Digging deep for the future of archaeology

Allchurches Trust will play a key role in helping to discover the UK's archaeologists of the future in funding an exciting field school project as part of its new heritage grants programme.

The Trust is giving £177,400 over three years to fund an archaeology field school for the summers of 2019 to 2021 at the former Cistercian Abbey site of Strata Florida – the burial place of Wales’s most famous medieval poet, Dafydd Ap Gwilym, and several medieval Princes of Wales.

The Strata Florida Archaeology Field School will open its trenches for the first time for a six-week summer school from August 13 to September 23, 2019, at the 12th Century Strata Florida Abbey (AbatyYstrad Fleur) - a captivating, evocative and internationally significant site in Pontrhydfendigaid (known locally as Bont) in Ceredigion.

The field school will provide a unique opportunity for people of all ages, from different backgrounds, with and without experience of archaeology, to take part in all aspects of an archaeological excavation at this important historical site.

It builds on archaeological training programmes conducted at Strata Florida between 2004 and 2015. It is being delivered by the Strata Florida Trust in partnership with The Prince’s Foundation, Allchurches Trust, University of Wales Trinity St. David, Breaking Ground Heritage and Sacred Landscapes Research Project.

“We are extremely grateful to Allchurches Trust for its very generous grant. It means that we can fulfil our wish to share Strata Florida’s very special history, archaeology, heritage and links to Welsh culture with as many people as possible, including members of the public, students, veterans and experienced archaeologists,” said Professor David Austin, Director of the Strata Florida Archaeology Field School.

Sir Philip Mawer, Chairman of Allchurches Trust, said: “We’re proud to support this exceptionally exciting project that will help halt the decline in practical archaeological opportunities and skills in the UK, breathing new life into this fascinating profession as well as enriching the local economy and protecting an important cultural site in Wales for future generations.

“We’re very much looking forward to seeing what treasures will be unearthed as students and visitors discover the secrets of this ecclesiastical heritage gem, benefiting from the rich knowledge of the experts on site and hopefully inspiring a love for archaeology and history that will last a lifetime.”

In 2018 the Strata Florida Trust entered into a partnership with The Prince’s Foundation to transform Strata Florida into a vibrant visitor destination, a place of learning, engagement and appreciation of Welsh heritage and culture and a centre for heritage skills training. This field school is the first step in curating a long-term programme of research, training and public engagement.

The UK is facing a shortage of trained field archaeologists with Historic England estimating that the UK will need between 25% and 64% more archaeologists by 2033 to meet commercial demand*.

The Strata Florida Archaeology Field School will have a considerable impact on skills training and jobs in archaeology and heritage, raise the profile of archaeology and provide people with exposure to a potential career path that they might not otherwise have considered, and which does not necessarily require a university degree.

The Strata Florida Trust is also working with social inclusion partner, Breaking Ground Heritage, who will work with the Strata Florida Trust to provide mentoring opportunities for both veterans and civilians suffering from isolation or mental and physical health challenges.

In the first year, participants will complete an Archaeology Skills Passport. This will ensure trainees master core techniques and more complex skills – helping those starting out on a career or interest in archaeology. For those already with fieldwork experience, the Passport enables existing skills to be built upon and providing proof of experience and competence to potential employers.

Strata Florida is one of The Prince’s Foundation’s 7 for 70 projects. In 2018, to coincide with The Prince of Wales’ 70th birthday, The Prince’s Foundation launched the initiative to identify and undertake seven high-impact community regeneration projects throughout the United Kingdom.

Full details of the field school, including timetable, fees, accommodation and FAQs are available through the school's comprehensive brochure, which is available here and can be downloaded from www.stratafloridatrust.org. People can register for a place via the website. Both the brochure and website are bilingual - in Welsh and English.

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*Historic England 'National Infrastructure Development & Historical Environment Skills & Capacity 2015-33: An Assessment' (2016)