National Archaeology Days In London And The South East

By Richard Moss | 17 July 2003
Shows a child dressed as a Viking.

Photo: there will be ample opportunity to get dressed to the nines for the National Archaeology Weekend

National Archaeology Days 2003 take place on Sunday July 19 and Saturday July 20, and offer a range of activities and events for all ages and levels of interest.

Here is our brief guide to just some of the highlights of events and activities in the London and the South East.

The Bedford Museum has an intriguingly titled day of Ritual and Magic; demonstrations, talks and displays on July 19 that will help visitors to understand the beliefs and rituals of the Celtic period.

Over in Manshead near Dunstable, the local Archaeological Society will be digging up the school playing fields at Priory Middle School, on July 19. The public are invited to come take a look at the finds whilst pupils will be enlisted to do some of the digging and cleaning.

For July 19, the Museum of Reading in Berkshire is lining up a series of activities including insights into medieval tile making and life in a Roman Temple. Julian Richards from TV's 'Meet the Ancestors' will be on hand to tell visitors 'What you can learn about people from skeletons' at 10.30am and 2.00pm.

The Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology at the University of Reading is hosting a Greek Plays Workshop featuring a variety of activities including face painting, dressing up as an Ancient Greek, making jewellery, swords, shields and sculpture.

On July 19 and 20, the Environment Centre on Holywell Mead, High Wycombe hosts an event called Walking on Romans! Visitors can inspect the site of the Roman Villa on Rye Park and discover everyday life in the Roman Chilterns through archaeology, artefacts and reconstructions.

Photo: The Barbican House Museum at Lewes Castle, East Sussex, is just one of the many museums getting involved in National Archaeology days in the South East. Picture ©

Down in East Sussex, the Barbican House Museum in Lewes is using Archaeology Weekend to launch a special mystery object trail on July 19. The prize is a place on one of the Sussex Archaeological Society's 'Dig and Discover' days at the Bishopstone.

Fishbourne Roman Palace & Museum, near Chichester in West Sussex is offering visitors an exciting opportunity to use 'state of the art' geophysical prospecting equipment to look for underground features on a real archaeological site throughout the weekend.

Not to be outdone, the Roman Villa Museum, at Bignor, also in West Sussex is hosting a dig with lots of hands on activities. Again, there will be geophysics, dowsing, identifying finds, wattle and daub, mosaic making, wool spinning and lots more.

Across to Hampshire and the City Museum in Portsmouth is offering the chance to take part in the latest phase of excavation of the town's post-medieval defences within the museum grounds on July 20, whilst over at Fort Cumberland a range of talks, walks and an archaeological trail will take people through the processes of archaeology.

You can bring in your own archaeological finds to the Museum of Archaeology in Southampton for identification on July 19 and the hidden underground history of the city will be explored with a tour around the Medieval Vaults on July 20.

A slightly more watery subterranean environment can be found across the Solent at the Fort Victoria Country Park on the Isle of Wight. July 20 features simulated underwater archaeological activities throughout the day whilst keeping his boots firmly planted on terra firma, Time Team's very own Phil Harding will be on hand to demonstrate the art of flint knapping.

Back onto the mainland and into Kent, Central Park in Dartford on July 19 & 20 is the setting for an exhibition 'dig' and display as part of this year's Dartford Festival whilst Crofton Roman Villa at Orpington has a day of Roman activities including a Villa Trail, mosaic making, dressing up and finds interpretation.

The Museum of Kent Life at Sandling is getting into living history mode on July 20 as groups representing Iron Age people and Roman legionaries will be demonstrating aspects of life in the 1st Century.

shows a diver working on the seabed in low visibility

Photo: you can explore the mysteries of the deep with a spot of underwater archaeology at Fort George on the Ilse of Wight.

Prebendal Manor House at Nassington has medieval archers on July 20, whilst Whithall Farm at Netherheyford is offering tours of the recently discovered Roman Villa with a Roman Re-enactment Group on the same day.

On July 19, Chertsey Abbey (once home to the 'foulest Monks in the Kingdom') is the venue for a range of 'costumed interpreters' who will demonstrate ink making, calligraphy, carpentry and the use of herbal medicines.

In Hertfordshire, you can take part in a Celtic day of activities in the museum gardens of Letchworth Museum and reconstructed Iron Age Roundhouse. Events include, mud-daubing the roundhouse, handling artefacts, tours of the museum, a game of hurly and genuine Celtic folklore storytelling.

Moving into London and as you would expect, the capital is a hive of archaeological activity over the weekend of July 19 and 20 with a range of drop-ins, digs and special events that take in the full spectrum of archaeological investigation.

At the forefront of activities, the Museum of London and London Archaeological Archive and Research Centre (LAARC) have devised an archaeology trail packed with great activities.

A shuttle bus will be running between the Museum in the centre of city to LAARC headquarters throughout the day.

Amongst the dozens of attractions and special events are the curators from the Early London Department of the Museum of London who will be on hand throughout the weekend to meet visitors and talk about the Anglo Saxon, and Medieval life of the city. Other events look at London Roman gladiators and finds that illuminate the day-to-day life in Roman Londinium.

There will also be re-enactments, stories of the ancient past, drop in services staffed by teams of experts in everything from bones to bronzes and even washing up sessions designed to clean objects excavated in London.

Photo: the Haynes Hoard of 4th century Roman coins and jewellery is currently residing at Bedford Museum. Picture © Bedford Museum.

Elsewhere in the capital, the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology is asking family groups and children aged 5 upwards; 'Were the Ancient Egyptians just like us?' on July 19.

On the same day the Wandsworth Museum has two 'Time Detective' workshops where children can examine evidence and look for clues to solve mysteries.

The City of London Archaeological Society will be taking visitors on a walk of the historic Thames Foreshore and conducting object handling and dressing up sessions at the Tower of London throughout the weekend, whilst July 20 sees the grounds of Forty Hall turned over to a day of workshops and displays centred on the archaeology of Enfield.

With the Institute of Archaeology at Gordon Square opening its hallowed halls to tours of the conservation labs, artefact and bone storage rooms and demonstrations from their scanning electron microscope, it's going to be a very good weekend for anyone with the just merest interest in archaeology and the past…

There are so many great events going on for this year's National Archaeology Days that we couldn't possibly tell you about all of them!

So to check time details, availability and find out what else is out there click on this link to pay the Council for British Archaeology website a visit.

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