SHARP needs YOUR help!! (Warning - this post contains images of human remains)
View of ‘Boneyard’ field trenches, looking approximately north (possibly 2003): Photo from Dr Sophie Beckett
We are thrilled to announce that the Sedgeford Historical and Archaeological Research Project (SHARP) has been awarded a grant of £5000 by the National Archives: Testbed Fund.
Our research question is: Can we use photographs of excavations that are donated by volunteers and visitors to help overcome post-excavation challenges?
View of ‘Boneyard’ field excavations, looking approximately south (2006): Photo from Lorraine Horsley
The Testbed Fund project will look to answer this question for the Anglo-Saxon cemetery site at Sedgeford. The site was excavated by hundreds of volunteers over a 10-year period (1996 – 2007). The excavations were open to public visitors and welcomed thousands during this time-frame.
Why could photos taken by volunteers and visitors be so important?
Archaeological excavation is an unrepeatable experiment and a site’s official archive is therefore paramount. However, despite best efforts of archaeologists during excavation, gaps are often identified when archive research is undertaken at a later date. Those accessing such collections are often resigned to the inevitable; working with incomplete data sets.
An example of this in SHARP’s official archive is that there are very few photographs of disarticulated human bone, due to a focus on spatial recording of articulated skeletons during excavations. Recent work to more fully record the disarticulated bone for a National Lottery Heritage Lottery Fund project has highlighted questions about the use of the cemetery in the Anglo-Saxon period.
Can we virtually go back in time and create a fuller picture of the archaeology?
Human remains within ‘Boneyard’ field ‘Old Trench’ excavation (2006): Photo from Gary Rossin
Photographs taken by hundreds of volunteers who worked on the site could provide answers, as many excavators took their own in-situ shots of ‘bulk’ finds within their work areas (including disarticulated bone). It will be fascinating to see what captured the interest of the many local, national and international visitors to the site and how their photographs can contribute to the development of our understanding of Sedgeford’s archaeology.