Following an earlier evaluation, where twenty-five 20.0m long trenches were excavated across the site, a major excavation took place at Hartridge Farm, near Newport, Gwent. Site works started in April 2016, lasted for approximately ten months and involved an excavation team of up to twenty archaeologists. The works programme created an opportunity for various levels of community engagement, the most notable of which was a number of organised tours of the site arranged for local school children.
Working closely with Newport City Council, the archaeological team excavated an area of approximately 20,000m2, revealing evidence of occupation activity dating from the middle Iron Age to Roman periods (approx. 400BC – 410AD). An area of intercutting roundhouses, uniform field divisions, stone-lined wells and drains indicated domestic settlement, with the potential for some industrial activity. Much of the dating evidence came from the large ceramic assemblage recovered from the site.
The school visits were arranged directly with the teachers of primary schools in the Newport area and approximately thirty children were involved, mainly 8 and 9 year olds from Year Four. Apart from presenting a direct opportunity for the pupils to learn about the work of archaeologists, and to learn about Iron Age and Romano-British settlement in their local area, the visits were arranged with the broader requirements of the national curriculum in mind. Each party was split into two smaller groups; while one was taken around the site, having the work of the archaeological team and the discoveries they were making explained to them, the other stayed in the site office and took part in pre-arranged activities. These included making pots, inspecting finds that had been discovered during earlier stages of the excavation, making drawn and written records of the day, and talking to members of the archaeological team.
There is no doubt that hands-on experience, such as that experienced by the Year Four pupils, provides an excellent way of understanding an archaeological site and, by extension, an insight into how past lives would have been experienced. The feedback from the school visits – pupils, teachers and archaeologists – was very positive, providing both Archaeology Wales and the client with a positive example of high quality community engagement.