Monday, December 16, 2013

Winter Greetings from SAW

The New Season of Saturday Archaeology Workshop Sessions is here:

Here you will also find details of how to Register and book places for SAW sessions.

2013 has been a busy year for all connected with The Higgins Bedford. Find out some of the things we've been doing on our News page:

Stuck for something to do over Christmas...? Have a go at our Quiz of 2013, in the Gallery page:

Wishing you all the very best  Christmas and for 2014.

From everyone at Saturday Archaeology Workshops. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

New Season SAW

Greetings SAW bloggers!

After a busy summer, there's a lot to catch up on with dig and visit reports due - watch this space! 

Or alternatively, SAW people, let us know what you have been up to. Send in your photos and a short piece about an archaeological or historical site or museum, you have visited recently and we will choose the best to put share on the SAW blog.

In the meantime, the new season of SAW sessions is now to be found here.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Rothwell Charnel Chapel visit

On Saturday 10th August, I visited the medieval charnel chapel in Rothwell church's crypt. The church and charnel chapel were built around 1350 and held approximately 1000 complete skeletons, and it is one of only 2 surviving in England due to Henry XIII's reformation in the 16th centaury, and outlawing the worship and reverence of bones in England. It was discovered around 1700 by a grave digger who (supposedly) went mad due to what he saw. Over 100 years after the discovery Victorians who studied the crypt removed most of the bones excluding the femurs and skulls, as they believed they were in there by accident as they believed you only needed your femur and skull to get into heaven. This has since been proven to contradict medieval beliefs as they believed that god would reassemble them on the day of judgement, no matter how dismembered they were. I found my visit very interesting, and the students from the university of Sheffield who were studying the site were very informative and knowledgeable.

by John D.

[Sorry it has taken so long to include this John. Thanks for sending it in. Ed.]

Monday, May 13, 2013

Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum Exhibition Review

I thoroughly enjoyed my last visit to the British Museum in London and my visit to Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum exhibition curated by Paul Roberts. The objects themselves were incredible, especially the wall frescoes, graphiti and kitchen implements. My favorite objects were two faience frogs in the Hortus area which were beautiful, I have never seen faience quite like it before. I was also very impressed with the displays. The exhibition is set out by the different rooms in a typical pompeiian house, Tablinum, Culina, Atrium etc. I thought this was very clever as progressing through the exhibition was almost like walking through a Roman house.

As I have been to Pompeii and experienced the incredible the incredible levels of preservation of the buildings this room set idea really helped to bring the living conditions alive for me. Quite a few of the objects I have studied about at school through Classical Civilisation so it was good to see them up close. The displays were also very good. I often feel in some exhibitions that the displays are trying to show the creative "genius" of the curator but these displays were minimalist  and emphasized the object, not the design of the display.

If I am to criticize the display in any way I would say the visitor flow was poorly designed as there were many bottlenecks and I often found myself getting very close and compact with other visitors when filing through narrow corridors. The labels were also, like the displays, slightly minimalist and could have done with a bit more information. But altogether a very good exhibition, highly recommended. However if you are going you must remember to book as it is the fastest selling show the British Museum has had for 25 years.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Success Looming!

 It must be in the genes! Constructing looms and weaving - I wouldn't have thought it was so engaging to contemporary youngsters! But, give them a lovely spring day, some branches, wool and clay 'doughnut-shaped' weights and a little, boy-versus-girl healthy competition and they're away!

Making sure your vertical posts are well anchored and at the same height.

The boys were quicker at trading for the tools -
twenty-first century technology to speed things up!

The girls seemed to appreciate each person's
contribution better than the boys.

Tying leashes to the rear warp threads.

Weaving sunshine. Photographer - Matthew.

The loom boys - well constructed framework
and  threaded.

Some of the loom girls.

An hour and a half later we have two functioning, (but yet to be tested), warp-weighted looms.

Many thanks again to our friends at Priory Country Park, especially Jane Moore, who provided the site and the branches and thanks also to Chris Dobson, historical textiles expert, who gave support, advice and instructions, and doughnuts!.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Silver Arts Award Reviews from Jack and Oliver

Silver Arts Award Reviews

Jack - Twinwoods Visit
On the 27th January I went to the former RAF Twinwoods, now the site of a museum dedicated to its, and other local airfields, history.The airfield is best known for Glenn Miller, as this was where he took off from on 15th December 1944 on his very last flight, but I went there to see the aviation art that they have in their collections.   

Glenn Miller's Norseman

Their main collection of aviation art is by local artist Keith Hill and is in an exhibition on the ground floor of the control tower. This is a collection of oil on canvases of WW2 planes with three large original commissioned works as part of the gallery. The pictures were well laid out and spread out on the walls. They had obviously tried to fit as many as possible into the small room - including three large paintings - but had done well not to overcrowd them. Around each picture was a plain frame and then a narrow space of plain-coloured wall around that. This meant that each picture stood out and you could therefore take in and enjoy each picture individually rather than viewing all of them as one collection. I also liked the way that the original picture of Glenn Miller’s  Norseman was hung directly opposite the doorway, illuminated with lamps aimed at it which made it the centre of attention. 

They also displayed the paintings at Twinwoods by hanging them among the artefacts in some of the museum buildings. I liked this method because if the artwork is directly linked to the artefact (e.g. same model of plane) then they complement each other. Also, you can relate this small piece of aeroplane to the original through imagining where it would be on the painting in front of you and therefore the aircraft. This helps to give the artefact an identity rather than just a lump of metal - making the museum visit much more interesting. 

Overall, Twinwoods have displayed the artwork in a very effective way. My only concern would be the spotlights that shone on the artefacts, and therefore neighbouring pictures, reflecting off the glass. This meant that the picture could not be seen that well.

Their collection also included an original mural painted at Glatton airfield. The mural depicts two surveyors  in the foreground and then in the background Glatton airfield is being constructed. The mural was painted onto plaster on the side of a building at Glatton airfield before being removed and brought to Twinwoods. Sadly, the plaster is now bending because of the damp. I am assured though, that when the museum is open to the public and therefore heated, it will dry out and flatten.
The Glatton Airfield mural

Keith Hills Artwork (at Twinwoods’ Gallery)

The Originals

            A Few of the Others

I would like to thank Robert Allen and the rest of the team at Twinwoods for a truly amazing and inspirational visit.


Oliver - Royal Academy Bronze Show - 3rd November 2012

I was overall very impressed with the exhibition. The statue that you saw as you entered was absolutely incredible. The exhibition designer put the statue in the first room to obviously make an impact on the visitors as they walked in. As good as the statue being there for impact was, I would have preferred the exhibition to be in chronological order to the give more of a story of the production and working of bronze which I did not feel came across very well. I also thought that the design of the exhibition itself left a lot to be desired. Firstly, it was incredibly dark which made it hard to see people or trip hazards. It made it very easy to bump into people which wasn’t helped by the narrow corridors between the exhibits which made it feel crowded and claustrophobic. Also all of the objects were high up which I guess was to make them feel impressive as they would have been when they were displayed originally. But it made it hard for people who were short like me to see, and I can only imagine what the experience must have been like for wheel chair users.

But the objects themselves were phenomenal. My particular favorites were the Greek statue at the beginning of the exhibition, a beautiful Greek bust of an old bearded man and the Crosby Garret Helmet which had its debut on display after being discovered by a metal detectorist last year with controversial buying by a private collector abroad still hotly disputed. There were also quite a few other objects that I have only read about and never thought I may actually see including many chinese bronzes that have never left China before. I also found the room that explained how the lost wax process was carried out very interesting and informative.

Although, I found the labels slightly less informative. I found myself asking regularly throughout the exhibition how some of the objects had been made, or where they had been discovered. I think this was probably the case as the exhibition was held at the Royal Academy that usually deals with art and not archaeological artifacts so they were probably thinking of the objects as just art rather than objects that are important to world heritage.

Overall I really enjoyed the exhibition because of the incredible objects displayed and the variety and quality of the objects, although I thought the displays were badly curated and the exhibition as a whole was badly designed, as well as not considering the information that should go along side archaeological objects on display.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Walking the Timeline

The year is 2013, and having been frozen-out in January, SAW returns to its familiar second home - Priory Country Park, for a workshop exploring the differences and similarities between archaeology and geology.

First of all we had to give a sense of scale to the times these two studies cover, so everyone became a placeholder for images of significant events in the history of geological and human time...

We start with the Big Bang on the left, oxygen arrives after 2500 million years, and hard-shelled  molluscs arrive in the Cambrian era, after 4100 million years (girl in the bright red anorak). Humans appear with the lady in purple - space travel is stuck on the far right!
Phanerozoic Timechart showing
geological eras from the Cambrian
phase onwards

Many of the young people who attend SAW are intrigued by fossils - which are creatures and plants turned to stone over many millions of years, so we brought along fossils from The Higgins Handling Collection for the young people to identify. Gryphaea, Belemnites and Ammonites are very common shell-fish fossils that can be found locally in Bedfordshire, because about 450 million years ago, 'Bedfordshire' was being formed at the bottom of warm seas.

Holding a Gryphaea - once known as a 'Devil's Toe-nail'!

Sorting out the phone family.

Who on earth designed this dinosaur!?
Making model belemnites.

Some young people were challenged to complete a dinosaur jigsaw - which wasn't as easy as it looked, while others chose to make their own model of an belemnite - you can find more models to make at:
British Geological Survey Puppets.html

We have to thank Alison for delivering a fascinating first session for 2013 - and she's promised to do more in the future!
Plants found in coal fossils.
If you would like to find out more about geology and fossils, you could visit the British Geological Survey website: 

and you can find out more about Bedfordshire geology by going to the Bedfordshire Geology Group website:

According to Alison: 'Rocks rock!'