East Park, Sedgefield, Community Excavation

Initiated and run by

Durham County Council Archaeology Section and Archaeological Services Durham University.

Funding sources

Durham County Council Archaeology Section and the Department of Archaeology, Durham University.

Aims

  • To provide training in excavation, recording and surveying techniques for local volunteers and undergraduate students.
  • To elucidate the extent, character, date and material culture of this Roman roadside settlement, currently unique in the North East.
  • To enable the general public and especially the people of Sedgefield to learn more about, appreciate and participate in the investigation of their archaeological heritage.
  • To improve knowledge of the extent and character of the Roman settlement for future protection and management purposes.

Work done and results

Four summer seasons of excavation took place from 2005 to 2008 alongside extensive geophysical survey work. The first three weeks of each season were set aside for undergraduate fieldwork training followed by a further three-four weeks of community excavation.

Portions of several of the large ditched property plots that typify the settlement were examined along with an isolated example standing to one side of an open area in the centre which may have functioned as a sort of market-place.

Approximately 150 people from the surrounding region participated in the project, including post-excavation finds processing, and many of them have subsequently become involved in a successor project at Binchester Roman Fort, near Bishop Auckland.

The site was open to the public and guided tours were provided. In addition a number of Open Days were organised that also included re-enactment events.

Interim accounts published in the Archaeology County Durham magazine and talks about progress of the project were given at the annual County Durham Archaeology Day.

The project was the first large-scale fieldwork project in the county carried out on a partnership basis and including a community element. It stimulated a great deal of public interest in archaeology and led to many people gaining skills in archaeological excavation and recording. Many of these have now become the core of an experienced workforce contributing to other projects.

Lessons learned

  • Volunteers vary tremendously in their preferences: some wish only to excavate; some wish to gain experience and skills in as many of the recording techniques as possibly; and yet others like to work on the finds processing elements.
  • The overall skill in organising such projects is to ensure – as far as operational exigencies and resources will allow – that it caters for and satisfies the requirements of the individual participant.
  • Keeping everyone updated on progress, discoveries and overall understanding is vital to the success of the project.

Further information

ALGAO general enquiries
01223 728592
Algao.AdminCambs [at] cambridgeshire.gov.uk

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