Come to the Memorial Hall on Saturday 21st April between 2pm and 5pm to see presentations about the 2017 dig, including finds and reports, and to hear what's in store for this year.
Swaledale and Arkengarthdale Archaeology Group find
An appeal for help in exploring a site near Fremington was met with such a great response from the community that over 25 diggers per day were able to excavate a 400m2 section during a successful 17 day project in July 2017.
Philip Bastow from SWAAG said, “Public support for the dig has been overwhelming. This is the largest project that we have undertaken and we simply could not have opened up such a large site, and discovered so much that is new about Swaledale’s past, without their enthusiasm and support. So, a big thank you to them all, and of course to the National Park’s Sustainable Development Fund. It was their grant that helped us to get this year’s project off the ground.”
“Day seven of the dig confirmed to us that the site was regionally important when a beautiful piece of worked stone was found. We believe it to be a Roman cosmetic palette; a lady or her maid would have used this to mix and apply facial cosmetics. The edge of the piece was chamfered around the edge, perfectly smooth on one side and small enough to sit comfortably in the hand. The palette is only one of several high-status items we found. They are all being professionally examined before we can say anything further.”
“There is a roundhouse that faces east, with its back to the prevailing winds and weather. The door entrance has a stone sill that has been skilfully chiselled to form a rebate and drip groove, and to date, is without parallel in the country. A large area of flagged yard, laid upon older cobbling, has been uncovered to the south of the roundhouse. The quality of the civil engineering on such a rural site is extraordinary, it shows that the site was progressively improved and developed during its occupation. I am sure that it has more secrets to show us.”
SWAAG worked with two local schools on the dig - Arkengarthdale Primary School and Reeth and Gunnerside Federation of Primary Schools, providing workshops on ‘Finds, Flints, and Fossils’. Children from Arkengarthdale also visited and enthusiastically explored the site and were able to carefully handle some of the finds, sending some equally enthusiastic letters of thanks afterwards:
‘I really enjoyed looking at the door sill. It's really weird, Roman doors are really wide. I didn't think they were that clever and could make drains then...’
‘Thank you so much for letting us have a look at the site you were digging. You have done an amazing job. I think you are incredible and I learnt a lot. You really inspired me. When we looked at the pots you dug up and preserved I found it fascinating that you knew how old they were and that you knew so much about such a little thing.’
The Swaledale & Arkengarthdale Big Dig
The Big Dig was launched in the Memorial Hall in March 2014 by TV archaeologist and ‘Time Team’ expert Dr Carenza Lewis, of Cambridge University. This two-year community archaeology project helped dales folk search for clues to medieval and ancient history in their own back yards. The Hall was used as a base during the test pit digging weekends and for a series of training and educational events.
TV archaeologist and ‘Time Team’ expert Prof Carenza Lewis, returned to Swaledale to congratulate local archaeology enthusiasts whose two-year community project, the Swaledale Big Dig, involved more than 500 people.
Prof Lewis, who launched the project in 2014, was the main speaker at its formal conclusion in Reeth on Friday 15 April, 2016. She explained how the results of the Big Dig will contribute to national archaeological research. An analysis of the finds from 50 test pits dug in and around the neighbouring villages of Reeth, Fremington and Grinton was also presented.
Alan Mills, spokesman for the Swaledale and Arkengarthdale Archaeology Group (SWAAG), which organised the Big Dig, said: “In addition to digging test pits we have also run 24 free training courses in archaeology, led 11 guided archaeology walks, organised exhibitions and presentations, and run several events with local schools, involving children in geophysical surveying and test-pit digging.
“In total more than 500 people have taken part in one way or another. To have engaged so many people’s interests in archaeology has far exceeded our expectations. Hopefully we have inspired some young people to become the next generation of archaeologists, whether amateurs like ourselves or professionals like Carenza Lewis.”
People attending the presentation on Friday evening and a free exhibition the following day learned how the Big Dig uncovered more than 4,000 pieces of dating evidence, mostly in the form of pieces of pottery and metal ware, and saw what the evidence revealed about the social and economic history of the area since the 1100s.
The Swaledale Big Dig was backed by the National Lottery Heritage Lottery Fund, and supported by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.