Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA) 2013 – Cambridge University

HEFA 2You may be familiar with the Channel 4 Time Team programmes which have done a great deal to popularise archaeology since 1994. Although our school site has not (yet) featured in the series it is nevertheless no stranger to archaeological investigations and has ‘turned up’ some interesting finds over the last decade. The building work for new sports facilities necessitated surveys that revealed a fascinating history of occupation from Anglo Saxon times to the present day. I was pleased therefore to have twelve pupils from our Y9 & Y10 accepted on Cambridge University’s HEFA which is run by Carenza Lewis who has also appeared on Time Team.

The HEFA programme is endorsed both by the University of Cambridge and the OCR exam board in recognition of the level of cross-curricular challenge it offers young people to achieve in three distinct areas (1) practical fieldwork, (2) personal, learning and thinking skills and (3) data analysis and report writing.

HEFA 1The practical fieldwork was based in the Norfolk village of Garboldisham and so on day one we made our way to its village hall to be briefed.  The initial lecture by Carenza Lewis left us in no doubt that the work was to be rigorous and that the team would be contributing directly to the university’s Currently Occupied Rural Settlement (CORS) research. HEFA 4This ongoing project is advancing ‘knowledge and understanding of the ways in which rural settlements that are still inhabited today developed in the past by carrying out a wide ranging programme of carefully targeted systematic small-scale excavations within and across a number of sites in England.’ The pupils were then formed into test pit teams and scattered over eleven different sites throughout the village. Blessed with a window of fine weather and together with pupils from two other local schools our ‘time teams’ spent two days running their own small (1m square) archaeological excavation to the exacting standards required by the ever interested experts. The results were varied with some sites uncovering relatively little in the way of finds while others revealed a surprising variety of material. The cumulative significance of the data from all eleven sites was only to become clear on day three.

HEFA 3The third day was results day! So on a very rainy Friday we braved the commuter traffic and headed over to the University of Cambridge. Initially the pupils completed their written field reports, presented and analysed the excavation results and discussed the way in which the data might be interpreted.  A general lecture on applying to and studying at the University was then followed by a more specific session with Carenza Lewis on how data from previous digs had helped reveal the history of settlements in ten different English counties. But what of Garboldisham? I for one was wondering what our finds would add to the story and although spending an hour in a Cambridge University College is a very civilised way to spend a lunch break I could not wait to get back and hear the ‘reveal’. In true TV tradition we had to wait until after the break……..

The final session of the day was thoroughly absorbing and you could see that Carenza Lewis was keen to add our results to the growing database. As the lecture unfolded the initial details of pottery finds from the various test pits were plotted on a map with previous results and very slowly a new picture of settlement and land use at Garboldisham since the Bronze Age emerged. Suddenly all the digging and seemingly unconnected results made sense. Further investigations in years to come will continue to add more layers to this ‘picture’ but how exciting for school pupils to have played a small part in this fascinating venture. We hope to be able to participate again next year.

To see a detailed map of the test pit locations, a full pottery report i.e. what was found and what it suggests and a pottery distribution map showing how our pupils’ evidence fits into the big picture of Garboldisham’s history visit: http://www.arch.cam.ac.uk/aca/garboldisham.html

About richmiller66

My name is Richard Miller. I am currently Director of Learning and Head of History at a secondary school in Suffolk, UK. I teach history, politics and geography to pupils aged 11-18. I am particularly interested in teaching more able pupils and looking for innovative and creative approaches to learning and teaching. Having recently started studying for the NPQSL I'm using the blog as my reflective journal - the views I share are 'work in progress'!
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