Community Archaeology – Top Tips

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To celebrate the Festival of Archaeology, we’re asking you for your top tips on doing a community archaeology project and examples of what has worked well for you (we’ll post a few of our own too!). Please post below!

View Liz Shaw's profile Liz Shaw Jul 18 2016 - 11:30am
  1. People are interested in people, whether it is life 2000 years ago, or what it is like to take part in a dig, so don’t forget to blog about your project and what you are discovering.

    The Piddington Roman Villa dig in Northamptonshire is a community archaeology project that has been running for 34 years! They have built finds processing and explaining the results of their work into the heart of their project.

    They received HLF funding to buy an old Methodist chapel in the village one mile away from the villa. They display the conserved finds here and models of the villa, and use the space as a finds workshop for post excavation work.

  2. View Marion Blockley's profile Marion Blockley
    Offline | Last seen: 2 years 3 months ago
  3. It is really important to get in touch with your local archaeological advisor before you plan your campaign of community archaeology. The site may be protected and you will need to ensure that you have the right permissions.

    Archaeology isn’t just about digging (which actually destroys evidence as you proceed). How about getting involved in a survey of historic buildings or perhaps go in for a high tech Lidar survey like they did on Time  Team? 

    Community groups can help with high tech projects like Lidar survey, and your local archaeological advisor can put you in touch with the right experts. Your local university may be able to help.

    Community groups are helping with the Lidar survey in South Shropshire as part of the Stiperstones and Corndon Landscape Partnership.

  4. View Marion Blockley's profile Marion Blockley
    Offline | Last seen: 2 years 3 months ago
  5. 'Dig Ventures' who have been working at Lindisfarne provide access to the digital records of the excavation as it proceeds for their ‘Digital Diggers’ who can’t come to site.

    This is a great way of engaging people who can’t take part in a dig.

    Perhaps you have people with techie skills in your group who could do this, or this might be something that you buy in expert help with?

  6. View Marion Blockley's profile Marion Blockley
    Offline | Last seen: 2 years 3 months ago

    Thinking about sharing information

    Think about how you convey information about your dig to a wider non-technical audience.

    The technical illustrations people produce for a report written for other archaeologists are quite dull.

    You could either commission a specialist illustrator to produce well researched and colourful reconstruction drawings of your site.

    Or perhaps you have a local cartoonist in your group who could look at technical drawings and produce a more family-friendly cartoon version of life in the past?

    Help people make that imaginative leap from broken pieces of pottery and slight colour changes in the soil to bring the past to life. Perhaps you might even think about commissioning someone to produce an Augmented Reality version of life on or near your site hundreds or even thousands of years ago?

  8. View Marion Blockley's profile Marion Blockley
    Offline | Last seen: 2 years 3 months ago

    Thinking about finds

    While finds are buried in the ground they are relatively stable. As soon as you remove them they start to decay (especially organic and metal finds), so you need to have expert advice on how to prevent this, and how to store them in appropriate conditions and how much all this will cost.

    You need to think about all this before you start digging.

    Are you likely to find large quantities of pottery or animal bone or waterlogged wood?

    Do you have room to store it all? If not, what will you do?

    Does the local museum want it? Do they have room for the finds and a specialist curator to care for them? Have you spoken to them?

    This should all be part of your project planning before you put a trowel in the ground or remove any turf!

  10. View Marion Blockley's profile Marion Blockley
    Offline | Last seen: 2 years 3 months ago
  11. Great tips Marion, thank you! In an application it’s certainly important to tell us about the advice you have had from your local authority’s archaeological advisor and include a letter of support from them.

    You should also let us know if the site is protected in any way (as Marion says) this can range from being a Scheduled Monument to a natural heritage designation such as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). You should check out what permissions you will need early in planning your project.


  12. View Liz Shaw's profile Liz Shaw
    Offline | Last seen: 3 months 3 days ago
  13. Thanks for your tips on finds Marion!

    If you are doing archaeological work on land that you do not own then the finds belong to the land owner. I agree that before you apply you should explore what will happen to the finds in the long term to make sure that they survive for future generations to access and learn from. For example, as Marion says, will they be deposited at a local museum? In this case you should speak to the museum in advance and include a letter of support from them with your application to confirm that they are happy to take the finds. You should also include the written consent of the landowner for the finds to be deposited at the museum.

  14. View Liz Shaw's profile Liz Shaw
    Offline | Last seen: 3 months 3 days ago
  15. Engaging volunteers can be a great way for people to learn about heritage and gain new skills- outcomes our funding can support in your project. It is useful to budget for any training, travel and subsistence costs as well as time to recruit and manage your volunteers so they have the best time possible. Our good practice guidance on engaging volunteers in your project offers lots of helpful advice.

    There are many ways volunteers could help with an archaeology project beyond digging- are there opportunities for volunteers to run a blog, help produce interpretation from your research, run guided tours and more!

  16. View Catherine Kemp's profile Catherine Kemp
    Offline | Last seen: 1 year 8 months ago
  17. It's important to consider what is already known about the site you're interested in and what questions are yet to be answered.  For many regions in the country, Research Frameworks have been produced which set out a broad set of research questions that could be considered when setting out the aims for your own projects.  Even better, contact your local Historic Environment Record – not only can you access all the recorded information for your site or parish, including historic maps, aerial photographs, reports and much more, but you’ll receive useful advice and support in shaping your project.  


  18. View Sheena Payne-Lunn's profile Sheena Payne-Lunn
    Offline | Last seen: 2 years 1 week ago
  19. Also, have you considered what happens to the information you record?  Perhaps you've discovered an important site and are concerned that it is under threat of development?  For this kind of information to be considered as part of the planning process, it has to be recorded as a heritage asset on your local Historic Environment Record (HER).  By submitting your research to the HER not only are you feeding into the wider knowledge of archaeology and the historic environment in your area but you are also enabling the significance of the site to be a material planning consideration.  If it’s not on the record then sadly, many of these sites do not get considered until it’s too late.  Contact details for your local HER can be found on the Heritage Gateway at


  20. View Sheena Payne-Lunn's profile Sheena Payne-Lunn
    Offline | Last seen: 2 years 1 week ago


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