These are indeed strange and worrying times for us all as many sectors of the economy have been placed into a state of hibernation and most of us are largely confined to our homes. Archaeology, commercial or otherwise, has not been spared as economic uncertainty and social distancing guidance has contributed to the postponement of a great deal of archaeological fieldwork. Many professional archaeologists have been furloughed or are working to reduced hours, the only positive of which is that this hiatus is affording them a rare opportunity to clear their report and archiving backlogs. Voluntary groups have had to cancel their regular evening talks and occasional trips/fieldwork, whilst all in person education/ training has been postponed. Museums and heritage sites are also closed to the public, all of which means that there is very little opportunity to indulge our passion for learning about the past, at least in person anyway.
There is an alternative, however, for those who have grown bored of ‘Netflix and Chilling’ and are looking for ways to expand their archaeological knowledge or perhaps looking for alternative activities for home schooling. This alternative is online. There is a wealth of free information, research, guidance, learning, activities, and resources to be found on the internet and I have highlighted some fantastic examples below. Enjoy and stay well! (Shane Kelleher, Staffordshire County Archaeologist)
Free Online Archaeology Research, Resources and Activities
Council for British Archaeology (CBA)
The CBA has made the unprecedented move to make all of their publications (dating back over 60 years) free to download from their website. This includes research reports, popular publications, and practical guides, and covers subjects as diverse as the life in Mesolithic Star Carr to the archaeology of the Home Front. The CBA has also launched an Archaeology Resources Hub where it has brought together free archaeology resources for practitioners or those looking to keep their families entertained at home. Visit https://new.archaeologyuk.org/ for more.
Historic England’s website provides a wealth of information on their research, guidance, advice, and access to over a million historical photos and drawings. The website also contains links to webinars and E-Learning modules. Visit https://historicengland.org.uk/ for more.
Young Archaeologists’ Club (YAC)
The YAC website has lots of ideas for activities that you and your kids can try out as part of or as an accompaniment to home schooling. Clear illustrated guidance is provided to help you make your own Roman Shield or grow your own cropmark amongst other engaging and fun activities. Visit https://www.yac-uk.org/ for more.
Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA)
Considering a career in archaeology? Perhaps now is the time to learn a bit more on how to get started. The CIfA website has lots of information about starting your career in archaeology and also has a number of useful e-learning resources (for a small fee for non-members). Visit https://www.archaeologists.net/ for more.
Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS)
Learn more about the Treasure Act, responsible metal detecting, and browse through the millions of artefacts that are recorded on the PAS database. The website has a dedicated Staffordshire section where you can learn more about some of the fascinating finds in the county over the past 20 or so years. Visit https://finds.org.uk/ for more.
British Archaeological Jobs Resource (BAJR)
The BAJR website contains a wealth of information ranging from adverts for current job vacancies to archaeology-related guidance on subjects such as diverse as geophysics, artefact recording, and archaeoastronomy! Visit http://www.bajr.org/ for more.
Dig Ventures, who usually offer charged-for opportunities for non-professionals to partake on archaeological digs at some stunning locations around the UK, have recently launched some interesting free initiatives for budding archaeologists to hone their skills on from the comfort of their own home. These include a Virtual Field School, Virtual Site Tours, and a Virtual (archaeology themed) Pub Quiz. Visit https://digventures.com/ for more.
Why not use the ‘lockdown’ to reacquaint or introduce yourselves with or to Time Team, Channel 4’s classic series which helped launch countless archaeological careers. All episodes are available to stream on All4, Channel 4’s free streaming platform. Watching them all again is on my ‘lockdown’ to do list! Visit https://www.channel4.com/programmes/time-team/ for more.
The Heritage Gateway website is a stunning resource allowing the user to search across most of England’s Historic Environment Records (HER) and Historic England’s records allowing them to find information about the known archaeological sites and historic buildings in their area. Visit https://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/ for more.
The core activity of the ADS is to secure the long term preservation of digital heritage data. Their website is full of interesting information about their projects. One of these, the OASIS project, is particularly interesting for the professional and non-professional archaeologist alike. Online AccesS to the Index of archaeological investigationS provides a free online library of archaeology reports, most of which have been produced as a result of an archaeology condition being placed on a planning application. With nearly 60,000 reports available to download there is plenty to choose from. Visit https://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archives/view/greylit/ for more.
Birmingham Museums and the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery have produced a very slick website dedicated to our county’s most famous discovery. The website is full of up-to-date information about the hoard with lots of high quality photos and online learning resources. Visit https://www.staffordshirehoard.org.uk/ for more.
Staffordshire County Council Historic Environment Team
The County Council’s website contains links to various surveys and assessments that have been undertaken or commissioned by Staffordshire County Council’s Historic Environment Team over the years. These include projects focusing on the county’s historic water meadows, historic schools, and historic mile markers, in addition to historic environment assessments and extensive urban surveys of large sections of the county. Reports and resources from the recent Chase Through Time Project and the ongoing Transforming The Trent Valley Project are also included. Visit https://www.staffordshire.gov.uk/environment/Environment-and-countryside/HistoricEnvironment/Projects.aspx for more.