Must Farm excavation and Thames Discovery Programme win British Archaeological Awards

By Richard Moss | 10 July 2012
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a photo of a Bronze Age Sword
A Bronze Age sword at Must Farm
© Cambridge Archaeology
An unprecedented landscape-wide investigation into prehistoric life, the longest open air archaeological site in London, a scheme to help injured soldiers and, of course, Channel 4’s Time Team are among the winners in this year’s British Archaeological Awards.

The bi-annual Awards, which took place yesterday at the British Museum revealed Cambridge Archaeology Unit’s remarkable 2011 excavation of Deep Fenland around Must Farm as winner in the Best Archaeology Project and Best Archaeological Discovery categories.

The Cambridge team, which worked with Hanson UK on the extraordinary mass excavation project at a clay brick extraction site at Whittlesey, has had top Bronze expert and TV archaeologist Dr Francis Pryor describing the venture “as a rare glimpse of a vanished time”.  

For their part, Cambridge Archaeology described the 2011 project as “deep space archaeology”, delving far beneath the surface to unearth an impressive haul which included Neolithic pavements, Early Bronze Age dwellings and superbly preserved swords together with 150 metres of prehistoric river channel containing nine Bronze Age logboats.

Another winner was the Museum of London’s Thames Discovery Programme, which has been unearthing thousands of archaeological finds and recording several archaeological sites across the length of the Thames Forshaw for the past 20 years.

But it was their innovative work with a committed band of volunteers, known as the Foreshore Recording & Observation Group (FROG) that saw them scoop the Best Community Archaeology Project award. Made up of nearly 400 members of the public, these “mudlarkers” work all-year-round along the muddy banks of the Thames, adding to our knowledge of London.

Gathering time, a book by Alasdair Whittle, Frances Healy and Alex Bayliss which uses the results of a major dating programme to rewrite the history of early Neolithic of Britain, scooped the Best Archaeological Book award. And the rather prosaically monikered yet deceptively rich Grey Literature Library (an online facility enhancing access to more than 12,000 archaeological reports by geographical location) won the award for Best Archaeological Innovation.

The omnipresence – and importance – of Channel 4’s Time Team as a means of bringing archaeology to the masses was reiterated with a Best Representation of Archaeology in the Media award for their programme about the “complex, multi‐period landscape” at Tottiford in Devon. The popular programme’s veteran archaeologist, Mick Aston, was also recognised with an Oscars-style Lifetime Achievement Award.

Finally, a scheme harnessing “the imaginative and humane use of the quiet, relaxed yet disciplined, thoughtful and physical atmosphere of archaeological excavation” to help injured and traumatised soldiers was recognised a project of special merit.

Operation Nightingale takes place on one of Britain’s best preserved archaeological landscapes - Salisbury Plain - and helps aid the rehabilitation of soldiers from The Rifles who have been injured on operations in Afghanistan.

Awards Chair Dr Mike Heyworth said all the nominees and winner demonstrated “the diverse and flourishing nature of archaeology across the UK”.

“It is a discipline which not only advances our understanding of humanity, but also engages everyone and has the potential to make a significant contribution to our individual well‐being and sense of community.”

  • The Awards ceremony at the British Museum was also the launch event for the 2012 Festival of British Archaeology, which runs from July 14 – July 29 and is co-ordinated by the Council for British Archaeology.Visit www.archaeologyfestival.org.uk for more details.

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