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Buried Humanities - Birkbeck Field School at Must Farm

Lesley McFadyen

The field school for the Department of History, Classics and Archaeology is co-taught in conjunction with archaeologists from the Cambridge Archaeological Unit (CAU). Located at Must Farm Quarry, Whittlesey, Peterborough, the field school dovetails with the CAU excavations in commercial archaeology. This design allows for a dynamic and larger-scale excavation programme, and gives students direct work experience of professional practice as part of their academic programme. This enhances employability in the heritage sector and beyond.

The CAU excavations at Must Farm are of national importance – there is an intact Bronze Age river replete with preserved pile dwellings, logboats, fish weirs and traps as well as the deposition of swords and spears. In 2012 the project was recognised as Britain’s best excavation and best research project by the Council For British Archaeology.

Building on this interest the Birkbeck field school provides one-week intensive fieldwork experience for undergraduate and postgraduate students, introducing them to the major techniques, principal bodies of evidence, research themes and concepts deployed in excavation. In July 2012, over four weeks, 45 of our archaeology students explored the deeply buried landscapes of the Nene Valley and the Flag Fen Basin. This involved the test-pit excavation of a prehistoric land surface in the Must Farm Quarry itself, and tracking the former course of the Bronze Age River Nene on land owned by the local farmers.

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