Introducing the award-winning Aylsham Roman Project
The Aylsham Roman Project was started by Peter Purdy. He has collected thousands of Roman artefacts from his land in Aylsham in Norfolk... and he wanted to know why they were there!
So Peter asked professional archaeologists from Britannia Archaeology to do a geophysical survey on one of his fields. The survey showed incredible features including what looked like two pottery kilns.
Peter decided to find out more. He gathered a team of volunteers and spoke to lots of professional archaeologists and experts. Earlier this summer, digging on the site began. And now Peter and his team of more than 175 volunteers have won the Marsh Award for Community Archaeology for their amazing work!
The Marsh Community Archaeology Awards are supported by the Marsh Christian Trust and organised by YAC's grown-up parent charity, the Council for British Archaeology. The Awards are designed to celebrate amazing people and projects that inspire lots of people to get involved in archaeology.
About Aylsham Roman Project
The dig took place over two weeks in the summer of 2016, with more than 175 people of all ages taking part, and hundreds more visiting for guided tours of the site. With training and help from Britannia Archaeology, the team excavated two Roman kilns, three rubbish pits, a ditch and loads of Iron Age post holes. An expert from Historic England thinks that the kilns may be the best preserved examples in Britain! About 12,000 sherds of pottery were recovered during the excavation, all of which have been washed and sorted by volunteers.
Community Archaeologist Claire Bradshaw from the Norfolk Historic Environment Service nominated the project for the award. She said:
The Roman Aylsham Project has been the friendliest excavation I have been a part of, and the enthusiasm of everyone involved has been overwhelming. Despite the huge number of volunteers who were new to archaeology, the work has been carried out to an extremely high standard, and every person I have spoken to has gained new archaeological knowledge ... a huge number of people have been positively affected by the experience, and cannot wait to come back next year!
Huge congratulations from everyone at YAC!!
To find out more and to discover how you and your family can get involved, visit the Aylsham Roman Project website
You can also ask an adult to follow the project's progress on their Facebook page or Twitter feed
YAC asked Peter...
YAC HQ tracked down Peter from the Aylsham Roman Project to find out more about what the team have discovered, and what they are looking forward to doing next:
How did you feel when you discovered that the Aylsham Roman Project had won the Marsh Award for Community Archaeology?
Initially we thought it must be a joke. But when we realised it was for real, we were delighted that our project had been recognised as an all embracing community project.
How did the project start, and what are you hoping to discover?
After 45 years of picking up pieces of Roman pottery from walking the fields near my house, I asked Britannia Archaeology to do a geophysical survey of the land. The results looked promising, and so the idea to start a community project was talked about with Norwich Castle Museum and Gressenhall Rural Life Museum, who advised how we should go about it. We signed up about 175 volunteers. Very generous local people helped with the funding, and in August we had our first community dig.
We are hoping to discover, what appears to be a substantial Roman settlement, and hopefully evidence of the Iron Age and indeed Bronze Age occupation.
What is the best discovery made to date by volunteers on the project?
Two very well preserved Roman pottery kilns!
How have you been getting young people involved in the project?
We had two days when Broadland District Council's 'Tots 2 Teens' club attended. They were able to explore the site and learn about geophysics. They then were able to dig a test pit each. This included cleaning up and bagging and tagging their finds. The professional archaeologists then explained what they had discovered.
We also had a second trench opened purely for children to have a go at digging throughout the two weeks we were on site. This was great fun, and the young people found pottery, fragments of jewellery, flints and coins. They also discovered two Roman ditches.
What is next for the Aylsham Roman Project?
We are planning next year's dig. It will be during August 2017, and we will have three weeks digging to give more people the chance to get involved. Hopefully this project will continue to run for many years to come.
And now a bit of fun…
If you could travel back in time to any archaeological period, where would you go, and why?
The Stone Age, so I could see Stonehenge being constructed. It truly amazes me!!
Romans or Egyptians?
Trowel or toothbrush?
Horrible Histories or Time Team?
If you had to describe archaeology in five words, what would you say?
Connecting with our human past.
Thanks for talking to YAC, Peter!
We look forward to finding out what more the project's volunteers discover in 2017... watch this space!!
Check out the video below the photo gallery to see the first trial trench being opened last year...