Festival of British Archaeology digs for victory in fortnight of fun from Somerset to Scotland

By Ben Miller | 13 July 2012
A photo of an archaeological dig featuring various people at a brownfield outdoor site
Festival: Festival of British Archaeology, various venues, until July 29 2012

The programme for this year’s Festival of British Archaeology pushes the 200-page mark. You can stomp mud and try Iron Age building techniques in Sheffield, have a pop at clay shooting in Monmouthshire, excavate burial cairns made for Bronze Age cremations in Scotland or become an apprentice archaeologist in Jersey.

A photo of a woman looking at artefacts from a mini sandpit with a young girl
In its 22nd year, this revelatory hurdle through history hosts more than 750 exhibitions, digs, identification sessions, workshops and fun days, all cunningly timed to coincide with the start of the school holidays.

“It’s a real celebration of our incredible history in the UK,” says Dr Mike Heyworth, of the Council for British Archaeology, who must hold a certain confidence that the campaign will beat last year’s total of 190,000 participants.

“We are passionate about getting people involved in archaeology and seeing people right across the country participating. It’s a chance for everyone to explore and uncover the past, see archaeology in action, and bring the history on their doorstep to life.”

The subterranean omnipresence of archaeology means there’s never far to walk. Hadrian’s Wall holds live gladiatorial capers, a mythological monster will embody a mosaic in Reading, and a Viking raid will be relived in Peterborough.

Picking highlights is hard – pirates and king’s men duel on the Isle of Wight, Northern Ireland’s museum at Navan takes on Indiana Jones, and the Greek Olympics and Medieval magic provide rich entertainment in Bristol and Denbighshire.

A 3,000-year-old longboat, discovered in the River Tay, will also be unveiled in Scotland, with prehistoric sites in North Yorkshire and Somerset the scenes for a spot of cave painting.

And they’ve received a notable backer in Bettany Hughes, the co-host of TV programme Britain’s Secret Treasures, which begins during the first week of the festival.

“Every time we go down a street, across a field, down a country lane or along a motorway, the ghosts and fragments of the past are all around us,” she opines.

“Archaeology is a brilliant way of understanding and appreciating this massively important connection.” The next fortnight is the perfect chance to find out why.

More pictures:

A photo of men in military uniforms walking in line past white tents in a field
A photo of people walking around a stone archaeological structure on top of a hill
© Denbighshire Countryside Service
A photo of men re-enacting Roman warfare while wearing silver armour in a field
A photo of two children looking at archaeological remains on trays on an outdoor table
A photo of two young women perched on their knees during an archaeological project
© Manshead Archaeology Society
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