Young People uncovered their roots and became archaeologists in new project
Twenty five young people from Cardiff, the South Wales Valleys and the Vale of Glamorgan became archaeologists and learnt about the history of their community through their participation in ‘Reclaiming our Past’, a project based around the ancient medieval village of Cosmeston in the Vale of Glamorgan.
In the summer of 2009 the young people excavated and examined part of the site of the medieval manor house known as Cosmeston Castle and carefully recorded the stratigraphy, features and artefacts in order to discover more about the history of the site and the lives of those who may have lived there. The young participants also recorded a dig diary and took photographs.
The pupils later designed the contents of a community archaeology discovery box which was distributed to many schools in order to increase their access to learning about the history and archaeology of Cosmeston.
The organisers of the project were researchers from Cardiff University’s School of History and Archaeology, who worked alongside members of the Vale of Glamorgan Council to plan and deliver the event. The leader of the project Professor John Hines said:
‘Through archaeology, participants can appreciate the fact that they are involved in a project which is literally adding to knowledge by unearthing and drawing out new information: not simply "learning" what is already known. Heritage is an amenity in which everyone holds a stake, and we hoped that this process would result in the participants having a respect for the mechanisms whereby historical and archaeological information are retrieved and processed.’
The benefits of this project were felt not just amongst the young participants themselves, who reported being inspired and having fun, but also amongst the researchers and in particular the university students who helped out. Professor Hines said:
‘The students’ confidence appeared to grow in relation to the responsibility and expectations invested in them leading to a change in outlook. They took on a greater level of maturity and responsibility when working alongside younger participants on site through the scheme.’
‘Being able to get really hands on with local history and to receive training, responsibility and support within a new environment the participants were not familiar with, lead to a valuable learning experience for all.’
The young people benefitted from the increased opportunities for learning and through gaining a sense of ownership of their local heritage, whilst the project increased the profile of the university in the community, and made academic life seem more accessible to the young people. Researchers hope that this will encourage more students to study archaeology at university.
Finally, the experience helped the university by feeding back into research. Professor Hines would recommend the experience to other researchers, and encourages them to involve the local community in their work. He said:
‘Non expert perspectives can sometimes be extremely useful, particularly in archaeological research as they can prompt a change of perspective on a particular issue or viewpoint and can also challenge established ways of thinking.’
Feature article in May's edition of the Wales Culture Exchange Newsletter here
Watch a video of the dig below
Follow the 2011 excavations on the Cosmeston Archaeology Blog, on the Cosmeston Facebook page or on the Cosmeston Twitter page.
Please visit their archaeological finds, excavation and landscape survey pages to find out more about their recent investigations.