800,000 years of human life beneath our feet

2013 Festival of Archaeology encourages public to get ‘hands on with history’


Burgess Park archaeology event c. Museum of London Archaeology

Burgess Park archaeology event c. Museum of London Archaeology

Residents and holidaymakers across the West Midlands can get hands on with history this July by taking part in around 30 free activities taking place in the region during the 23rd annual Festival of Archaeology, which kicks off the summer holidays from 13 – 28 July.

The world’s biggest celebration of archaeology, the festival includes events organised by The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry and English Heritage, as well as community groups and local archaeologists. Events range from the chance to take part in real archaeological digs to fun family activities, the festival covers a broad spectrum of activities, encouraging ‘archaeology for all.’

The festival is organised by UK-wide educational charity, the Council for British Archaeology, which this year launches with a clear message: in order to make the most of the UK’s unique and rich archaeological landscape, it is crucial to raise greater awareness of the general public’s role in archaeological discovery.

Dr. Mike Heyworth MBE, Director of the Council for British Archaeology, comments:  “In the current climate, it is more important than ever that members of the public understand how they can play a vital role in archaeology. The CBA was founded in 1944 with the mission of protecting heritage through community activism in a post-war era. Many things have changed since then – and the threats our heritage faces are different – but our mission remains the same.

Archaeology is key to understanding who we are as humans, where we have come from and where we might be going. Traces of that history are all around us, dating back almost 800,000 years to the first signs of early humans in the UK. But if that evidence is not properly looked out for, or its significance is not understood by the public, we risk losing it forever.”

TV presenter, historian and festival patron, Michael Wood comments: “History, they say, is the biggest leisure participation activity in the UK. Working with communities, groups and schools, I am struck everywhere by the huge energy and enthusiasm, deep knowledge and high level of skills – and the staggering amount of fresh insight and new knowledge. The Festival of Archaeology celebrates that passion and Britain’s riches. It gets people out of their armchairs, into the open, and experiencing history hands on through archaeology. What better way to understand the
past and our relation to it?”

The Festival is the world’s largest event focusing on archaeology, with almost 200,000 people taking part each year. The festival includes behind the scenes tours and guided walks, special exhibitions, excavations and workshops, re-enactments and finds identification days.

In the West Midlands, budding archaeologists can join a dig at Coventry’s Art Gallery & Museum (24 and 25 July). The event, which runs from 10am to 4pm each day, will reveal Coventry’s exciting archaeology and allow participants to handle finds, learn about the past and take along their own finds for identification by archaeologists.

On Saturday 27 July, Ironbridge Young Archaeology Club (YAC) will hold a ‘Taster Session’ from 1pm to 4pm at Telford’s Gorge Museum Trust on Coach Road. Youngsters aged between 8 and 16 can learn all about what YACs do, take part in a wide range of activities and sign up to join the club.

A Council for British Archaeology (CBA) Community Archaeologist will run free community events at the Telford Gorge Museum, Coach Road, from Saturday 13 July to Sunday 28 July. This year, Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust has been chosen as a host organisation for a CBA Community Archaeology Placement.

If you’ve ever wondered what the work of an archaeologists entails then Rob Hedge of Worcester Archive & Archaeology Service will tell you (24 July). He’ll be talking about digging on Time Team, which he was part of for the final series, as well as his current role encouraging and supporting community archaeology. The event will be held from 7pm to 8pm at The Hive, Sawmill Walk, Worcester.

Kenilworth Castle is the venue for a Grand Medieval Joust (13 and 14 July,11am to 5pm). Experience the pageantry of a medieval joust and enjoy the thrills and spills as you cheer on your favourite knight, and perhaps even meet him in person! There will be plenty of laughter with entertainment from our jester too. This full day out gives a great insight into life at the castle during the medieval period with music, dance, falconry displays and much more to be enjoyed by the whole family.

On Sunday 28 July, visitors can step back in time to the heyday of Weoley Castle, Birmingham. Witness Lord Dudley holding court and dispensing justice in the Great Hall, and meet cooks, herbal good wives, brewers and tinkers. Also, find out what progress our medieval tile maker is making on his commission from the Lords of Dudley for the floor of the Chapel, and try your hand at ancient crafts.

For further information on the Festival of Archaeology, 13-28 July, search the online event listing at www.archaeologyfestival.org.uk/whatson

For further details of this year’s ‘Knitted Archaeology’ competition please visit: www.archaeologyfestival.org.uk