"The Big Dig"

The “Big Dig took place over 5 days between 29th May and 2nd June 2018. Working alongside professional archaeologists from Archaeology Project Services supported by local amateur archaeology group FenArch, volunteers were given the opportunity to participate in a real archaeological dig in the gardens of the Wisbech and Fenland Museum!

We investigated 4 test pits spread over the museums little garden, sieving all of the soil as we went.

Volunteers from the Wisbech community of all ages signed up to investigate what archaeological remains or finds lay buried in the soil and for those unable to dig there was an opportunity to wash the “finds” or to sieve to look for artefacts the diggers may have missed.

Due to the depth of topsoil we were unable to reach a level where archaeological features were discovered in the test pits. Some test pits reached around half a meter in depth and the edges started to become unstable so we had to stop and record them for safety reasons. Despite this, EVERYONE involved had a great time! The density of “finds” recovered from such a small area was surprising and these ranged in date from a Roman ear scoop to a crisp packet dating to the 1970s! Other interesting finds included : 18th century blue glass from a jar or bottle, Roman pottery, a stamped stem from a clay pipe, locally produced milk bottles, mid 20th century coins, animal bone and stoneware bottles from Oldham and Sons of Wisbech.

The finds will now go to specialists for reporting and dating – updates will be reported here.

What this event proved, like the nearby Wisbech Castle dig in 2009, is that people are fascinated by their local history and community archaeology events allow people to be “hands on” with their own history. Feedback from all participants was overwhelmingly positive with the most notable outcome being that people enjoyed learning a new skill and the opportunity to meet new people. The dig brought in additional visitors to the museum and several new members signed up to join FenArch too. We were delighted to welcome MP for North East Cambridgeshire, Steve Barclay on Day 4, who enjoyed learning about what we had discovered and joined in with digging too.

A huge thanks must go to the Wisbech and Fenland Museum (Curator Robert Bell in particular) for allowing us to dig up the garden, Lydia Hendry and Neil Parker from APS for overseeing the whole dig, volunteers from FenArch who gave their time to help supervise the volunteers (especially Chris Green who was there all day everyday) and of course the Heritage Lottery Fund for paying for it all through the Wisbech High Street Project!




Comments about this page

  • The Wisbech Castle dig was well received and led to the formation of Fenland Archaeological Society and later the Jigsaw community archaeology project.
    This in turn led to the formation of a number of other archaeological groups around the county.
    Fenland archaeological society meets at Mendis, Old Market, Wisbech on the fourth Wednesday each Month.
    Along with their own surveys and excavations they carry out research on the local area and carry out outreach talks and visits to local schools and support other local archaeological events eg the recent dig at the Manea Colony run by CAU )the Cambridge archaeological unit).
    New members and visitors are welcome to attend the winter series of talks and other activities.

    By G Monger (31/08/2017)

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