Calling all amateur archaeologists…

Tell us what you love about archaeology and how you got involved to win 20% off an Oxbow title of your choice.*

I went on my first archaeological dig aged thirteen or fourteen. My parents argued over who would take me – neither, I suspect, relished the idea of spending their weekends in the inevitable rain, scrabbling around in the mud. In the end, they both accompanied me.

And then, the unexpected – they both caught the bug along with me. In the following years, with our local archaeology society, Liss Archaeology Group, we attended four or five digs, devoting our weekends despite inclement weather, despite the early morning starts, and despite the inevitable aches and pains that followed so much hard work.

I left to study Classical Archaeology at university, followed by a masters specialising in human osteology – the study of human skeletal remains. And then I was right back again, this time involved with the Petersfield ‘People of the Heath’ Project.

People of the Heath excavations 2014. Photos by Rebecca Watson.

I have particularly fond memories of my time on Petersfield Heath. Not only was it a joy to be out in such beautiful surroundings with like-minded people, but – despite having left university – I was still learning. Prehistory isn’t something I had ever studied formally, but here I was, learning to identify worked flint, and seeing the secrets barrow construction unfold in front me.

At one point, I was excitedly waved over to a particular trench; something had been found that might be bone. We examined and we measured and, though I’d have loved for it to be human remains, we had to conclude that it wasn’t. For one thing, if it had been a long bone of the human body, then according to my rough calculations, they must have been a giant – over seven foot tall.

The outreach, too, was a core part of the experience. School groups visited for tours, and for flint-knapping sessions which taught them about the earliest tools mankind created, and gave them a chance to try for themselves. Despite never having knapped flint in my life, I ended up helping out, and it was a joy to see children enjoying holding history in their hands. It’s the kind of thing that had inspired me towards archaeology as a child.

I haven’t ended up with a career as a professional archaeologist, but therein lies the beauty of amateur archaeology. For two weeks a year or on weekends, I can go out and get my hands dirty, quite literally.

As a country, we’re well equipped for amateur archaeology. Dozens and dozens of societies and groups give people the chance to try archaeology for themselves, to contribute to the exploration, recording and preservation of our past. A huge number of volunteers, every year, willingly rise at un-respectable hours and lace up their boots.

We at Oxbow Books think that’s pretty amazing. We love to share our passion, and we’d love for you to share yours, too.

Tell us how you got involved in archaeology, why you love it, or what your most exciting moment in archaeology has been and help us to celebrate archaeologists like you on this blog!


Email short submissions of up to 100 words to with the subject ‘amateur archaeology’. Pictures are welcome, too, as long as you have permissions and include a credit & caption for each photo.

*After submitting a piece to the above email address, you will receive a unique discount code which will give you 20% off any full-price Oxbow title when ordering online. Please allow up to three days to receive your code.