Dust Off Your Trowels, It's National Archaeology Days Again

By Corinne Field
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Shows a photograph of a boy wearing what looks like a Roman military helmet.

Photo: © Council for British Archaeology

It’s time to dig out your trowel and pull on your wellies again. July 17 and 18, 2004 are National Archaeology Days (NADs).

The aim of National Archaeology Days are to encourage people to visit museums, sites of archaeological and historical interest as well as archaeological units to see archaeology in action and take part in activities on site.

We’ve picked out a few of the highlights from around the country to give you a taste of what is on offer but for a full list of events and to find out what is going on in your area visit the Council for British Archaeology website.

Shows a photograph of two men dressed in period costume fighting with swords and shields.

Photo: Courtesy of Archaeolink Prehistory Park


How about a trip back in time to the Iron Age Highland Games? On July 17 and 18 at Scottish strongmen will pitch their skills against three Celtic tribes. There will be a combat re-enactment, ancient wrestling and guided tours. There will also be children’s Highland Games.

The North

Chester Amphitheatre and Visitor Centre are giving visitors the opportunity to meet the Chester Archaeology team and take part in a wide rage of activities on Saturday 17.

Shows a photograph of Dan Garner holding the piece of bone found at the dig next to a replica sword of the period. Dan is wearing a yellow t-shirt.

Photo: Dan Garner, Site Co-Director, Chester City Council with part of the bone handle of a Roman sword found on the dig. Courtesy of Chester City Council

Finds from the amphitheatre will be on display including a Roman sword, which might have been used in gladiatorial combat.

So that you can see how it would’ve been used, a group of professional gladiator re-enactors will fight in the arena at Chester for the first time in more than 1600 years.

Chester Amphitheatre has recently set up a websitewhere you can catch up with the excavation’s daily progress in a blog filled out by the archaeologists on site and even spy on them digging away via a webcam.

For all you budding archaeologists there’s a chance to have your finds examined by the NW Finds Liaison Officer and a National Trust archaeologist at Kendal Museum finds day on July 17.

Shows a photograph of Jane Wheeler in the ruined Monk's refectory, leaning on a stone pillar and holding up a piece of coal.

Photo: Jane Wheeler, researcher at Bradford University on the trail of charcoal in Rievaulx's refectory. Photo: Tony Bartholomew

See how the experts do it at Rievaulx Abbey, near Helmsley on Sunday July 18. English Heritage has granted special permission for a team from Bradford University to probe inside the monk’s refectory building. They are looking for evidence to fuel their theory that it was once used to store vast amounts of coal.

Why not join a workshop to build an Arabic vaulted building from mud bricks at Liverpool Museum? Workshops are taking place at 12.30, 1.30, 2.30 and 3.30pm in the First Floor Activity Space.

Shows a photograph of a boy turning an old fashioned wheat grinder. He is being helped by a man with a beard and glasses.

Photo: © Council of British Archaeology


Have you always wanted to be an archaeologist? Well now you have the chance. Buxton Museum and Art Gallery workshops, taking place throughout the weekend, will give visitors a chance to learn some of the skills an archaeologist needs. Call 01298 24658 to find out more and book a place.

For something a bit different why not go to Creswell Crags Museum & Education Centre where Ice Age cave art has recently been uncovered. Take a guided tour of the gorge and visit Robin Hood's cave and Pinhole Cave.

Shows an aerial photograph of Creswell gorge.

Photo: Creswell Crags.


Buried Treasure: Finding Our Past is on show at the National Museum and Gallery, Cardiff. This weekend, and linked to the exhibition, is a chance to find out how, when and why treasures were made and meet the experts.

At Swansea Museum take your own treasures to the Finds Roadshow. There is also a chance to learn how to make historic pots as well as careers advice for budding archaeologists.

First Farmers and Early Forts is a two-mile archaeological ramble along the Abercastle Coastal Walk in Pembrokeshire where evidence for Neolithic and Iron Age settlers is literally under your feet. The walk begins at Abercastle Village at 2pm on July 18 and is lead by Mary Baker.

Shows a photograph of Polegate windmill.

Photo: Polegate windmill. Photo: Robin Jones

The East

Join museum staff and members of the Cambridgeshire Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge on July 17 to find out about ancient textiles and how they are made. Activities include spinning, weaving and feltmaking.

At Peterborough Museum & Art Gallery they're hosting a Scrap Yard Challenge. Two teams will be competing to recreate a Roman catapult from junk on July 17.

In Sedgeford, Norfolk there’s a chance to get a close up look at an excavation in progress on July 17. So far 200 skeletons have been found at the Saxon Christian cemetery. To find out more contact Chris Mackie on 01485 570 452 or email x34q42cm@globalnet.co.uk.

Shows a photograph of three archaeologists digging in trenches.

Photo: Courtesy of Sedgeford Historical and Archaeological Research Project

South West

In Swindon there is a rare opportunity to see Roman baths only discovered in the last few weeks. Groundwell Ridge is one of the most important Roman sites in England and excavations this summer uncovered a suite of Roman baths.

Shows a photograph of an archaeologist holding a small plaque of a Roman goddess.

Photo: this small plaque of the Roman goddess Luna, or perhaps Minerva, fromGroundwell Ridge has only been discovered in the last few days © Jon Cannon

Over NADs the site will be open to the public and there is a chance to meet the archaeological experts who discovered them and photograph the excavation as it happens.

At The Arthurian Centre, Slaughterbridge you can visit another dig in progress. Archaeologist Nick Hanks will be on site from July 14 – 21 with a group of students from Bristol University hoping to uncover Lady Falmouth’s garden of 1754.

Shows a photograph of Bronze Age gold torque.

Photo: Bronze Age torque. Courtesy of Reading Museum Service

London and the South East

Down in Portsmouth find out how archaeologists work under water at the Centre for Archaeology at Fort Cumberland.

There is a huge range of activities taking place here over the weekend, many for children including a chance to involve yourself in each stage of archaeology from excavation to the conservation of Roman armour. For more information contact Gill Campbell on 02392 856 700.

The Museum of Reading is having a Reconstructing Prehistory day on Sunday 18 when visitors can reconstruct a piece of prehistory by building a model Iron Age Round House. On display for the first time will also be a Bronze Age gold torque recently discovered in Moulsford, Oxfordshire.

Shows a photograph of a diver doing underwater archaeology.

Photo: Courtesy of The Centre for Archaeology, Cumberland Fort

Eastbourne Natural History & Archaeological Society are holding two days of archaeological activities including making pottery and mosaic, flint knapping, historical cooking, leather working and lots more at Polegate Windmill throughout the weekend.

Behind-the-scenes tours of one of the most important collections of human skeletal remains in the world are just one of the choices on offer in the The Museum of London’s programme of family events for NADS this year.

Shows a photograph of a human skull.

Photo: human skull © Museum of London

The theme is People from the Past and how their remains can tell us about their bodies, their clothes and how they lived. It celebrates the recent opening of the museum’s new Centre for Human Bioarchaeology where the skeletal remains of over 17,000 people are now being documented.

In addition to the tours of the centre there will be workshops, hands-on activities, a gallery trail, visits to the Roman amphitheatre at Guildhall - where conservators and technicians have reinstated the original wooden drains, and to the Billingsgate Roman Baths as well as a chance to meet the experts and handle objects.

National Archaeology Days are organised by the Council for British Archaeology and its Young Archaeologists' Club and supported by English Heritage.

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