16 Jul 2022
by Anna Priest

Hi, I’m Anna, a young archaeologist from London, and up until a few months ago, I was expecting to take my A Levels and go to university. Of course, all that changed with the advent of Covid-19. I’ve been lucky, all things considered. My parents are able to work from home, my family have remained healthy and I think my A Level results should be okay! I was planning on spending the next couple of months revising for my exams and when they were over, I was off to Northumberland for 2 weeks to dig at Vindolanda for the 3rd year in a row. I was really looking forward to digging and helping them celebrate their 50th anniversary. Unfortunately, it became very apparent very quickly that this was not how this summer was going to go. I’ve since spent my time working through the reading lists, that my prospective university has sent out, and baking. I can now make a pretty good apple pie if I do say so myself!

Through the process of applying to university over the last year, I realised how much of my life has been centred around archaeology. While my friends were worrying about not having enough extracurricular activities to write about in their personal statements, I had to pick and choose what digs I’d been on to include, what pieces of work experience to leave out. A lot of this was due to my involvement with the Young Archaeologists Club. I’ve been a member of the Bexley YACsince 2013 and a young leader since 2018.

Being a young leader has been an amazing opportunity and has helped develop me as a person in ways that I could never have imagined. It’s given me opportunities that I never would have had the ability to access without YAC. My branch leader, Fran, plans incredible sessions designed to engage younger people with archaeology and the historic environment. We’ve done lots of different sessions over the years including: a building recording workshop with CITiZAN at Reculver in Kent, a day learning about prehistory with the Trust for Thanet Archaeology, and geophysics with the Kent Archaeological Society.

Because of the current situation, we haven’t been able to meet since March, where we usually meet about once a month, which is a real shame because Fran had put together a really interesting programme of events for the summer including a visit to Lesnes Abbey, an abbey founded by Sir Richard de Luci in 1178, possibly as penance for the murder of Thomas Beckett, working with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to record and clean war graves in Dartford and attend a careers talk from Wessex Archaeology. Fran works so hard to ensure that our sessions are interesting and enjoyable for our whole group, which ranges in age from 8 – 16, so it’s really frustrating that we haven’t been able to enjoy the fruits of her labour.

My favourite project that we’ve ever been involved in was the Home Front Legacy Project, in which we recorded a First World War hospital in Dartford. We were involved all the way through the project. From the preliminary investigation, learning how to use a microfiche to look through contemporary newspapers, to excavation and the production of a report. It was a really rewarding opportunity to be involved with a project from start to finish, something that I had never personally done before.

It’s disappointing that our YAC group cannot meet at the moment, because our members haven’t got a chance to gain the same kind of things that I got out of the YAC. Not only is it a chance for young people to meet other people interested in the same things as them, it also helps to develop new skills. Not just the ones that you’d expect from an archaeology group like excavation and recording, but also soft skills like teamwork and problem solving. As a young leader, my role has been to work with the other members of the branch to provide support and guidance in activities and challenges. Because of this, I was asked to join the YAC national steering group and I have an opportunity to influence the CBA’s policy for young people, which is really exciting and important. Its given me a real passion for community engagement with archaeology, especially young people.

I’ve wanted to be an archaeologist for about as long as I can remember, and although a global pandemic has been a bit of a hiccup, it hasn’t deterred me from pursuing my dream and I hope to confirm on the 13th of August that I will be going to study archaeology and anthropology at the University of Durham in the autumn.

If anyone has any questions, or just wants a bit of a chat, you can find me on Instagram, @annadigsarchaeology or Twitter, @annavpriest and I hope that you enjoy the rest the Festival of Archaeology!

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Anna Priest

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