Cotswold Archaeology and Work Experience

Cotswold Archaeology has been welcoming work-experience students for well over 20 years, so following a couple of years of enforced COVID absence, we were delighted to open our doors again this year to work experience students at our Kemble, Milton Keynes and Suffolk offices. A total of 13 students attended in 2022, all aged between 14 and 18 years, the majority of whom attend nearby schools and colleges, with most placements taking place during February and July.

Nathan and Grace sorting through bones, grains and seeds from their environmental samples
Nathan and Grace sorting through bones, grains and seeds from their environmental samples

During these week-long placements, CA staff delivered a range of workshops, offering students ‘hands-on’ experience and enabling them to better understand the various roles possible as an archaeologist.  Workshops included learning about human and animal bone, flint, pottery, geomatics and illustration, with all workshops including both a presentation and practical element.

Much of the students’ time was spent with our teams of specialists.  Finds Officers Jacky Somerville, Pete Banks and Alex Bliss hosted flint, pottery and metallic finds workshops. Workshops with Claire Collier-Jones (Assistant Finds Officer) and Andy Clarke (Post-Excavation Supervisor) were also firm favourites, where students identified animal bone including ‘worked’ bone items, such as combs and instruments. They also spent some of their time getting muddy and wet, processing environmental samples with our post-excavation specialists Tom Brown, Anna West and Clare Bond.

Other workshops included illustration and photography of various archaeological artefacts, ranging from prehistoric flint to Post-medieval pottery sherds, with expert guidance from our Illustrators Li Sou, Dan Bashford and Ryan Wilson.

Nathan’s finished drawing of a pottery sherd with handle.
Nathan’s finished drawing of a pottery sherd with handle.

Where possible, students were also given the opportunity to visit an archaeological site, and four of them were able to spend a day alongside staff and volunteers at our community excavations of a Roman tile kiln site at Brandiers Farm in North Wiltshire.

At the end of the experience, students completed feedback forms and wrote articles describing their time with us, and what it meant to them.

Students were asked to describe their experience at CA in three words:

Students' experience in 3 words: Knowledgeable, Interesting, Enjoyable, Fun, Muddy, Hands on, New, Educational, Surprising
From left: Sophie adjusting the lighting when preparing to take an artefact photo; Tom with a stamped Roman tile at Brandiers Farm, Minety; Niall undertaking environmental sample processing.

Students were asked to describe things they had learnt during their week with us, which included:

  • You can tell how muscular a person was by the thickness of the bone
  • Cirencester was one of the main producers of Roman tiles in England
  • You can use photogrammetry to make a 3D model
  • You can tell a skeleton’s gender by looking at its skull and pelvis

Students also wrote about how much they had enjoyed the week, and how they felt the experience will support their future career choices:

‘Thank you very much for this amazing week of work experience. It really has taught me a lot about how many different branches of archaeology there are, as well as the variety of roles. I have loved working with everyone there. As well as being friendly, they have been encouraging, supportive and helpful when I have questions. They have made me feel welcome and it has felt like a second home to me. I really appreciate how much of their time they have put into my work experience, trying to make sure everything I do is new.’ 

Nathan and Grace, prepared for environmental sample processing
Nathan and Grace, prepared for environmental sample processing.

‘Your work experience program has been so wonderful. From the get-go, you have been so quick to respond to emails and return documents that it was easy to organise the work experience.  It has been so well prepared. There was always something to do and learn from all of your great specialists and I was never just filing documents like other companies do with their students.’ 

‘Each workshop had a presentation or a demo or something engaging and it really felt like I was doing archaeology, rather than simply being told about it.’

‘This week has shown me how many fantastic things there are about archaeology and how much more there is for me to learn and experience. There is so much I have learned – like how you can sometimes tell if humans have inhabited somewhere because certain snails like to live in the soil humans may have disturbed while they were farming or building.’

I especially loved doing the finds photography, learning about the correct lighting and the angles which are best for the camera. Geomatics was also very interesting as it was a completely new subject I had never heard about. All of the time I have spent with you has made me feel more confident and confirmed that archaeology really is what I would want to do as a career.’

Many of our work-experience students go on to volunteer for Cotswold Archaeology, enthusiastically taking their archaeological journey further. If you would like to know more about our work experience programme please contact me, Caroline Adams, CA’s Outreach and Community Engagement Officer at

Caroline Adams

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