Festival of finds and fun: Ten things to do during the Festival of British Archaeology 2010

By Richard Moss | 13 July 2010
a photo of a group of children excavating a skeleton from a sand pit

Festival: Festival of British Archaeology, various venues, July 17 - August 1 2010

When Britain's latest high profile archaeological find, the Staffordshire Hoard of Anglo Saxon treasures, opened for its inaugural show at the Potteries Museum last year people queued round the block for hours on end to catch a glimpse of it.

Such deep-seated fascination with our archaeological heritage is nothing new. The growth in popularity of the Festival of British Archaeology has seen it become a major event in the cultural calendar as it approaches its 20th anniversary year, with hundreds of different events nationwide.

Organised by the Council for British Archaeology, the week-long festival offers more than 650 inspirational heritage activities, ranging from re-enactments to Roman digs.

Find out more at www.archaeologyfestival.org.uk or read on for Culture24's ten things to do during the week:

1. Go underground: The old Poldark Tin Mine in Cornwall is reckoned to be one of the most atmospheric mine tours in Europe and it is offering guided tours of its distinct 18th century seams throughout the week.

For the less adventurous the famous medieval cellars of Winchelsea offer an equally fascinating but less claustrophobic underground jaunt.

2. Take an archaeological walk: There are dozens to choose from, ranging from a stroll through Roman Leicester and a tour of the lovely Derbyshire Peak Village of Bakewell to an eight-mile trek around the archaeological landscape of Stonehenge.

3. Dig something up: It wouldn't be archaeology without the prospect of getting your hands dirty, so the Sheffield Victorian Street dig returns at the city's Heeley City Farm. Volunteers are being sought for the Newbarns Project in Dumfries and Galloway – an excavation of three prehistoric burial cairns.

4.Get your hands on artefacts: The Horniman Museum is inviting you to put on the white gloves and handle some precious objects whilst the Grosvenor Museum in Chester is getting hands-on with a tour led by the wondrously-titled Keeper of Early History.

5.Take a guided tour: There are loads of these happening in many guises – highlights include the Battle of Marston Moor, Long Marston, which promises to take you in the footsteps of Oliver Cromwell in the company of re-enactor archaeologist Russell Marwood or in Shetland the Stanydale Neolithic Temple Guided Walk offers an exploration of a beautiful Neolithic landscape.

6.Go into battle: If there is one thing Brits seem especially fond of, it's dressing up, grabbing a pike or musket and laying siege to things. Not surprisingly there are sieges and gory re-enactments aplenty during the week: check out the Medieval Clash of Knights at Warkworth Castle, or Ruthin Gaol's Armour and Artefacts day for a taster of a growing national pastime.

7.Identify a find: Throughout the Festival the Portable Antiquities Scheme will be running archaeological finds identification and recording sessions at local museums and other venues - many of which will include a variety of other activities for adults and children.

8.Discover a megalith: It's heartening to see the excellent stone circle hugger website, the megalithic portal, getting in on the act by encouraging us to discover nearby megalithic sites. See www.megalithic.co.uk/festival for more info.

9.Family fun: Family digs, object handling, historic characters, flint knapping - the list goes on. Check out Capture the Castle at the Museum of Oxford; Family Festival Fun at Rockbourne Roman Villa; History Hunters at Reading Museum or Making Clay Pots at St Peter’s Church Preston Park, Brighton, to name the merest fraction of what's going on…

10.Attend a talk or lecture: There are talks on everything from the Battle of Bosworth at Hinckley Library to an introduction to Portland Archaeology - from Mesolithic to Iron Age and Roman times - courtesy of the Association of Portland Archaeology.

For dates, times, prices and places – and hundreds more events – visit www.archaeologyfestival.org.uk.

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