The Festival of British Archaeology 2009 - Culture24's Top Picks

By Culture24 Staff | 17 July 2009
a photo of an archaeological excavation with people in a trench

(Above) Cedars Park. © Enfield Archaeological Society

The Festival of British Archaeology runs from Saturday July 18 to Sunday August 2 - that's two weeks of digging, bone kicking, lecturing, excavating, find identifying and a whole host of archaeological stunts to whet the appetite of a nation enthused by Time Team.

Organised by the Council for British Archaeology, this year's event sees a remarkable 600-plus events listed on the Festival website. Below we have chosen a selection of some of them – from dowsing on the Thames to digging up a Victorian House in Sheffield.

Remember, if you don't find what you're after here, just visit the Festival Website where you will find over 600 more.

Sat July 18–Sun August 2
Various venues and locations on the Thames Foreshore, London

It makes sense when you think about it, but most people may not realise that when the tide is out, the River Thames is the longest open-air archaeological site in London. During the National Archaeological Festival the Thames Discovery Programme is running a number of activities based on the history of this rich archaeological foreshore.

There will be lectures, talks (including one on the Gresham Ship, more of which later), as well as demonstrations, archaeological dowsing sessions and fun days out for all the family along the river.

See for more details or telephone 020 7566 9310. Email

a photo of a man with long blonde hair flint knapping with two stones watched by a group of children

Flint knapping at Creswell Crags. Picture © Oliver Brown

Sat July 25 Creswell Crags, Crags Road, Welbeck, Worksop, S80 3LH

Building on the success and popularity of the 2008 National Archaeology Week, Creswell Crags is again hosting a series of talks with some of the nation's most respected archaeologists.

July 25 sees distinguished archaeologist and writer Paul Bahn come to Creswell Crags for a slot. With more speakers being added all the time this is an excellent opportunity to get a detailed insight into some of the archaeology of Creswell Crags and a chance to see the brand new museum.

Pre-booking required. Visit Creswell Crags online for more information, telephone 01909 720378 or email

Sat July 18–Sun Aug 2, 10am-4pm
Heeley City Farm, Richards Road, Sheffield S2 3DT

If you're looking for a hands-on experience during National Archaeology Week then the chance to excavate the remains of a Victorian terraced house in Sheffield might be right up your street.

As part of the Festival of British Archaeology fortnight, archaeologists from Archaeological Research and Consultancy at the University of Sheffield (ARCUS) have teamed up with staff from Heeley City Farm in a plan to excavate the remains of a Victorian terraced house.

The house, which lies buried beneath a field on the farm, was built in around 1880 and demolished in the 1970s. Background research has provisionally identified the property as the former 57 Alexandra Road, Heeley.

A two-up-two-down Victorian terraced house may seem like an unusual target for an archaeological dig, but this project, which aims to unearth a typical Sheffield house, will enable volunteers of all ages to learn about archaeological excavation techniques, and to experience the excitement of digging up discoveries at first hand.

Full training will be given, but volunteers are asked to book in advance.Visit their website and Heeley Farm online. Telephone 0114 303 9981 or email

Sat July 18 – Sun August 2
Llanrwst Almshouses, Conwy

For the duration of the National Archaeology Festival, visitors to the Llanrwst Almshouses in Conwy can experience the wreck of a rare Tudor ship rescued from the Thames. The Gresham Ship is a three-mast, armed merchant vessel raised from the bed of the River in 2004, and visitors will be able to see x-rays, fascinating artefacts from the important excavation and take part in activities for families.

For more information telephone 01492 642550 or email

a photo of a child looking through a microscope at specimens on a table

Microscope activity at the Museum of London

Evenings and weekends, Sat July 18–Sun Aug 2
Durham University, Dept of Archaeology, South Road, Durham, DH1 3LE

An opportunity to learn how human bones can reveal details of ancient lives over a series of six lectures. Delivered by members of the Bioarchaeology Research Group, the series includes some interactive sessions to complement particular lectures for which limited places will be available (sign up during lecture).

Visit the website for more information.

Mon June 29-Sun Aug 9 (except Fridays), 10am-5pm
Silchester Roman Town, RG7 2HH

This ongoing excavation project is part of one insula (a Roman apartment block) in the Roman town of Silchester. Visitors can watch the archaeologists in action and enjoy a site tour of the excavations, which have been running seasonally since 1997.

As well as being shown around the excavations, visitors will have the opportunity to look at finds from the site, talk to archaeological specialists and hear about other work being carried out by the Department of Archaeology at Reading. An opportunity to talk to those who work in archaeology, study archaeology and write about archaeology.

See the website for more information, telephone 07912 998970 or email

a photo of Roman re-enactors

Roman re-enactment in Milton Keynes

Sat July 25
Ancient Technology Centre, Damerham Road, Cranborne, nr Wimborne, Dorset, BH21 5RP

As part of the Ancient Technology Centre Open Weekend, a special performance of Beowulf, with Hugh Lupton, takes place in the unique setting of the Earthhouse.

Admission £10 / £5. See Dorset for You for more details. For ticket availability and to book contact East Dorset Heritage Trust on 01202 888992. Pre-booking is required, email

a photo of a bell being made in a forge

The Bells of St Fagan's at St Fagan's Natural History Museum. Picture © NMW

Sat July 18-Sun Aug 2
National Museum Cardiff, St Fagans National History Museum and National Roman Legion Museum

How do archaeologists reveal and re-awaken the past? Find out by joining National Museum Wales across three of their museums for two weeks of free family activities, displays, talks and demonstrations.

At National Museum Cardiff a series of displays, talks and events aim to cover everything from the Portable Antiquities Scheme to the art of archaeological illustration. The National Roman Museum will be introducing its Romans in residence, offering the chance to take part in a dig and inviting visitors to join the Romans in the barrack room and garden to find out more about life 2,000 years ago.

St Fagan's National History Museum have a vast selection of events, ranging from tales from the roundhouse and explorations of Iron Age and Roman life to the chance to witness the creation of an Iron Age hand bell.

Full details at Museum Wales online.

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