Last weekend saw members of the team from Wessex Archaeology North at Creswell Crags, Nottinghamshire, for a Victorian Archaeology weekend. Treats included Victorian crafts and games, cave tours, the ‘Dead zoo’, witch talks, a mock excavation and a gin wagon (which we were set up very near!).

Alongside this, we set up a stand displaying and explaining the differences between Victorian archaeology and present methods; the most obvious and significant being that we don’t blow things up anymore (Health and Safety being more important these days!). We decided that, apart from dynamite, the main differences seem to be the use of techniques from a variety of scientific areas and the increased value of considering the historic landscape.

Creswell Crags Festival of Victorian Archaeology

Image: Cresswell Crags


We had collections of flint, animal bones and clay pipes to show that, whilst we may find the same things as the Victorians, we attach more significance to their study and interpretation. We also use by-products and working debris to give us information about the past. We brought along a microscope to enable a closer look at some microfauna and some of the environmental evidence that we study nowadays (charcoal, seeds and grains, molluscs) that tells us about the landscape of the past. The last item on the tables was a sediment sample from one of our sites in Leeds, to show the use of different branches of study and how they help us with our interpretations.

We also discovered that the University of Sheffield had been digging at the Crags recently and had uncovered a lot of clay pipe fragments from the original excavations – the archaeologist becomes the archaeology!

And, of course, there’s more than just the odd one or two women in archaeology now (some are still odd)!


Liz Chambers