Archaeology at Home
In March 2020, not-for-profit social business DigVentures launched Archaeology at Home as an instant response to the conditions imposed on the practice of public archaeology by the COVID-19 lockdown. Founded in 2012, DigVentures distinguishes itself with its collaborative, tech-enabled model of participation in archaeology and strives to deliver top-quality, research-driven archaeological work in collaboration with citizens, businesses, organisations and government, ultimately enabling places to thrive, prosper and sustain distinct local identities. In 2020, with field activities almost impossible, DigVentures completely remodeled itself and embarked on an extremely successful experiment in technology-enabled participation in archaeology.
Archaeology at Home consisted of three distinct streams: videos including virtual site tours and workshops; an online Virtual Fieldschool in the form of a six week step-by-step ‘How to do archaeology’ course, provided free of charge on the basis of an opt-in funding model; and the annual two-day DigNation festival, remodeled as a digital conference. In total, DigVentures welcomed a remarkable number of over 11,000 people from 90 countries.
The Jury praised the many innovative qualities of Archaeology at Home: “This proved to have been an agile response to the situation brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and saw huge numbers of participants involved, offering connection during the lockdowns among the participants and between professionals and amateur archaeologists.”
The diverse audience extended far beyond the traditional demographics normally associated with public archaeology activities, and a remarkable percentage of participants was new to archaeology in general. Archaeology at Home also ran a junior course, attracting a further 1,844 primary school children and their guardians from 11 different countries, introducing children to the practical role of the archaeologist and sparking excitement for archaeology. The project further ensured that despite the solitary and isolated working conditions of archaeologists due to the pandemic, professional and aspiring archaeologists could come together, share their love for the practice, but also support each other in these times of social isolation.
Archaeology at Home did not just increase the accessibility of archaeology and act as a much needed social network during the pandemic, it also had a direct positive impact on cultural heritage. In particular, the participation of one student in the Virtual Fieldschool led to the discovery of a new henge site in the Derbyshire region of the United Kingdom. Moreover, DigVentures significantly upscaled their evaluation procedures for Archaeology at Home, which led to rich data allowing DigVentures to develop and refine this kind of community archaeology, which ultimately contributes to the social embeddedness of cultural heritage.
“By situating learning at its basis, Archaeology at Home has provided knowledge and guidance to people who want to approach archaeology in an amateur way. It can also provide an open database of materials and artefacts that otherwise would have been unknown, which helps to curtail the illegal sale of these objects,” the Jury noted.