Part of the new community archaeology project Rendlesham Revealed: Anglo-Saxon Life in South East Suffolk
In 2018, Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service received a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to develop this community archaeology project. For this, trial training sessions were planned with local volunteers and school children to survey some of the area around Rendlesham and to test out training methods ready for the full project delivery which will run from 2020-2023.
Geophysical Survey community training
During a very cold week in January 2019, local volunteers joined SCCAS in Rendlesham to learn how to conduct geophysical survey using a magnetometer machine. The field had not been previously surveyed, however metal detected finds and cropmarks on the field hinted at evidence of possible continuation of settlement from the core area of Anglo-Saxon activity.
Five volunteers were trained by University of Bradford, supported by the Suffolk Archaeological Field Group, over 4 days. Every volunteer learnt how to set out the lines, balance the magnetometer and carry out the survey. It took some practice walking in time to the beeps on the machine, but thanks to all their hard work the volunteers managed to cover 100sqm area of the field.
The quality of the data was good enough to identify some possible features, including a historic track, ditch and pit type features, a palaeochannel and evidence of a demolished post-medieval building. Some of the pits looked similar to others in the adjacent field which when excavated were identified as sunken-featured buildings.
A huge thank you to the landowner for permission to survey the field, University of Bradford and the Suffolk Archaeological Field Group for their expertise and equipment and of course a massive thank you to the volunteers for their hard work and coming back each day despite the freezing weather!
Fieldwalking survey with Rendlesham Primary School
In April, the Year 5 children at Rendlesham Primary School were asked to help SCCAS with their archaeological investigations by taking part in a Fieldwalking training session. Professor Tom Williamson from University of East Anglia led the training and taught the children how to Fieldwalk.
Fieldwalking is a non-intrusive method of archaeological survey whereby artefacts are systematically recovered from the surface of a ploughed field and recorded, which can help to indicate what buried archaeological evidence might be hiding underneath the soil.
After an introduction about Anglo-Saxon life in the area and a chance to handle some real archaeological objects, the children took a short bus ride to a field nearby to have a go. The field had been marked out in grids and labelled so we knew where each object came from. The children were brilliant at searching for possible artefacts on the field’s surface but had to be very thorough in their search as the field was very stony.
They all placed their finds in corresponding labelled bags before heading back to the classroom to look at what they found. The children sorted, cleaned and identified the objects by discussing the appearance and age of each one, so they could begin to understand how archaeologists tend to find out about past human activity. They found a range of artefacts including post-medieval glazed pottery, a lot of ceramic building material (brick and tile), some fragments of slate and glass, and evidence of prehistoric worked flint.
A big thank you to the children, teachers and parents who volunteered to take part on the day, and to the landowner for his permission and support, to help us at SCCAS and UEA survey this new area. The results of the fieldwalking will be useful to combine with the past survey results from other areas of Rendlesham to help us build a better picture of how the landscape was used by humans through time.
“We were very fortunate that our Year 5 children were chosen to take part in this fieldwalking activity. This has been a fantastic experience for our pupils. They were all so enthusiastic about finding objects and working with archaeologists to identify their finds. We are hoping that this will be the first of many opportunities that the children will have to work with the team from SCCAS to find out more about life in the past in our area”
– Karen Howard, Teacher, Rendlesham Primary School