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23 November 2008
Amateurs' prehistoric find draws top award

An amateur archaeological team from Datchet (Berkshire, England) have been presented with a Highly Commended award at the British Museum for uncovering a prehistoric settlement at Southlea Farm. For the past five years a group from the Datchet Village Society have been carrying out regular digs at the site after Janet Kennish, historian and chair of the group, became interested in some aerial photos of the village from the 1950s which prompted the archaeological investigation. Experts from local universities and museums have now labelled the discoveries as 'very important' after the 20 weekend volunteers unearthed evidence of a settlement dating back 3000 years to the Neolithic period.
     The initial stages of the project involved significant field markings and it wasn't long before significant discoveries from the Bronze and Iron Ages started to flood in. Janet Kennish, chair of the DVS, explained: "A remarkably large quantity of flint and pottery was recovered along with tile, metal, bone, burnt flint and a complete quern stone. A fragment of human ulna was also recovered. As the project developed far beyond any original expectations it became clear that expert help would be needed and a successful application was made to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a grant."
     The presence of human occupation dating from the Neolithic Age all the way up to the Roman period has now been revealed thanks to the group's painstaking investigations. Group member Julia Martin, said: "We initially set out to investigate cropmarks at the farm but as work progressed we started to turn up all of these wonderful artefacts. Professional people were called in to help identify our findings and they became very excited and encouraged us to continue with our project, that was several years ago now and we've only just finished."
     The Datchet team were selected for the prestigious British Archaeological Awards short list and eventually won through in the best amateur or independent archaeological project category against some stiff opposition from professional groups. Ms Martin, continued: "We were very honoured to be involved in the competition and to actually win something was a big surprise. "I believe that the involvement of the local community and volunteers is one of the factors that has made this project so unusual and rewarding."

Source: The Royal Borough Observer (22 November 2008)

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