Week 3 saw the group visiting Western Park Museum in Sheffield. We first saw a special WW1 exhibition, and then moved onto looking at the objects displayed in the museum, relating to the heritage of Sheffield and its environs.
A wet week 4 meant a postponement of our walking tour of Rivelin Valley. A drier following week allowed us to carry out the visit. We embarked the bus at the top of the Valley and followed the trail down to Malin Bridge. We studied the remains of the grinding mills, with their related waterworks.
Week 5 saw us taking the minibus to Brodsworth Hall. We were lucky to have glorious weather. We started our visit with the restored gardens and grounds, visiting the archery lawn, the quarry site and church. We then entered the hall and learned more about life upstairs and downstairs. All agreed this was an incredibly enjoyable visit.
Week 6 saw us crossing the county boundary into Derbyshire, and a visit to Castleton and Peveril Castle. We slowly climbed up to the castle, and learned about the purpose of the site, and unravelled the architectural features remaining. A clear sunny day rewarded us with fantastic views of Mam Tor and Cave Dale. After descending from the castle, we walked around to the entrance of Peak cavern, and then visited the Castleton Museum before returning to Rotherham.
Week 7 saw a depleted group visiting the Chesterfield Canal. We started at Kiveton Park, and felt ambitious enough to hope to get to Shire Oaks. The Canal was beautiful, healthy and teeming with fish and wildlife. We visited Albert’s Dock – where the stone for the construction of the Houses of Parliament was loaded onto canal barges. We made it as far as Thorpe Salvin, before we had to turn back. We were rewarded by watching some canal narrow-boats navigating the 13 locks at Thorpe Salvin though.
Week 8, and our final week began with huge ambitions. We made it all the way to Roystone Grange in the Derbyshire Dales – but sadly after visiting the quarries, lime kilns and Neolithic Chambered Tomb of Minninglow, thunder, lightning and torrential rain forced us to make an early retreat. A disappointing end to our course, but we all agreed we had had the most wonderful of experiences.
Digability has returned to Stonham (Home Group) for a second year, 6 returning students have been joined by 8 new students. The returnees are acting as Peer Mentor support for the new students.
Week 1: Recap: So what exactly do archaeologists do?
Week 2: Interpreting clues on Aerial Photographs
Week 3: How does Geohysics work?
Week 4: Interpreting a fieldwalking assemblage.
Week 5: What evidence can we get from historical documents and maps?
Week 6: Illustrated walk along the Rotherham Canal
Week 7: How do we investigate a historic landscape (1)?
Week 8: How do we investigate a historic landscape (2)?
Week 9: Archaeological finds: how do we analyse them, and what can they tell us?
Week 10: A whistle-stop tour of Stratigraphy, Relative Dating, Bone and Environmental Analysis.
Week 11: Visualising the past: the value of reconstructions.
We started our course in week one, by looking at all the types of jobs and tasks archaeologists do. It was interesting for the students to discover that archaeology is about much more than just digging. This activity revealed much about the existing knowledge and specific interests of the students. We rounded off the session by having a debate about archaeology and ethics – discussing the things archaeologists should do.
In week two we learned about how sites are revealed through the use of aerial photography: looking at soil, crop and shadow mark photographs. It was useful to use some local sites, to allow the students to see the detail of features buried just under the surface.
Week three was a bit more technical still, with students wanting to learn about geophysics: and to be able to understand the technique in a bit more detail. It is interesting, but some of the students want to be able to watch repeats of Time Team with a little bit more knowledge and understanding. We studied 3 key pieces of geophysical equipment, and finished off the session with a debate on the ethics of metal detecting.
Week four was a last session before the Christmas break. Over a buffet lunch we discussed the topic of field-walking, and studied a field-walking assemblage, discussing what this would tell us about any buried archaeological site.
Week five introduced the subject of documentary survey, and we learned about all the types of documents accessed as part of a Desk Top Study. We studied quotes from historic travelogues, Rotherham’s Domesday entry, and a range of old maps. We finished the session interpreting a series of place-names from in and around Rotherham.
Week six was such a lovely day we made the most of it by having a historical walk along the Rotherham Canal. Using old maps, and studying the landscape we navigated our way back to the centre for a well earned cuppa.
Weeks seven and eight we spent studying a mini-project: the village of Ravenfield. Such an interesting and heritage rich landscape, I thought it a great case study to apply some of the knowledge learned already. We studied old maps, photographs, engravings of Ravenfield Park – then finished off the project with an illustrated walk around the village, exploring the local church, the site of the POW camp and the Medieval ponds.
In week nine we did some finds processing, learning what items can be washed, and which others need more careful handling. We discovered some shell, kiln stilts, pottery, coins, bones and teeth in our assemblage. The students really enjoying talking about the objects, what they were and where they might have come from.
For the last week of our classroom sessions, we finished with a ‘tell us about your special object’ session.
- Jono brought in an unidentified semi-precious stone he had been given, and a photograph album full of photos of his parents, siblings and him as a youngest.
- Darren told us he collects beer mugs – and he brought in one with NAAFI etched on it. It had been handed down from his father, and was the most special mug in his collection.
- Peter brought a stoneware mustard pot in. He had discovered it in a friend’s back garden whilst digging the foundations of an extension.
- Carl brought in a Nazi snuff-box, which we all thought was a piece of Trench Art. It had clearly been homemade, perhaps from some industrial parts.
- Jez, our ex-miner brought in two mining lamps. He demonstrated how they worked. They were in great condition.
- Chris brought in his old foreign coin collection, we spent some time working through all the coins and trying to guess the countries they originated from.
- And lastly Barry, well we all agreed he brought in the most interesting object of the session – some Chinese shoes worn by someone whose feet had been bound. The shoes were tiny, and looked like they belonged to a doll, not a person. Fascinating stuff, I am sure you’ll agree!
Photo: Jez explaining how his miners lamp works.
After a short break our field-trip sessions have started in earnest.
Week 1 saw us travelling by bus to Wharncliffe Crags. Starting at Deepcar Mesolithic Site, we made our way under the railway bridges, passed the fire-ponds and dynamite store, up onto Wharncliffe Heath and Crags. The visibility was pretty good, and we could see for miles from the top. Visibility of the ground was less good, and we managed NOT to see a famous Wharcnliffe Quernstone the whole trip. We rounded the top of the crags and spent our break looking out onto Wharncliffe Chase, returning home tired but happy.
Photo: The group studying one of the fire ponds.
Week 2, and another smasher of a day saw us travelling again by bus to Carl Wark. Embarking at the Fox House we walked down into Burbage Valley, past cairns, fonts and bullet-marked boulders. We picnicked at the ‘troll’ bridge of the stream, then replenished made our way up to Carl Wark. We talked about the indicators of this site being a hillfort: the ramparts, the watch-tower (?) and the entrances. Some students tried to ‘storm’ the entrance for a bit of fun, before we returned back via a different route to Fox House for our bus home.
Photo: The group crossing the Troll Bridge