Archaeology at Austhorpe: Results

Last June I posted to say that I was looking forward to working with Austhorpe Primary School on their forthcoming archaeological project. At the time I wondered whether the finds would be similar to those which we found in during a similar project in 2013.


19th and 20th century pottery

It became clear that they weren’t, soon after we began to excavate. . In 2013 we found a large range of finds including what might have been a Roman coin and what were certainly fragments of medieval pottery. In 2016 was found only a few artefacts of 19th and 20th century date. The only way I can think of to explain the contrast is that in 2013 were working at the edge of the school playing filed on what used to be farmland and that in 2016 we were not . The 2013 finds could have come from night soiling – the practice of spreading household waste and farmyard manure onto the fields as fertiliser. This year we were probably working on part of the grounds which had been landscaped during the building of the school. If that’s so, the soil (and the finds in it) could have been brought in from anywhere as bedding for laying the school lawns.

Children working on site

Children working on site

Despite the small number of finds the children all enjoyed themselves and worked very hard during their excavations sessions. For me it proves (if proof were needed) that there’s more to education than learning from books…

To download a pdf of the complete site report click on the link below.

Austhorpe 2016 Site Report v 3




Austhorpe Excavations 2016

Fragments of clay tobacco pipe

Fragments of clay tobacco pipe

It’s nearly three years since I last dug at Austhorpe Primary School on the outskirts of Leeds (West Yorkshire, UK). We’ve started on a on a second dig there today. We’ve not done any excavation yet just some classroom teaching and some site preparation. Fieldwork starts in earnest tomorrow. However, I can’t help wondering what we are going to find. Perhaps there’ll be more pipe stems like these from the 2013 excavations.

There are more pictures of finds from the 2013 excavations at Austhorpe on my Facebook page.

Archaeology in Horsforth

At work on the project

At work on the project

Last Monday was spent in digging in the grounds of St Mary’s School Horsforth (West Yorkshire, UK). I was being helped by a group of students from Leeds Trinity University. This gave us a unique opportunity to work one-to-one with the children.  Usually there are only a couple of adults with the class and I find myself running from child to child in an attempt to answer all their questions. Having more people made the whole thing more relaxing and enjoyable for me.

There’s a serious side to all this though. For the pupils it was a chance to learn about how archaeology works in a practical and fun way. For the students it was an opportunity to see how they might be able to incorporate archaeology into their own classrooms when they become fully qualified teachers.

Finds were not many – several bricks, a few pieces of Victorian/y 20th century pottery, and what might be a George V penny. However, it does prove the point that history is right there under your feet.

For the schoolchildren and the students the project is now over but not for me. I still have a site report to write up. I’ll be putting it up here in a few weeks time.



An Expanding Role for Archaeology in Schools

Finds work with KS3

Finds work with KS3

Last week I began work on a project that will help future teachers to make a greater use of archaeology at KS2. The project is the brain child of Bev Forrest of Leeds Trinity University who wanted to give her students the opportunity to see how archaeology could be used in an educational setting. With the help of the staff of St May’s Horsforth (West Yorkshire, UK) we put together a two day programme in which pupils would carry out fieldwork with me and do classroom archaeology activities with the students.

On Thursday I did some of the preparatory work with Years 3 and 4. I explained how archaeology works. “An archaeologist is someone who makes his living out of other people’s rubbish”, I told them. It’s sometimes difficult to make them see the point – or to get them to grasp the idea that broken pieces of pottery may have no monetary value but they have a lot of value in terms of what they can tell us about the past. Difficult that is, until I get the finds handling collection out. I don’t know why shattered crockery produces so much enthusiasm in children but it certainly does. Perhaps this is because it’s something tangible, something real, a genuine connexion to the past not just something in a book or in a video.


So now I’ve got sixty children fired up about archaeology. I’m doing excavation work with them tomorrow. The students from Trinity are going to be doing other archaeological activities. It’s going to be really exciting. I’m really looking forward to it.


Leeds Trinity Site Report now available

Students at work on the project

Students at work on the project

Earlier this year I worked on an education project at Leeds Trinity University. The major focus was to show trainee teachers how archaeology could be fitted into the national Curriculum and offer practical opportunities to engage children in the study of history. I have now written a formal report on the project which you can download by clicking on the link below.

Trinity Site Report v 1

Cobden Archaeology Project Report Now Available

Finds work at Cobden

Finds work at Cobden

In June of this year I spent a very pleasant couple of days working with children at Cobden Primary School on the outskirts of Leeds (West Yorkshire, UK). The project consisted of several elements – a garden pottery survey, some classroom based work and a small-scale excavation in the school grounds. I’ve now completed the report on the excavation element of the project which details the finds which were made. For a more general reader the report also includes a summary of the history of the area around the school.

You can download a copy by clicking on the link below.

cobden Site Report v 1