Go digging! Fieldwork opportunities in the UK and Ireland

This summer offers a wealth of opportunities to get involved in fieldwork in the UK and Ireland. Ceri Pennington has put together some regional highlights for 2023, but see www.the-past.com/digs for even more archaeological experiences.

East Anglia

Sedgeford Historical and Archaeological Research Project (SHARP)

Sedgeford, Norfolk
2 July-11 August

Established in 1996, SHARP is one of the largest independent archaeological projects in Britain and is firmly rooted in the local community. SHARP’s primary objective is the investigation of human settlement and land-use in the north-west Norfolk parish of Sedgeford. The 2023 season will continue excavations of a series of Anglo-Saxon malting buildings (see CA 379). New malting kilns were identified last season, and this year the project aims to investigate more.

Photo: Ian Drummond

Anyone aged 15+ with an interest in archaeology and the past is welcome, though under-16s must be accompanied by an adult.

Cost: £480 on-site courses, £300 on-site volunteer, £150 off-site volunteer (concessionary rates for students and the unwaged; bursary funding available for one full place each year)


Elsyng Royal Palace

Enfield, north London
9-23 July

This summer marks the 20th season of Enfield Archaeological Society’s excavations at Henry VIII’s royal palace of Elsyng in the parkland surrounding the early 17th-century Forty Hall. This year’s exploration of the scheduled ancient monument will focus on the inner gatehouse, which would have been one of the largest buildings in the complex. It is believed to have medieval origins, and would have formed the entrance to the inner court, which held the royal apartments.

Volunteers aged 16+ are welcome for all or just part of the excavation, with no requirement for previous experience.

Cost: £12 membership of the Society (required by 25 June)


Achill Archaeological Field School

Tawnaghmore, County Mayo
26 June-11 August

Achill Archaeological Field School has been run for more than three decades and offers a wide range of archaeology courses designed to suit all interests and budgets (participants must be 17+). This year’s dig will focus on a deserted settlement of 16 houses at Tawnaghmore, a short walk from the campus in Dooagh. This enigmatic nucleated settlement probably dates to the late-/post-medieval period (AD 1550-1900). The excavation aims to identify the site’s timeline more precisely.

Learn excavation skills while exploring this fascinating site. The daily project excavation is supplemented with weekly field trips to other sites of archaeological interest on Achill Island.

Cost: €5,500 Excavation and Recording 1 course, €3,950 Excavation and Recording 3 course, €1,995 Excavation and Recording 5 course, €850 Introduction to Irish Archaeology, €5,320 Trainee Supervisor course

North-East England

Lindisfarne Finds Room

Holy Island, Northumberland
5-24 September

Photo: DigVentures

DigVentures is exploring the lost history of Lindisfarne, an important religious centre established by the kings of Northumbria during the 7th century. During the 8th, 9th, and 10th centuries, a series of devastating raids by Viking groups resulted in the early medieval monastery being left in ruins, its original location lost to time.

The Finds Room plays an important role on any dig, making sure that excavated artefacts are treated with care, and are properly sorted, conserved, and identified. Participants will be able to gain comprehensive experience in the full range of skills, knowledge, and techniques that the finds team uses on site. Volunteers aged 17 and upwards are welcome to take part and help to discover the archaeology of Lindisfarne.

Cost: £160-£1,100


King’s Park

Stirling, Scotland
8-18 August

Photo: M Cook

The King’s Park is Scotland’s oldest Royal Park, surrounding the country’s ancient capital Stirling Castle. Stirling sits at the lowest crossing point of the River Forth and played a key role in both the Battle of Stirling Bridge (1297) and the Battle of Bannockburn (1314). Centuries before, the site’s location also influenced the Roman occupation of Scotland and the use of the King’s Park site. Evidence for even earlier activity has been revealed, too, with current investigations exploring a late prehistoric fort located in the park.

The excavation is part of a long-term series of projects designed to explore the Forth Valley’s late prehistoric settlement patterns.

For more information, or to book your place, email the Project Director Dr Murray Cook at info@rampartscotland.co.uk.

Cost: £55/day or £550/whole dig

South-West England

Cerne Abbey

22 July-13 August (4 separate weeks excluding weekend excavation)

Founded in AD 987 by Æthelmær the Stout, Cerne Abbey sits at the feet of the famous chalk-cut figure of a club-wielding giant that dominates the village of Cerne Abbas. Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) survey has provided the first-ever evidence for the medieval abbey, and potentially its Anglo-Saxon predecessor beneath. Excavation this summer will investigate these results, targeting buildings that may belong to the abbey precinct and exploring evidence for the underlying earlier 10th-century monastery.

Participants (18+ unless accompanied by an adult) will be trained in all aspects of the fieldwork,including excavation, context-recording, drawing plans and sections, 3D artefact-recording, and GPR survey.

Cost: £400/5-day session


Sherwood Forest Archaeological Training Field School

King John’s Palace, Kings Clipstone, Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire
10 July-11 August (4 separate weeks excluding weekend excavation)

This field school offers experience in many aspects of archaeological excavation and hands-on training from archaeological professionals in the heart of Sherwood Forest. The field school will explore the history and archaeology of Sherwood Forest, including the designed royal hunting landscape and the palace at its heart.

As well as covering requirements for the Archaeological Skills Passport, the field school provides seminars and demonstrations on aspects such as pottery identification, flint knapping, and the history of ceramics. It is suitable for all levels of experience; everyone is welcome but under-16s must be accompanied by an adult.

Cost: £450 or £350 (full- and part-time students with NUS card)

South-East England

Colemore Project

Photo: Liss Archaeology

North-east Hampshire
27 April-31 May

Thirteen seasons of excavations, test-pits, desk-based research, and geophysical survey have revealed a complex rural settlement of Romano-British and Iron Age enclosures and habitation at Colemore. The excavated buildings include a ‘villa rustica’ with internal and external corridors, and a possible tower at the southern end.

Training is available in all aspects of archaeology, including excavation and activities such as finds-processing, sieving, soil analysis, drawing, and surveying. Participants aged from 18 to 80, of all abilities and skill levels, are welcome to take part.

Cost: £8/day, plus annual membership (£20/year) or full-time students aged under 25 are half price


Strata Florida Field School

Photo: Strata Florida Trust

Pontrhydfendigaid, Ceredigion
12 June-10 July

Excavate thousands of years of history and uncover the remains of the internationally significant 12th-century Cistercian Abbey of Strata Florida.

The Strata Florida Field School offers an accessible and inclusive training programme, including a wide variety of excavation and survey techniques, from understanding how to use a trowel correctly to the collection of geophysical data for archaeological mapping. The Field School offers a mixture of residential courses and day courses, welcoming all levels of archaeological experience (12-17-year-olds welcome if accompanied by an adult).

Cost: £75 digger days, £495/week (residential), £395/week (non-residential), £295/week (bursary)

Further information
For more listings, visit www.the-past.com/digs. Grateful thanks to Ceri Pennington for updating the online information; additional projects are being added as more details come in. If you are running a project that you would like us to list, email us at cp@currentpublishing.com.