Flag Fen Lives!


I wrote an article on crowdfunding.  I think it is a creative and useful way for projects to get off the ground.  Investors don’t have to invest huge amounts of money and much of the ‘pay back’ on the investment is altruistic rather than financial. Unbound, a crowd-funded publisher, was the first example I came across and I was looking for others.

Never in my dreams did I expect one to pop into my email box that was so closely connected to me personally. Sometimes, what you’re looking for is right behind you, tapping you on your shoulder.


I got an email from Brendon Wilkins, Project Director of DigVentures.  This is what their website says about them:

DigVentures Ltd is committed to providing seed capital for archaeology projects worldwide. We’re changing the game, by putting the public in the driver’s seat – and giving you the chance to get on site, digging with us. All of us here at DV mission control are archaeologists; we come from all aspects of the discipline, and have an international perspective on what’s working, and what isn’t. Let’s be honest: the economy isn’t great, and for lots of reasons that means that archaeology is under threat. We’ve joined forces to try something new.

Brendon told me of their first big crowd-funded project – Flag Fen, near Peterborough in Cambridgeshire. This is where the shivers started to creep up and down my spine.


It’s a little discomforting to realise that you’re old enough to not only be making history but to be part of it.  From 1975 to 1979 I was a digger (a field archaeologist, to you) at Fengate, on the eastern side of Peterborough, on the edge of the fens.  We dug acres of a Bronze Field field system and droveways that lead to and from we knew not where.  The fens, 3000 years ago, were boggy marshes, filled with wild fowl and fish, but cattle, sheep and pigs you need dry, higher ground for grazing.  This was Fengate, the ‘high’ ground, all of 2 or 3 feet above sea level and a mile or two west of a mysterious, yet-to-be-discovered settlement.


Fengate diggers, 1975


Fengate 1975; Bronze Age fields and Iron Age Settlement

Flag Fen

Flag Fen was the elusive Bronze Age centre which Fengate’s field systems served and to and from which its droveways led.  The settlement was discovered in 1982 by archaeologist Francis Pryor MBE. It was right out in the wet fens and this meant that over 60,000 timbers survived intact.  They formed a ceremonial platform and part of the causeway that linked it to the grazing fields of Fengate.

During the Bronze Age (1365–967 BC), climate change caused flooding and farmland was lost. Many objects have been found on the site, which are now displayed in the Flag Fen museum.  Flag Fen is internationally acknowledged as one of the most important Bronze Age sites in the world.

But… due to extensive drainage and development of the surrounding area, the land is drying out and the archaeology is in jeopardy.  Believe it or not archaeologists don’t like to dig, unless we have to.  Digging is a destructive process and so we’d much rather find out as much from survey and other non-destructive methods as we can, but sometimes the threat to the site is too great to leave it unexcavated.

The 2012 summer excavation, crowdfunded by DigVentures, proposes to capture Flag Fen’s rich legacy and launch the site into an exciting future.  The dig itself is a news-worthy story as this  will be Europe’s first ever crowd-funded and crowd-sourced archaeological excavation.  The funding window launched on the 29th February and by the time it closes at the end of April DigVentures needs to have raised £25,000 to support this summer’s project.

Please go to http://www.sponsume.com/project/digventures-flag-fen-lives-1 and be part of the crowd.  I have.  Like a ghost at the party, I am one of the early diggers who helped to bring prehistory back to life.

Here’s their video.

Photo credits: copyright 2012; The Secret Archaeologist

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