Rural communities are faced with increasing pressure from urbanisation, migration and technological innovation which put a strain on the social fabric. The structures through which social networks form are changing and are less frequently tied to the village than they used to. At the same time pressure from constructional developments often causes local heritage to be overlooked and resources for its research and protection are limited. Community Archaeology has a unique and distinctive quality in the co-creation of local histories while fostering social cohesion.
Together with local inhabitants project partners in the United Kingdom, Poland, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands explore the history of a number of villages by means of small-scale archaeological excavations. This entails digging test-pits across the build-up area of historical settlements. Finds from these pits are used to gain an overview of the development of occupation in the village at different stages of its history. The simplicity of the methodology allows people from all ages to participate. The outcome of the research provides valuable data for current research on the origins and development of historical villages.
When this approach proves successful in creating social and historical value, the experiences gained in these various communities is used to develop new toolkits for heritage policy-makers and practitioners to facilitate future work.
By undertaking community archaeology in an European context we not only focus on strengthening of the participants connection to his/her own dwelling place (binding) and improving the bond with the village community (bonding), but we also foster the exchange of experiences with people from other villages and regions (bridging). This international perspective celebrates both the particulars of the local narratives and the common elements.
The project is directed by dr. Heleen van Londen, with the assistance of Johan Verspay.