oxford archaeology 40 years young Oxford Archaeology, one of the oldest archaeological units in the UK, celebrates its 40th birthday this autumn. CA caught up with Chief Executive Gill Hey to hear about the triumphs and tribulations of four decades of developer-driven archaeology.
gill hey is Chief Executive of Oxford Archaeology and Regional Manager of Oxford Archaeology North.
Happy birthday! So why was Oxford Archaeology (OA) formed in 1973?
It all came out of the rescue archaeology movement, really. In the Oxford area there were many disparate groups, like the Thames Valley Archaeological Committee, the Oxford Excavation Committee, the field department in the Oxford City and Council Museum, all trying to investigate sites that were about to be destroyed. And they were all competing for the same pot of money. Many of these committees had the same people sitting on them, and there was a growing sense that it was wasteful of effort, resources, and equipment to have these separate groups. So instead they banded together and built a unit to serve Oxfordshire.
Unusually, the unit was independent from the beginning. It came out of the county council and was linked to the county museum, but it was independent of them: the first of its kind. Barry Cunliffe, Trevor Rowley, and Tom Hassall – the first director – wrote an Antiquity article together at the very beginning, saying why the unit was set up and what its aims were. The idea was to educate the public, and communicate the results of our work. We would also dig the most important sites, not rush around trying to do everything.
Over time some of these aims slipped into the background, perhaps, but these things are firmly back on the agenda again now. There’s not very much that’s new, is there?
I think that the very first excavation the unit tackled was in a gravel quarry at Appleford in south Oxfordshire. I was a student at Reading at the time, and I actually dug on that site with the unit. Astonishing, really.
below Appleford, Oxfordshire, in 1973, one of OA’s earliest excavations. The cooling towers of Didcot Power Station are in the background.
l og y
A rc haeo
; ALL OTHER
liffe inc h
H: John phoTo
current archaeology | www.archaeology.co.uk
November 2013 |
November 2013 |