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The CBA's Community Archaeology Resource
Heritage Toolkit: Practical Archaeology Molehill Days

Brilliant for children and schools!

The idea:

There is physical evidence of the past all around under us: some of it is not obvious until we look. Discover the fascination of archaeology and what archaeological techniques can show us.

The local Historic Environment Record (HER) Officer or Archaeological Service in your area help and advise, but perhaps more importantly if you report the results of mole hill excavations and other work to your local HER you will be making sure that what you find out is recorded and not just forgotten about, which will really help increase the understanding of your area. The link for all HER contact details in England is on Heritage Gateway For a full list of contacts for Local Government Archaeologists across the UK, visit the ALGAO website.

a molehill yet to be sifted
How to do it:

This works best in settings where there is grass and open ground, but could work just as well in a city park or a rural field.

  • Starting as a school or community group, ideally working with an experienced archaeologist, `excavate' molehills (the little heaps of soil thrown up by passing moles).
  • Take the soil out, sift it carefully and put everything you find into trays.
  • Don't forget to record where each of your molehills is located in relation to the site as a whole.
  • Go through your finds and identify what you have: pottery pieces; animal bones; clay pipes; glass. Make a simple list of what you have found and if it is important, mark it by putting it in bags and numbering it.
  • The archaeologist will help in identifying things and helping you discover their significance.
  • Analyse what you are finding: is there much more of one type of find than another?
  • Are finds different from different molehills and does that link to which area the molehill was in?
  • What does this tell us about the field or open space we are working in?

sifting molehills

Ways you can use your Molehill Dig

  • Make a community event of the day - involve as many people as you can; lay on a picnic and a talk or slideshow from the archaeologist. At the end of the day, write an excavation report on your Molehill Dig.
  • Collaborate with the experienced archaeologists: it may be that you have found something which justifies further investigation work. Volunteers from the community are often welcomed on digs and other kinds of project and if you develop a passion for it, you may want to go on and do more.
  • Share your results - for example, contact your local Historic Environment Record (or Sites and Monuments Record) about your results. Why not create a project page here on the Community Archaeology Forum? Further instructions on how to do this can be found in the Getting Started section.

Above all, this is a great and fun way to get people involved in local heritage for the first time.

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