Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Medieval Christmas Shopping - well nearly!

SAW made a special visit to the Moot Hall in Elstow on Saturday 15th December and were made very welcome by Gary Mudd, Assistant Curator, who gave us a short but fact-filled talk on the history of the building. The Moot Hall has stood on this spot for since the 15th century from its origins as part of the original Elstow Abbey, its associations with John Bunyan, (who at one time rang the Abbey bells), to becoming a medieval 'shopping mall'.

One of the building construction joints
identified by the children.

A carpenter's mark on one of the beams,
indicating the top side of the constructed
section, from which we can deduce
something of hoe the building was made.

Mark showed us how to look at the block-work
in this end wall of the Abbey Church, to help
identify that this wall was built after the original
Norman building was constructed.

In the Moot Hall the children learnt how to measure and record an old building and spent time examining the construction of the timber frames, trying to identify the joints and find the carpenters' marks.

Inside the Abbey Church Mark Philips pointed out differences in the stone construction and decoration that the children could use to help understand the age of an English church.

Many thanks to Clive Arnold and Gary Mudd of the Moot Hall Museum and the Rector Jeremy Crocker, for letting us explore these fascinating buildings.

We thought we might come back in warmer weather for a picnic!

Less Holmes and Watson, more Clouseau and the Laughing Policeman

On a very wet sodden day in November, SAW members used their powers of observation and detection to attempt to locate and record evidence of a simulated discovered dead body. Plastic skeletons had been laid out complete with shoes, items of clothing and personal items and the groups were taught how to deal with the scene.

The team leader collates the evidence.
Managing the evidence.

Marking and numbering the evidence.
The session leader taught the children about the procedure for treating the evidence field and undertsand how to respect the evidence and the treat it as if it were real so that someone had died.

Second team evidence photograph. 
Second team leader completing his records. 

Though very excited about what they thought they might find, the children treated the activity itself very seriously, although the chain of command was a little ropey in the first team! The second team, though generally more respectful of the operations strategy, did rather exceed their remit and managed to collect a substantial amount of 'evidence' that subsequently turned out to be litter! (The park rangers were pleased!)

First team evidence photograph.
The weather did get the better of us in the end and we trooped back to the warm with all the evidence and some rather 'leafy' skeletons. The session was a great success with the children and was oversubscribed, so we'll definitely do a similar activity in the future. We had a great deal of volunteer assistance, for which we are very grateful and a big 'Thank You' goes to W.S. for organising it all.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

What are those children doing in that graveyard...?!

Only good things, I promise!

This was the essence of the conversation that took place on a bus which passed by St Mary's Church in Bedford on Saturday 20th October. Fortunately a well-informed traveller was able to reassure her fellow passengers that they shouldn't worry, the children were engaged in a legitimate activity, in fact they were recording the gravestones for posterity!

Our chief advocate trumpeted the glories of Saturday Archaeology Workshops from the last four years to such an extent, that by the time they reached the bus station, the whole top deck knew all about SAW!

Recording the memorials for posterity.

This was the second phase of the St Mary's Church graveyard memorial survey, so far we have completed about two thirds of the whole outdoor area, with the memorials inside the church to record as well. When completed, the results will be kept  by Albion Archaeology as the official record of the state of the memorials in 2011-12.

So don't be alarmed if you see children with fluorescent vests saying 'SAW' hanging around in graveyards, they're just preserving history!

For more news on what SAW as been up to in the last year go to our Gallery and for a sneak peek of what's coming up in 2013, go to our News page.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Charlie, Oliver and the Romans!

Thanks to Mid-Nene Archaeological Group, a few young people from SAW got the chance to spend a day an excavation at a Roman site called Durobrivae, near Peterborough this summer.

Here are Oliver and Charlie's thoughts:

The last two Saturdays have been fantastic. On the first Saturday I was excavating on a Roman road next to the Samian specialist Felicity Wild which was fantastic to talk to her about Samian Ware pottery which I am very interested in. There were three Samian specialists so I spent a lot of my time talking to them which was fascinating. I didn't find much though and the experience of digging the surface of the  road was very hard work. The earth was very dry and it eventually really hurt my wrists. I felt sorry for the archaeologists who had had to dig there all of those weeks. On the second Saturday I was trying to find the terminal end of a Roman Fort ditch. It was quite difficult to see the cut and was quite frustrating when we were told we had to keep on digging down. But what kept me going was all the finds. I found two pieces of Samian ( form 33 and 31) so the experts told me. I also found a piece of bronze sheet, no idea what it was though, I personally think/hope it was a piece of armor. I had an absolutely fantastic time, an experience I will never forget. Thank you to Hellen and all the organizers that helped. It was fantastic.


Picture 1 is my Roman Coin that i uncovered.
Picture 2 is a close up of the head of the coin.
Picture 3 is the tails side of the coin.
Picture 4 is me sifting through the soil.....hoping for another coin!
Picture 5 is the Roman bracelet my mum and I found in our area. It is a bronze ladies bracelet.
Picture 6 is the area beside the Roman road we excavated; they think it was an area of road that sunk which was then used as a rubbish area (maybe to build up the sunken hole).
Picture 7 and 8 John and me working on the fine detail of the hole.
Picture 9 was one of the bucket on bones that we took out; the teeth are horses, the big bone is cow. Alison a friend off my mums is an osteoarchaeologist and knows alot about bones!!
Picture 10 is the pig jaw that i uncovered.
Picture 11 is a picture of the west site; where the two bucket are in the picture is where we excavated.
It was very exciting to work on our own area and get some great finds
my finds number was number 100th find 40th coin and pit number 301.
103rd find 1st bracelet and pit number 301.
They might end up in a museum in Peterborough; they belong to English Heritage.
It was my first ever coin soo i was very very excited and pleased about it......
I was allowed on the last day to have a look at the spoils pile and were allowed to keep bits of pottery I found.
I found some Roman pottery. Just little bits show so much, rim shape, colours of glaze, different clays used, patterns they used for decoration.

Picture 1

Picture 2

Picture 3

Picture 4

Picture 5

Picture 6

Picture 8
Picture 7

Picture 10
Picture 9
Picture 11

Monday, August 6, 2012

Really Old Stones.

There's a bouncy 'Stonehenge', by artist Jeremy Deller, touring the UK at the moment, but John recently visited 'the real thing'! He said, "...it was really interesting, and quite cool to be near something 5000 years old! Here are some pictures I took for the blog."

What I want to know is, how it is currently thought they managed to transport the big blue Sarcen stones from Wales...?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

And now more Saxons...!

News from Silchester

Britain before the Romans - plates and olives - but still Romans built better roads it seems...:


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Digging the Dirt 2012 - Photos
Photos from our excavation at Priory Country Park, 28th & 29th July 2012.

This is the second year SAW has excavated this area, close to the site of a Roman building, as part of the Festival of British Archaeology. Members of the public were able to watch the diggers at work, find out about the reasons for the site selection and see the variety of finds.

Women mattock while men stand.

Revealing a dark deposit.

In addition to finding out about this particular site,visitors could choose to join a guided historical walk around Priory Country Park, led by the archaeologists.

Explaining the site to visitors.

What is it...?
Clearing the site.

Cutting sections through the dark layer.

Oh no! "Roman" plastic! 

Sections cut throughout the dark layer - well done!

Instant site-birthday-cake.

We found some Roman tile and pot.

Washing finds.

The finds-rich dark layer.

Recording the site features. 

Staring to check the levels.

Well done everyone who helped to make this event possible and thanks to all the diggers for their hard work.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

SAW is Digging the Dirt!

Priory Country Park, 28th & 29th July

This Saturday and Sunday, at Priory Country Park, Bedford, as part of the national Festival of British Archaeology organised by the Council for British Archaeology, Saturday Archaeology Workshops children will be extending their excavation close to the recorded site of Newnham Roman villa.

The event is open to the public to visit and runs from 10am to 4pm both days

In addition to the excavation, visitors to the Park can follow an historical guided walk to the Newnham Priory Park site, at 11.00am and 2.00pm both days.

For further information, please contact the Park Rangers on:

Come and see what we've found...! See the dig photos in the gallery. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Collection Point - Unleash your inner curator at the River Festival

Miniature wooden horse from The Higgins Collections

The River Festival is on the 21st and 22nd July 2012. At this years River Festival we would like your help to choose objects that will be going on display when the museum reopens in Spring 2013

One of the new displays in The Higgins is a very large display case that will hold objects that have been chosen to go on display by members of the public. The information labels will also have been written by those that have chosen the objects. We want people to unleash their inner curator.

We're getting the ball rolling by inviting people to choose the first objects to go on display in the Collection Point case at this year's River Festival.

We will be based close to Castle Mound, from 11 am until 5pm during the festival. Members of the public will have the opportunity to look through a shortlist of objects from the collection, choosing their favourites, some of which will go into the Collection Point case. Everyone who chooses an object will be encouraged to write a display label explaining their choice, to be shown alongside it.

We can't wait to see you there.

Full article:


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Greeks! Huh!

Archaeologists Don't Jump! (According to some!)

Sport & Olympics in Archaeology

In the spirit of this year of celebration and competition, this month SAW  participants not only absorbed the basics of the history of sports since the first Olympics, but also engaged in a little physical exercise as well!

We started everyone off with some simple 'Calisthenics', (meaning 'Greek' & 'strength'), otherwise known as 'warm-up' exercises. This aspect of 'archaeological research appealed to some SAW  participants more than others! 

The we experimented with various archaeologically evidenced games, such as 'Hobby-Horse Circus Maximus'...

Ben Hur rides again!

This horse missed his oats this morning!
This horse did have oats for breakfast!

Skittles, moving-target shooting and boules! It was edge-of-your-seat stuff!

The tension is mounting!

"You cannot be serious!"

Everyone displayed the best of sporting spirits and received a medal for taking part.

Saturday Archaeology Workshops now takes a break from its regular monthly sessions until September 2012, but you can see 'archaeology-in-action' and find out more about SAW , if you come along to see our excavations. 'Digging the Dirt', part of the Festival of British Archaeology, takes place on Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th July at Priory Country Park, Bedford.

To find out about this event and other festival activities in your area, pleas follow this link:

If you would like to learn more about SAW or take part in our sessions, please follow this link:

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Update on SAW  - March & April 2012

Marking Time in Bedford River Valley Park
In March SAW strode out into Bedford River Valley Park, through the mist and into sunshine, from Willington Dovecote to Priory Country Park along the cycle path (Route 55). Jeremy Oetgen of Albion Archaeology was our guide, helping us to examine the landscape for clues as to its ancient past.

Bedford River Valley Park

This recently-designated 2000 acre site to the east of Bedford, traversed by the course of the Victorian, Bedford to Cambridge railway and created largely by gravel quarrying hides a wealth of history. Excavations have revealed Bronze and Iron Age burial mounds, medieval remains and evidence for a Roman road.

Re-Making the Dead?
SAW have been busy in the last year, helping staff at The Higgins Art Gallery & Museum, Bedford to think about how they might re-create a display of an excavated Saxon burial. 

This exhibit will form part of the archaeology section of a gallery, currently known as 'The Collectors' Gallery'. The 'Collector's Gallery' is designed to highlight the breadth and diversity of The Higgins' collections and pose questions about collecting and collections.

We hope the burial display will help to explain and compare, how antiquarians used to discover about people who lived in the past and how archaeologists now help us to learn about the past through archaeology, through the things we find and the contexts in which artefacts occur. 

Prize - Surprise!
The Bronze Arts Award candidates have received their certificates - and they were a bit shocked, because they didn't know it was going to happen - sorry folks!  

Well done again!

That's the Ticket!
Roman Bath-house wall - Jewry Wall Museum

Last weekend, SAW travelled to (chilly), Leicester to visit the Roman remains and Jewry Wall Museum and had an fact-filled tour of historic Leicester by Peter Liddell, Community Archaeologist. Peter explained how successive excavations have revealed and continue to reveal, Leicester's settlement since the Bronze Age. 

The Guildhall - Leicester
   We saw how the centre of the city had 
   moved from the river towards the east but 
    that throughout history, Leicester or in Latin
   - "Ratae Coritanorum", had retained its 
   importance as a regional seat of power.

   Peter took us to the Guildhall where it is 
   thought Shakespeare might have played and
   he showed us Leicester Castle's Great Hall, 
   a hidden Norman building, - sadly we were
   not able to go inside this time, but I'm sure 
   we'll return to Leicester, as there's much, 
   much, more to see.

   Many thanks to Helen for arranging the visit, 
   and to Peter for showing us around.