Skip to content Accessibility statement

Schoolchildren step into the past at Heslington East

Posted on 5 July 2010

Local schoolchildren are getting their hands dirty in the cause of archaeological research as they take part in a dig on the site of the University of York’s campus expansion at Heslington East.

Pupils from Lord Deramore and Badger Hill primary schools and Archbishop Holgate School are spending this week working with experts from the University’s Department of Archaeology on the latest exploratory excavations on the site.

This is an exciting opportunity for local children to find out about life in Roman Heslington by undertaking the research and fieldwork themselves

Dr Cath Neal

It is part of a major new initiative, backed by a £27,500 Heritage Lottery Fund grant, to increase public participation in archaeological investigation of Heslington East. Archaeologists have already unearthed a number of significant finds from the late prehistoric and Roman periods.

The schoolchildren will be helping with a geophysical survey of part of the site, as well as excavating, drawing and recording finds. Pottery expert Graham Taylor, of Potted History based at Rothbury, Northumberland, will explain how the Romans made pots, examples of which have been discovered at Heslington East.

Dr Cath Neal, who is Fieldwork Officer at Heslington East, said: “This is an exciting opportunity for local children to find out about life in Roman Heslington by undertaking the research and fieldwork themselves. We hope that they will enjoy the sense of discovery and that by working alongside archaeologists they will understand how we try to build up a picture of what life might have been like in the past.”

The Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded a grant of £27,600 to Cath Neal and Steve Roskams, of the University’s Department of Archaeology, to support the project.

Apart from the school excavation, the money will be used to increase local knowledge about the historic environment through a website, information boards and a popular publication focusing on the archaeological work on the site.

Archaeological investigations on the site of the University’s £500 million expansion have already unearthed a series of major finds including four sets of human remains. The most striking is an Iron Age skull discovered by a team from York Archaeological Trust employed by the University. It is thought to contain the oldest surviving brain material in Britain.

Meanwhile, the University’s own archaeological teams have discovered three skeletons, in an area close to a Roman building and a series of boundary ditches. The first is thought to be one of Britain’s first ever victims of tuberculosis, while the latest skeleton to be discovered last year was unearthed by a University team working with a group of community archaeologists.

Notes to editors:

  • More about the University’s campus development at
  • More about the University’s Department of Archaeology at
  • Using money raised through the National Lottery, since 1994 the Heritage Lottery Fund has not only revitalised hundreds of museums, parks, historic buildings, landscapes and wildlife sites, but has also given new meaning to heritage itself. People from every walk of life are now involved with the heritage that inspires them, making choices about what they want to keep and share from the past, for future generations. HLF has supported more than 33,900 projects, allocating over £4.4billion across the UK, including £341million to more than 2,500 projects across the Yorkshire and the Humber region alone.

Contact details

David Garner
Senior Press Officer

Tel: +44 (0)1904 322153

Keep up to date

 Subscribe to news feeds

 Follow us on Twitter