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March 2018

Posted by admin on March 2, 2018

Rob writes about his experience with the Teffont Archaeology project, which includes forgetting to turn up, how glad he was to finally make it, and how through his involvement in the project he has combined his two passions of teaching and archaeology.

I feel in a way that I have done a lot of my growing up alongside the Teffont project, and have been very privileged to watch it grow and develop over the years! It’s been a home from home, a huge part of my life, and I've watched so many people go through it and on go on to become very competent and skilled archaeologists. My own story within the project is a bit different and I'm very lucky to have been able to be involved at all!

I first heard about the project during my undergraduate studies at the University of York, after my  housemate came back from a summer at Teffont with wild tales of cow sheds, makeshift bars, solar showers and of course lots of exciting and challenging archaeology in a near mythical sounding place called 'The Glebe'. She wasn't the only person in my peer group to be involved, and I vowed that I'd get some 'proper' field experience and sign up for the next season. I joined mailing lists, Facebook groups and went on party nights and.....forgot to turn up to the actual project......

However, you'll never find a more welcoming research project and one so keen to share the experience with new people. So I re-joined mailing lists, chatted on Facebook groups and went on socials and.....double booked myself with a season digging in the Alps, before leaving archaeology to become a Primary school teacher!

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Above: Finally making it to the project presented its own set of challenges, including actually figuring out the archaeology!

For some reason the project was still happy to have me the following year! I'd helped out with finds washing and done a lot of work with project members everywhere else other than Teffont itself. I was beginning to think I'd never get to step foot in 'The Glebe' and that the Teffont project would always be something of which I was on the periphery. I'm glad to say that I was wrong. I finally made it to the project for TEF12 where I enjoyed a blisteringly hot summer of confusing archaeology and dodging fallen trees in the Upper Holt wood. I also learnt that I could 'be' an archaeologist as well as a teacher, and that my opinion was valid and my ideas and interpretations would be considered. It’s one of the real strengths of the project, that everyone is given a chance to learn, succeed and contribute, and I'm sure this is why year on year people return to the project, often in a position of responsibility or given a chance to develop a skill or passion.

Since then the project has allowed me to maintain my interest and skills in archaeology while returning to the world of education, which I also love. During my time at Teffont I've been interested to see how the project has nurtured and trained nearly 200 volunteers and given them the skills to get on with archaeology at their own level.

The project has a variety of worthy aims and for me personally its most important one is: To provide high quality and positive, inclusive and interactive experience of archaeology to all participants and stakeholders in the project. This has always been my passion and if I could be considered to have a 'research interest' it’s certainly how skills can be taught and passed on, and how the next generation can be infused with a passion for something, whatever that might be. In the course of the project I've seen volunteers from all walks of life and all ages be taught and trusted to take part in a real dig, and allowed and encouraged to contribute to and even challenge the narrative that is pieced together.  Over the years I was able to combine my passions of archaeology and education by running visit days for Brownie Guides and for the Wiltshire Young Archaeologists Club.

The Teffont project has always had a strong ethos of community engagement, including activities such as carrying out test pitting in local gardens. As the project has grown it has built on this by using a wider base of volunteers from the local community, as well as continuing to work with the PASt landscapes project. This has enabled the Teffont project to transform from 'just' being a field school for students into playing a role in the wider community. In the case of one young volunteer this has resulted in a wonderful cycle of having his garden test pitted a few years ago, to coming to dig with us for a day last August in the break from his first summer at university studying archaeology!

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Above: Me (left) and Mike, swapping trowels for spoons to embark on a very different kind of excavation involving pudding

To me the project will always continue to grow and thrive on the strengths of its members and volunteers. My hope for it in the future is rather simple: I would like to think that the project will continue, in one way or another, to offer high quality fieldwork and education in a range of archaeological skills, as well as offering a sandbox for people to come and enjoy archaeology whatever their interest or skill level may be!

Thanks for letting me come guys, sorry it took so long to get started!