Southborough Valley Community Archaeology Project


Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Community Archaeology: funding & sponsorship

Robert Falvey presenting the Mayor of Tunbrige Wells, Cllr David Elliot, with a t-shirt for his pledge to Kickstarter campaign.   
It might be said that a community archaeological group is only as good as its members. As the new digging season gets underway, SHAAS can reflect upon the strong support from its members and its growing assetsAt our inaugural AGM we passed a motion to introduce membership fees. SHAAs effectively moved from being a volunteer group to a constituted archaeology society. It was decided to keep subscriptions as low as possible so as to not impede its existing members while it attempts to grow more self-sufficient. We are glad to see that we have not seen a fall in membership since fees were introduced. We continue to have an enthusiastic pool of members to draw on as commence work on our new site at Honnington Farm.
Table Quiz held at the Imperial Pub, Southborough to raise funds
Over the winter period we had more time to focus on fundraising, as the rain had put an end to our fun in the woods. Robert Falvey took the lead on raising capital via crowdfunding. This is the practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a larger number of people, typically via the internet. Kickstarter is one of the leading established benefit corporations which provide a platform for fundraisers, and a successful campaign led to the raising of £1,062. Each person who pledges support gets a reward and the most popular of these rewards was an official SHAAS t-shirt. Other popular gifts included tickets to our forthcoming archaeology workshops.  This was enough to provide its members with a range of brand-new archaeological equipment and facilities. Tricia Bamblett soon followed suit with the inclusion of the society in the Asda Green Token Scheme which raised much needed money for our cause. 

The fundraising did not stop there; the society wrote a successful bid to the Royal Tunbridge Wells Round Table Give-Away and received a generous donation of £714. This grant went straight into developing the facilities and pay for a geophysical survey of our new site.

This project shows that community groups can be successful if run with a strong community ethos and aligned to achievable goals. SHASS does not believe in squirreling away the money generated. Rainy days may come, but for the time being we are enjoying the fine weather. All the money raised has being invested into our new site to make it a fantastic resource for the community. SHAAS strives to be a beacon for those people who were fired up by the sort of popular people’s archaeology so effectively fostered by Time Team and its successors. 
Part of the money raised went towards our site office, which was a group effort to put up!
If you would like to take part in this summers dig please get in touch via the website  or email

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Believe what you will

Last month’s bit of fun about Frittenden set me thinking of some of the other archaeology-based trickery that has been perpetrated over the years. Recently the National Trust tried to persuade us that twice every year they move one of the stones at Avebury to allow for British Summer Time which, of course, the original builders of the monument did not know about. Effective April foolery often relies on the po-faced establishment status of the National Trust or English Heritage and other august bodies – we trust them implicitly. 

A similar hoax was perpetrated in 1991 when the Daily Mail reported the following under the headline: Stonehenge faces a new dawn today. 
“To correct the misalignment caused by the gradual slowing of the Earth's rotation, the world-famous monument is to be dismantled and re-assembled on another site of similar prominence. The plan to transport the stones, which attract 700,000 visitors every year, has outraged conservation groups and caused a split in the Ancient Society….  A consortium of Tokyo businessmen is believed to have offered 484billion yen (2billion) for the monument, saying it will enhance Japan's status as the Land of the Rising Sun when re-sited on top of sacred Mount Fuji….  So sensitive are the stones that archaeologists have ruled they must be moved in exactly the same way they were erected. Thousands of labourers will be hired and trained in prehistoric building techniques.” 

Photos can be helpful in making hoaxes more convincing (I've no idea where Rob found his tourist sign for the treacle mine article but it added a satisfying veneer of veracity to the tale). Even being on social media can add to a story’s weight. In 2015 Justbod pasted a story on Facebook claiming that Stonehenge was having a roof installed over it to protect it from the weather, with some pretty convincing architect’s impressions. Others have used early photographs of renovation work at Stonehenge to claim that it was erected between the 1930s and 50s and even claim that the whole monument is made out concrete. In 2013 a furore was caused when it was announced by English Heritage that adverts would be projected against the stones at night to increase revenue. There was a strange compulsion to believe this simply because many people feel that EH is becoming too commercial – too worried about chasing the cash and turning its sites into theme parks. 

If astrological alignments are the ‘in’ thing, then we will want to explain sites in those terms. And if space race tragedies are your bag, here is a preview of next year’s SHAAS April Fool hoax – the wreckage of a failed Russian Voshkod mission of 1964, photographed at a secret location near Lamberhurst earlier this year. The crew miraculously survived because the capsule first landed on a hayrick before sliding into a muck heap. Unbelievable eh?

In hindsight we can all spot a hoax but at the time it may not be quite as easy. Piltdown Man worked as a hoax because Darwinism was a new science and people felt the need to find fill in the ‘gaps’ in the historic record. In the end we believe what we want to believe. If we want to explain an archaeological site we can construct any theory we like and then search for the facts to prove it.

By Charlie Bell