Dig Out Royal

Examining mud, blood and the green field beyond: Ex Joan of Arc 2017

For many, Time Team was one of those few win-win programs. Kids loved watching, adults loved watching, and it was educational, so there was no remorse in skipping your homework to watch Tony Robinson and his team excavate the UK. Apart from an hour of entertainment in the evening, I am sure for the majority archaeology has not always been an obvious path to follow, neither as a career or pastime. The guys over at Breaking Ground Heritage are seeking to change this, making archaeology an accessible thing to both serving and former service personnel. The organisation is a charity run by veterans for veterans, facilitating a path way into an involvement in archaeology, whether someone has an interest in heritage or wants to be hands on with the excavation, these guys make it happen.

Magwich 2017 (Photo credit Harvey Mills www.harveymills.com)

After being medically discharged in 2011, Richard Bennett of 40 Commando, and Breaking Ground Heritage’s founder, initially sought work in security, though quickly realised the job was not a career he wanted to pursue. He explains that although he had always held an interest in heritage and archaeology, it was only after taking his daughter on an excavation site here they uncovered an Anglo-Saxon skeleton, jewellery and a sword that his passion really began to develop. He went on to work with the military initiative Operation Nightingale, undertook a degree in archaeology at Exeter University, and is currently finishing up a Masters.

Beginning as a low-level participation organisation, Breaking Ground Heritage is now internationally recognised, particularly for their training programs, and features on archaeological TV programs such as ‘Digging for Britain’.

Uncovering a skeleton at Magwich in 2017 (Photo credit Harvey Mills www.Harveymills.com)

Richard explains that there is a shortage of archaeologists to excavate and analyse the abundance of heritage that lies beneath the UK. In fact, if we were to take every archaeologist from Europe and put them into the UK, we would still need more. For this reason, the last few years have seen a huge increase in the demand for Archaeologists. As well as organisations like Breaking Ground Heritage, Universities are also able to facilitate pathways into archaeology, such as Winchester University, which now offers 5 fee waivered places per year for injured service personnel to study an undergraduate degree in Archaeology. Though studying at a degree level will generally only offer around 3 weeks of hands-on work, Breaking Ground Heritage is then able to supplement the training by enabling the extra experience. The Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIFA) are also looking into paid apprenticeship schemes, and Breaking Ground Heritage have linked with several organisations that also provide paid traineeships in commercial archaeology.

Photo Credit Harvey Mills (www.harveymills.com)

However, you do not need a degree or specific qualification to become an archaeologist, thorough and sufficient training and guidance is offered through Breaking Ground Heritage, all of which is funded. Richard explains that along with an increase in archaeologist’s wages in the UK, there are an abundance of jobs requiring archaeological skills. So whether you feel like pursuing an interest in heritage and archaeology, want to show your kids what excavation is all about, or would like to find out if archaeology holds a career for you, then here has never been a better time to involved.

You can find more information on www.breakinggroundheritage.org.uk