 101

July / Aug 2008

Contents

news

Early Scottish gardens unturfed

Axes could be 0.5m years old

In the press

Listing lobby was no hot air

Kent Anglo-Saxon cemetery could be royal

Poetry to assist transfer of Hadrian's Wall collection

In Brief & Phase 2

features

The Copper Age
Special: did Britain have a fourth age?

Portable Antiquities
The Scheme must go on

Drawing Stonehenge
A major fieldwork project is explored by six artists

Severn estuary
Martin Bell describes the unique world of ancient mudflats

Gin Drinker's Line
Insights into WWII Hong Kong defence system

A Professional Mockery
Gary Lock on difficulties in obtaining "grey lierature"

on the web

Recommended websites
Caroline Wickham-Jones explores the realms of archaeological fiction and a look at Barwick-in-Elmet Historical Society's website

letters

your views and responses

CBA correspondent

Campaigns, comment and communications from the CBA
Mike Heyworth says it's time to think big – The CBA at Discover Archaeology LIVE, London Olympia

spoilheap

An exhibition to make you think (and a bog body)

Mick's travels & more travels

Mick Aston goes to Glamorgan in search of monasteries, and Jon Cannon tours south-east Wales

in view

New columnist Greg Bailey probes a coming major TV series – BBC's Bonekickers

my archaeology - NEW!

Neil MacGregor: The accidental archaeologist and new director of the British Museum

 

ISSN 1357-4442

Editor Mike Pitts

CBA correspondent

Mike Heyworth says it's time to think big

Over the May bank holiday weekend the CBA was involved for the second time with the National History Show, organised by Brand Events History and held in the Grand Hall at the Olympia exhibition centre in London.

Due to archaeology's popularity in the first show in May 2007 (when the CBA's Young Archaeologists' Club had a stall), alongside the main Who Do You Think You Are LIVE show relating to family history, the organisers also promoted (with Military History Live) Discover Archaeology LIVE. The CBA worked with themas their key partner for archaeology, and as a result we had a high profile, both in advance publicity and at the event itself.

Dumbing up

The most visible part of our presence was the CBA lecture theatre, which ran for all three days with speakers talking about a wide variety of exciting projects ("Thank you for dumbing up this show", said one member of the audience!). We were grateful to many eminent archaeologists who gave freely of their time to talk about their work in such an engaging and open way – literally open, as the "lecture theatre" was constructed in themiddle of the show floor with no side or back walls, so it did feel a little exposed!

Although seats were limited, there was plenty of standing room beyond the enclosure, and many presentations drew people craning their heads at some distance. Hopefully this will persuade the organisers that archaeology's contribution can expand considerably in future years: in fact some people clearly came to the show just to hear the archaeology lectures. These gave an amazing insight into many aspects of British archaeology with some really entertaining and informative presentations.

There was no doubt who was the public's star performer, as the numbers in the area of the lecture theatre when Tony Robinson was speaking were such that the organisers began to show concerns for public safety! But he was not alone in attracting significant attention. Time Team archaeologists Phil Harding and Raksha Dave brought large audiences, and presentations about Stonehenge (Mike Parker Pearson), Viking York (Richard Hall) and Sutton Hoo (Martin Carver) were all full to overflowing. But the real star of the show from the CBA's point of view was Julian Richards. He was present over the whole three days, and helped to chair the lecture presentations, as well as himself talking about Meet the Ancestors (three times!) and Blood of the Vikings.

Marsh Award winners

At the opening CBA theatre session, the public heard from the four short-listed projects in the first Marsh Archaeology Award. In the presence of Brian Marsh OBE, chairman of the Marsh Christian Trust which sponsors the award, each project gave a short presentation on their work to an appreciative audience which also included the CBA's president, Nick Merriman. Brian Marsh then revealed that he had been unable to decide between the finalists, and had very generously decided to double the prize money and split it equally between all four projects. A very appropriate and equitable solution which left everyone very happy, and each project £500 better off!

The winners were the Badsey Society for their enclosure map project (represented by Maureen Spinks), the Mellor Archaeological Trust for their work on the Mellor hilltop (represented by John and Ann Hearle), the North of Scotland Archaeological Society for their Glen Feshie project (represented by Meryl and Jim Marshall) and the Royton Local History Society for their Royton lives through the ages project (represented by Frances Stott and Pearl Malcolmson). Details of the projects and all the highly commended entries for the award, are available on the CBA's Community Archaeology Forum at www.britarch.ac.uk/caf.

Archaeology live

Around the CBA lecture theatre and very busy stall, were a number of other stalls and exhibitions relating to archaeology. These included university departments (Lampeter and UCL), the English Heritage National Monuments Record (NMR), the Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW), Andante Travels, Peter Sommer Travels and Current Publishing. The Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) had a significant presence, along with the Thames Mudlarks who had a large display of finds collected fromthe river's banks. Members of the public showed PAS staff and volunteers over 100 finds during the weekend, several of which merited recording and will be added to the PAS finds database (see www.finds.org.uk).

Future years

It remains to be seen whether this is the start of a major new annual archaeology event which will grow and grow. If this year archaeology was quite a small component of the overall show, it demonstrated that many people are just as fascinated by archaeology as they are with their own personal family history. Within a broader history-related event, archaeology was brought to a new audience. The CBA certainly benefited from this year's higher profile.

It would be nice to think that archaeology could even go it alone in the future, and organise its own show. This could encompass more hands-on archaeology (though health and safety issues often cause problems in this regard – as they did this year in preventing Phil Harding from a live demonstration of his expert flint-knapping skills, which he neatly side-stepped by showing a video!). In a bigger archaeology event, there could be room for local and national archaeological societies to promote their activities and membership; we could have archaeological publishers selling their books, and key authors on hand to personally sign copies for purchasers. We would also be able to show the diverse range of archaeological activity – which as CBA members know, is asmuch about the study of standing structures as it is the excavation of evidence of human activity in the ground.

The CBA is currently considering developing National Archaeology Week into a longer event with a wider range of activities right across England and Wales (Scotland has its own Scottish Archaeology Month each September).One option is to turn this into an annual Festival of British Archaeology, running over at least two weeks to bridge the school termand holiday weeks in late July/early August. If we are to get the public profile that archaeology deserves, then we need to think big. We would welcome ideas and suggestions from everyone involved in archaeology on ways to ensure that archaeology doesn't have to wait for yet another Indiana Jones film to come around to attract major public interest in archaeology (allegedly!).

Mike Heyworth is director of the CBA

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