Is it still possible to do archaeology without a grant? Today the whole world seems to be engulfed in an economic crisis, and thus grants of any kind are hard to come by — but are they really necessary? This is a topic that will be tackled head on at the next annual conference of the Council for Independent Archaeology (CIA) — the body that sets out to support amateur archaeologists — to be held on 15 September 2012.
But where do you hold such a conference — if you do not have a grant and need to do it cheaply? The trouble is that most of the usual venues in universities or museums have become too expensive, unless of course you have a grant.
But Roy Friendship-Taylor, the excavator of Piddington Roman Villa and one of the CIA committee members, said, ‘Why not hold it out in our local village hall? It’s very cheap, and I am one of the trustees and have some friends in the village who will do all the catering.’ Another big advantage is that Hackleton is very central: it lies in the heart of Middle England, just 5 miles south of Northampton and only a short distance from the M1 motorway. In practical terms, you cannot get much more central than that. So far so good — that is where the conference will be held. The conference will be both practical and theoretical.
A highlight will be hearing from Albert Daniels on his Roman building at East Farleigh in Kent. He recently made the spectacular discovery of a Roman curse tablet here, which has now been painstakingly unrolled and partially read (see CA 271). We will also be updated on the latest progress on the CIA resistivity meter and finding out how to use it with cheap or even free software.
Another highlight will be a visit to the Piddington Villa excavations, now in their 33rd year. At the end of the conference there will be a visit both to the excavations, and to the project museum in a converted Wesleyan chapel. This is a splendid example of a private museum dedicated to storing and displaying finds from the Villa. In many ways I think this is going to be the most important conference of the year. Too many local societies have been relying on external grants to fund their work and have thus lost something of their independence. Yet there are many advantages to undertaking archaeology without a grant, as it brings us closer to a world where every county — every town even — has a local society which feels it has ownership of the local archaeology. What better way to reinforce a sense of responsibility for the archaeology and history of the area? Archaeology shouldn’t always be impersonal — something to be done by ‘the government’ or a remote university — it should be integrated with the local community. That is what I hope we will be promoting.
Full details of the conference can be found on our website (www.independents.org.uk). Please let us know if you are coming, preferably by email, or by ringing our Treasurer, Keith Foster on 01332 704148, e-mail: email@example.com – or if necessary just turn up on the day (through you won’t get any lunch unless you warn us!). And if you are carrying out archaeology without a grant, or if your society is carrying out archaeology without a grant, do let us know: we are already taking bookings for next year’s conference!