March Update

Community Stadium logo_ArranAs the days grow longer and York’s ramparts begin to disappear beneath a carpet of daffodils, the scent of spring is undoubtedly in the air and the Community Stadium excavation is drawing close!

British Railways advertisement, 1950.

British Railways advertisement, 1950.

When City of York Council and York Archaeological Trust first met to discuss the possibility of a community archaeology project at Huntington Stadium, the key focus was always to maximise the site’s archaeological and cultural value. This means getting people involved and we’re happy to report that the level of interest shown by the public has been nothing short of overwhelming!

In February, YAT archaeologist Dr. Jon Kenny led a team of volunteers in carrying out a full geophysical survey of the pitch to ascertain whether anything of our Roman camp survived the construction of the stadium in 1989. Comprising an equal mix of experienced amateur geophysicists and absolute beginners, the team completed the survey in just three days and found some intriguing results.

The Day Three geophysics team

The Day Three geophysics team

As expected, the gradiometer struggled to see through the layers of sand and gravel bedding beneath the turf, but the resistivity meter revealed some (fairly) clear responses. Whether we are looking at modern drains or defensive structures dating back two millennia will only be known for sure when the excavation begins, but the L-shaped linear feature pictured below is certainly situated where we would expect to find the camp’s south-east corner. Jon and the team will be returning to the site to survey the parts of the camp that extend beyond the stadium next week. This will put our findings into greater context and therefore make them easier to interpret. We’ll post the results as soon as they’re processed.

Reistivity survey with highlighted trends

Reistivity survey with highlighted trends.

Next week, YAT buildings archaeologist and historian Dr. Jayne Rimmer will be training a group of over thirty volunteers in how to utilise city archives and the Heritage Environment Record (HER) to find out more about a site’s historic past. The team will then begin a scheme of ongoing research to learn as much as possible about how the site has changed over the years, what different activities have taken place there and how it sits in relation to the broader history of sport in York. Hopefully the team will uncover some wonderful stories to complement the findings of the excavation and to fully understand the Stadium’s more recent past.

Due to the City Council’s commitment to providing new facilities to the City of York Athletic Club, the dates for the excavation have been moved back slightly to begin in late May. The dig will run for four weeks  and is now almost fully stocked with local volunteers. To enquire after any remaining spaces, please contact us via digyorkstadium@yorkat.co.uk

A pre-excavation shot of the hallowed turf. Image courtesy of @watertowers https://www.flickr.com/photos/22260522@N06/16660780832/

A pre-excavation shot of the hallowed turf. Image courtesy of @watertowers https://www.flickr.com/photos/22260522@N06/16660780832/

Community archaeology projects are becoming increasingly common, as archaeologists and developers look to harness the potential benefits of their construction sites. The Dig York Stadium project will allow people from the York area to make a direct connection with their past. Whether this is through hands on, good old fashioned excavation on site or through painstaking study of historic documents in the York Explore archives, the process will encourage and empower people to be active participants in the continuing development of their community. After all, as the old cliché goes, how can we know where we are going, if we don’t know where we’ve been.

So, the waiting is nearly over. In just over two months, we’ll be beginning to solve a mystery older than the Minster and the medieval City Walls combined. Does our camp survive beneath the pitch? When and why was it built? How and when was it abandoned. Watch this space for regular updates on the latest discoveries by our marvellous team of volunteers. We’ll be live-tweeting the progress of the excavation via https://twitter.com/digyorkstadium and putting plenty of photos and info on our facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/319759298209171/.

Location of Camp 1, Camp 2 and earlier archaeology.

Projected location of Camp 1 and confirmed location of Camp 2 and earlier archaeology.

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