The UK’s biggest annual celebration of arch-aeology, the Council for British Archaeology’s Festival of Archaeology is back this summer from 15-30 July. There will be hundreds of in-person and virtual events around the UK, which can be searched for by area on www.archaeology
uk.org/festival.html. There are a host of online events too, and people are encouraged to join in on social media on Friday 21 July using the hashtag #AskAnArchaeologist, and Thursday 27 July is badged as ‘A Day In Archaeology’ when you can find out what it’s really like to be an archaeologist.
Archaeologists are often reported to be boggled, baffled and generally scratching their heads at the things they find. It’s true that we do a lot of thinking about the things that turn up and solving what can a bit of a mystery. It’s often the very everyday items that we’re most interested in as these can tell us more about how people used to live.
This medieval lead fishing weight, for example, was found by a member of the public in Burton and was recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme (below). How it was used is a bit of a question – it might have weighed down nets, or used as a plumb-bob, or on a ship. If more of these weights are found and recorded then hopefully it will become clearer and we’ll be able to know more about what was going on in medieval Burton.
We also include lots of specialists with ‘ologies’ – if you’re old enough to remember Maureen Lipman’s BT ad – but sadly beer-ology isn’t one, despite the caricature that we like a pint or three. Archaeobotany is a good example, and in fact helped show that hulled wheat found at Earith, Cambridgeshire means that commercial scale brewing was probably taking place there as far back as the Roman era. Organic material found during MOLA Headland’s excavation along the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon route also dates to the iron age and could well be the oldest evidence that exists for brewing in Britain. It’s not all ancient stuff though – Tetley’s Victorian brewery in Leeds was excavated in 2020 and revealed over 600 bottles of beer stored under a staircase. When their contents were analysed however they were found to contain dangerous concentrations of lead. Cheers!
The Council for British Archaeology is the UK’s leading archaeology charity, and is a great place to find out how you can get involved whether you fancy volunteering at a dig or a career as an archaeologist.
If you want to know more about the archaeological artefacts people have found in your area – or have found something yourself you’d like to know more about – then you can try the Portable Antiquities Scheme. This is run by the British Museum and Amgueddfa Cymru - Museum Wales for members of the public in England and Wales to record the artefacts they find, whether through metal detecting or just out walking or gardening.