25th Anniversary Celebration: Young Archaeologists’ Club (YAC) - investing in our future

HAT, 08 May 2024 - About Archaeology in Buckinghamshire

How do we engage with young people today to encourage the archaeologists and historians of the future? On television there are the popular “Horrible Histories” , “Digging for Britain” and there is even a “Peppa Pig goes to DigCamp”, although that does not follow archaeological standards!

Since 1972 the Council for British Archaeology has run the YAC network across the UK, the only club for 8-16 year olds to engage with archaeology and heritage. There are 70+ clubs run by over 500 volunteers and there are two branches in Buckinghamshire, Chiltern YAC and Aylesbury YAC. Our Chiltern Branch meets in Jordans with a membership drawn from South Bucks and further afield across the wider Chilterns and beyond. A quarter of a century ago, the Branch began at the Chiltern Open Air Museum but quickly moved to meet in Chalfont St Peter for many years until Covid arrived and we moved to Jordans Village Hall.

What do we do? Over the years we have looked at cultures from around the world as well as investigating our local heritage including participation in the Cranford Park Community dig in Hillingdon and hands on activities at the Cookham Abbey excavation run by the University of Reading. We try to have an experimental archaeology or historic craft activity as part of a session, from constructing miniature Iron Age Round Houses to ever popular food based sessions, even over Zoom, when we baked medieval Simnel loaves during lockdown.

In March 2024 we celebrated the 25th Anniversary of Chiltern YAC a significant achievement as not many YAC Branches thrive for so long! We ran a session for the members in the morning when Will Attard, an archaeologist with Thames Valley Archaeological Services, came to share his passion and expertise of the Mesolithic and flint with us. He brought slate pieces and flint flake tools for everyone to create their own Star Carr Mesolithic inspired slate pendants.

Scoring a design on slate and demonstrating how to knap flint

After the YAC session, we were joined by families, former YAC Leaders and alumni, our Sponsor Mark Milligan of HeritageDaily and representatives from the local archaeological and heritage groups for a flint knapping demonstration given by Will.

Following this, about 70 people enjoyed a buffet lunch whilst we watched a short presentation of the highlights of the past 25 years. Lucy Lawrence, Archaeology Officer at Bucks County Council and Matt Guy, Aylesbury YAC Leader then revealed the results of the Grim’s Ditch geophysical survey we helped with in September 2023. Yes, we had helped to reveal another part of Grim’s Ditch! Our members who had taken part were very proud to hear that their names would be included in the final published report.

A person standing in front of a screen talking about Grim's Ditch

Grim's Ditch talk

The event made for a very enjoyable and successful celebration, and included attendees from Aylesbury YAC, BAS, BCAS, CCB/CCC, Discover Bucks Museum, Oxfordshire CC and Ridgeway Partnership. Good wishes were also received from those unable to attend: Amersham Museum, AOC, CBA, CHAP, Hillingdon YAC, North Wiltshire YAC, and UoR Archaeology Dept. This was our opportunity to say thank you to some of the people and organisations who have contributed to helping us develop the next generation of archaeologists and historians! Here’s looking forward to setting out on our journey for the next 25 years…

A group of Young Archaeologists' Club members standing on a stage

Some of our Chiltern YAC members and leaders at the 25th celebration

Over the last few months we have been very pleased to be able to welcome 2 new Leaders to our Branch, Charlie Nicholson of MOLA and Lucy-Anne Taylor, a Project Curator at the British Museum in Reading. Also, since the start of our new season of activities last September we have been welcoming new members into the group, but as demand always outstrips our ability to accept new members, we are still running a waiting list. As ever, our advice is to add your name to our waiting list if you are interested in joining us.

Chiltern YAC are unaffiliated to any museum or heritage site, so we are always keen to engage with outside speakers, crafts people, sites of interest and of course any opportunities for excavation or other archaeological activities. These activities will help us to keep encouraging youngsters to discover the delights (and mud) of archaeology and history. If you could help us identify any of the above, to join the waiting list, are interested in volunteering or for more information please contact us at: [email protected].

A blog post by Janet Rothwell, leader
Archaeologist Club https://www.yac-uk.org

A blog post by Janet Rothwell, leader of the Chilterns Young Archaeologists' Club