I was thrilled to return to the Festival of Archaeology this year. With a host of guest speakers and activities as well as a few familiar faces, even those without any knowledge of archaeology were aware of the passion of those around them. From the Wessex Archaeology and English Heritage tents to archery and Lego sphinxes, there was something everyone could enjoy. This year there was the new addition of Dr Phil Harding digging a small trench over the weekend, which I was particularly looking forward to.
Saturday’s weather was perfect for the occasion, although those who spent the day in full armour may not agree with me! The Egyptology talks were a particular highlight, especially as they linked with the museum’s current touring exhibition. Professor Richard Parkinson discussed the golden age of ancient Egypt in relation to its poetry and writings with Dr Toby Wilkinson focusing on some of their most famous figures, such as Tutankhamun and Cleopatra. It was wonderful to see so many people attending these talks and the others throughout the day.
Sunday’s lectures were equally fascinating, with the Viking talk being particularly interesting. Steve Wallis’ discovery of the Ridgeway Viking Mass Burial was intriguing and a site that I had not heard about before.
Phil’s talk, ‘Have you found anything yet?’, was extremely well received. Both humorous and informative, it was amazing how much information could be deduced from such a small area. I also now know the correct way to use a spade! The festival’s talks ended with a panel discussion hosted by Mike Pitts. The varied presentations were highly interesting but the audience discussion that followed was particularly enlightening. It was great to see so many people get involved and query the archaeologists to such an extent.
Even with all the brilliant talks and activities, my favourite aspect of the festival was seeing the visitors explore what was on offer; engaging with those in costume and quizzing the guest speakers. There was such a wonderful atmosphere and I’m already looking forward to next year. Thank you to all those who attended and volunteered on the day for making the event such a success.
My name is Emily Lomas and I volunteered at Salisbury Museum for the Festival of Archaeology on the 23 and 24 July. I have just completed my GCSEs, and one of the things I am considering doing in the future is studying Archaeology at university. I was keen to volunteer for this event as I had attended it the previous year and really enjoyed listening to all the fascinating speakers.
I was allocated a role in the Lecture Hall, where the ticketed talks took place. My duties involved making sure the hall stayed tidy, setting out chairs and making members of the audience feel welcome.
I particularly enjoyed this role because as well as meeting people and generally helping out, I was able to listen to the inspiring talks that took place over the weekend, which was an amazing opportunity for me. The speakers talked about a wide variety of topics, and I found all of the talks really interesting and informative. Having recently visited the Sunken cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds exhibition at the British Museum and the Writing for Eternity: Decoding Ancient Egypt exhibition at the Salisbury Museum, I found the two lectures about Ancient Egypt particularly interesting. Professor Richard Parkinson’s talk about Ancient Egyptian poetry opened my eyes to the beauty and depth of this literature, and I found Dr Toby Wilkinson’s lecture about Ancient Egyptian history intriguing.
Everyone at the museum was incredibly welcoming and helpful and I felt very well looked-after. I really benefited from this opportunity as I learnt so much and had a truly enjoyable weekend.
You know there is something fun and unusual going on when you hear a Roman soldier asking for a hammer to bash in tent pegs and see a Medieval woman leaning over a freezer to choose an ice cream. To say nothing of listening to archers discuss the relative values of using yew to make massive longbows and watch with pleasure as an innocuous plant in boiling water produces a lovely blue dye.
These were all part of Salisbury Museum’s second highly successful Festival of Archaeology, held over the weekend of 23 – 24 July 2016. There was a buzz around the Museum all weekend with over 1,800 visitors taking the opportunity, not only to visit stalls and demonstrations and listen to lectures, but also to visit the galleries and exhibitions in the Museum itself.
As an engagement volunteer at Salisbury Museum, and having experienced the previous Festival of Archaeology, I already knew how enjoyable these weekends are and volunteered to help out for both days. I was extremely fortunate to be part of the team looking after the lecture hall for the first day and then was out on the ground for the second, firstly on the information stand, and then a real treat – looking after the items found by famous archaeologist Dr Phil Harding in his first-ever dig in the museum grounds the day before.
No-one knew what the metre-square hole would produce, there was an uncomfortable possibility that it would yield absolutely nothing, but an extraordinary amount of ‘treasure’ was actually found. My job was to look after the collection as Phil and his colleague Lorraine Mepham went off to give a talk in the lecture hall about what they had unearthed.
After a quick tutorial about the objects I spent a very enjoyable couple of hours chatting to people about how extraordinary it was that a hole of that size could have produced some fascinating bowl pipes and a musket flint from around the time of the Civil War, pieces of medieval glass and pottery, and masses of ancient roof tiles. Even a plastic biro was carefully put with the other items – I never did find out whether it still worked.
The beauty of the weekend was that it appealed to all ages and tastes. Children were invited to make and decorate their own pot helmets, shields and foam swords out of recycled materials from the Scrapstore, and teenagers were able to learn about the finer points of Medieval archery before using longbows to fire arrows at targets. For the slightly more cerebral there were fascinating lectures which ranged from Egyptology and geophysics in archaeology to genetic genealogy – rather a lot of ‘ologies’ when you think about it . . . .
The costumes of the re-enactors were remarkably authentic with knights from the College of Chivalry rubbing shoulders with Roman centurions and ancient Wessex potters. But the part for me that probably encapsulated the joy of the whole event was seeing fully armoured-up knights being attacked by hordes of thrilled excited children with the aforesaid foam swords. The sun shone for a lot of the time, people arrived in their hundreds, and it was a wonderful opportunity to showcase our wonderful museum.
Terrific fun, very entertaining, and a great way to spend a summer weekend.
And so it began..
This was the site at 8am on Saturday. The calm before the storm…
But build it, and they will definitely come…
And they did…
Much more on all of this over the coming week. THANKYOU to the many Volunteers who were here for ArchFest.
Good to see the Friends of Clarendon Palace at our Festival over the weekend. They have asked us to invite Volunteers to one of their guided walks up to the Palace on Sunday 31st July. Dr Mandy Richardson, one of the leading authorities on the site, is leading the walks, one at 10.30am and the other at 2pm, both starting at the Duck Inn, Salisbury (SP1 1PU)
The Salisbury Museum Festival of Archaeology Festival is well on track for 23 and 24 July and this week the stellar cast of speakers has been announced, with tickets bookable on-line now. Go here to book.
Talks include Dr Turi King (very popular last year) on What’s in a Name? The always interesting and entertaining Dr Phil Harding who answers the question Have You Found Anything Yet? Dr Miles Russell on Digging the Durotriges, Dr Toby Wilkinson on Ancient Egyptian History,Prof Vince Gaffney on the Stonehenge Hidden Landscape and also talking about Geophysics, and Prof Richard Parkinson on The Personal Voice.
Volunteers will be needed over the weekend to help with a variety of tasks and Bridget and Katy will be holding briefing sessions soon. Please come and enjoy the Museum’s busiest weekend of the year.