Ertach Kernow - Inspiring young interest In Cornish archaeology

Cornwall Heritage Trust - Castle an Dinas

Cornish archaeology is an important part of Cornwall’s tangible heritage and with the forthcoming Festival of Archaeology starting on 13th July a good opportunity to have a review of what we have to offer. The Council for British Archaeology is a UK wide organisation who have been organising this event for many years. Founded in 1944 the group encourages interest in archaeology with a remit to promoting research, conservation and education. The British festival began in 1990 as part of  the European Heritage Days run in September, but later separated itself to benefit from better archaeological conditions and digs taking part from July through the summer. However since 2020 it does remain linked to the wider European Heritage Days project whilst continuing the British July festival.

Part of the focus of the Council for British Archaeology is not just encouraging people to digs, but also to visit museums, heritage sites, resource centres and places of archaeological and historical interest generally. There is no doubt increasing interest by ‘armchair archaeologist’ with a plethora of historians and archaeologists sharing knowledge on television. Here in Cornwall nowhere is far from interesting and varied sites scattered around the Cornish countryside as well as over 70 museums of varying sizes and resource centres from the large national Kresen Kernow to smaller parish and town archives. It is this large and wide-ranging historic legacy that is increasingly encouraging quality tourism to Cornwall benefiting the Cornish economy and supporting employment.

Kresen Kernow

As always click the images for larger view

Dr James Dilly inspired by Tony Blackman of Cornwall's Young Archaeology Club

There are a number of groups and organisations in Cornwall taking part and one of the highlights as far as Cornish archaeology is concerned is the revival of the ‘Cornwall Young Archaeologist's Club’. Many people connected with the Cornish archaeological community will remember Tony Blackman a past President of the Cornwall Archaeological Society who died in 2012. Tony was an inspirational person and was instrumental in encouraging archaeological interest in young people. A fine example of this is the story of Dr James Dilly, a rather cool high-profile guy, who is the founder of ‘Ancientcraft’. After joining his local Young Archaeologist's Club in Cambridge James spent time in Cornwall on a YAC holiday meeting Tony Blackman. James was introduced to a range of experimental archaeology including bronze casting, bone working as well as what he is best regarded as an acknowledged expert in flint knapping. This in time led him to working with many leading media, educational and publishing organisations. The resurgence of YAC’s Cornish branch will hopefully encourage many young people throughout Cornwall into archaeology perhaps following in the footsteps of Dr James Dilly.

This revival of the ‘Cornwall Young Archaeologist's Club’ is being partnered by The Cornwall National Landscape’s Monumental Improvement project, the Council for British Archaeology and a number of Cornish based archaeological groups. Sponsorship by Cornwall Council, National Trust, Historic England, Cornwall Heritage Trust and others. For those with children or grandchildren who may be interested in a useful outdoor activity perhaps a visit to one of the following places may prove useful in leading them towards a lifelong interest or even career and is aimed at young people between 8 and 16 years of age.  

The launch is being held over three weeks at separate sites, starting on Saturday 13th July on the Rame Peninsula at the Maker Heights Visitor Centre. All of these are drop in events between 10:00am and 2:00pm and open to young people between the ages of 8 to 16. There will be a team from the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Historic Environment who will explain and illustrate the visitors particular interest in the Cornish environment. The second of these events is being hosted at Kresen Kernow 20th July and there will be lots of opportunities to learn what this project is all about. Finally for those who may really want to get their hands dirty the final drop-in session is being hosted by the Meneage Archaeological Group at their dig site on the Lizard. Boden has only one of about fifteen confirmed fogou’s throughout Britain all of which are in Cornwall. This is a fantastic site with a very enthusiastic group working on it and a continuous stream of interesting finds. These have recently included sherds of Treviskar pottery, flints, bronze artefacts and other finds. With a wide range of folk including a number of young people no doubt this group will go from strength to strength. Pop along to Boden between 10:00am and 2:00pm on 27th June and find out more about the Cornish Young Archaeology Club initiative.

Young Archaeologist Club
Entrance to the Baptistry at Madron maintained by CASPN
Caer Bran at Sancreed (Cornwall Heritage Trust)

Several other Cornish archaeology groups are onboard with a variety of events and activities. Dick Cole the sites officer for Cornwall Heritage Trust will be conducting a Hillfort Hike at Castle an Dinas, Cornwall’s largest and most impressive hillfort, along with a mini-excavation workshop for children aged 8 – 14 years old. This will be an introduction to what the work of archaeologists entail. Similar events are also being held at the Caer Bran hillfort west of Sancreed and on Sancreed Beacon itself. The Cornwall Heritage Trust is also responsible for a number of sites throughout Cornwall from Dupath Well and Trethevy Quoit in East-Cornwall down to the Carn Euny Iron Age village in the west.

For many years Newquay Old Cornwall Society have run a very successful group who work hard to clear and maintain archaeological sites in and around Newquay. Based at Newquay Museum the Newquay Old Cornwall Archaeological Group (NOCAG) led by Sheila Harper is carrying out a guided walk around Mawgan Porth on July 14th where they have been working for the past ten years. Having cleared vegetation from the site of a early medieval village they have continually maintained it with the site now taken off the at-risk register. Sheila will also be in attendance at Newquay Library with a display and to talk about the work of the group in Newquay and surrounding parishes. Their activities cover several other historic sites in carrying out important clearance work, but with more volunteers so much more could be achieved.

Newquay Old Cornwall Archaeology Group at Mawgan Porth early Medieval Village
Museum of Cornish Life new archaeological display

St Just Old Town Hall hosts a Festival of Archaeology event on 6th July organised by the Cornish Ancient Site Protection Network (CASPN). This is an opportunity to meet the Cornwall Finds Liaison Officer Laura Miucci who will give a talk on her role and also share some of the finds made in Cornwall. Laura is based at the Museum of Cornish Life in Helston, but her remit in her role as Finds Liaison Officer covers the whole of Cornwall. The museum in Helston is really a fantastic place to visit and something Helston is rightly proud of. The collection of finds held within the museum includes those from the Meneage Archaeological Group covering a period of about 20 years, as well as the most recent finds and portable antiquities scheme finds. The Museum of Cornish Life collection was started by the Helston Old Cornwall Society in 1937 and supported by the town and district council has evolved into an important economic driver for Helston. A visit to this museum is highly recommended and there is much else of interest to be seen in the area including the site at Boden just a short distance away.

The Cornwall Archaeological Society is one of Cornwall’s premier societies and carries out a great deal of work which includes involvement with digs and clearance work. This society accepts members from the age of 16 so hopefully many of those perhaps beginning their interest in Cornish archaeology will in time migrate to become active members of the Cornwall Archaeological Society. One of the most important events being organised this year is the ‘Archaeology in Cornwall Conference’ being held at Cornwall College in November. This will be chaired by Pete Herring the new President of the society who has extensive knowledge of Cornish archaeology through his work with many organisations. Peter is also an author and editor of numerous books, journals and papers relating to Cornwall’s archaeology. The conference will host a number of key speakers who will share their insights and details of current and recent work.

Goldherring ancient village recently after clearing invasive bracken (CAS)

This Council for British Archaeology festival is especially important for Cornwall this year. Like many Cornish heritage themes both tangible and intangible, the need for young people’s engagement is crucial. The Cornwall Youth Archaeological Club revival is one of those projects, which if successful, will help support the work of Cornwall’s archaeology and aid preservation of its ancient and historic sites far into the future.

Inspiring young interest In Cornish archaeology
Inspiring young interest In Cornish archaeology
Ertach Kernow Heritage Column - 3rd July 2024 - Ertach Kernow Heritage Column 3rd July 2024 – CASPN, Cornish Heritage in Penzance, Lafrowda Festival
Ertach Kernow shared in VOICE, Cornish Times, Cornish & Devon Post newspapers
Ertach Kernow shared in VOICE, Cornish Times, Cornish & Devon Post newspapers