Co-creation and archaeological prospection: LoCATE – The Local Community Archaeological Training and Equipment Project.
This paper is based on the co-creation of research through an innovative partnership focused around archaeological prospection techniques. LoCATE (Local Community Archaeological Training and Equipment) is a project that brings together archaeologists at Bournemouth University and the New Forest National Park Authority (NFNPA) with archaeological societies and community groups from across Dorset and Hampshire. LoCATE provides access, training, and support for the use of advanced survey equipment that can otherwise be hard to get hold of. It supports the work that all partners already do by extending the range of techniques and skills they can use, and expanding their capacity to undertake research.
The idea for LoCATE was first instigated in 2015 when member of the Avon Valley Archaeological Society approached the University and asked them to consider providing access to older, but serviceable geophysical equipment that was not being used regularly for teaching and other activities. Working with the New Forest National Park Authority LoCATE was developed, and the first instrument made available was a Geoscan Research FM36 followed a year later by a Geoscan Research RM15. Most recently a total station has been added to the equipment pool, funded through the Heritage Lottery Funding (Our Past and Our Future, Landscape Partnership Scheme) and the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society. Access to the equipment is managed through the New Forest’s volunteer equipment loan system. LoCATE members are given access to free training on these techniques using a variety of expertise situated across the partnership, and LoCATE members sign up to a code of responsible survey and data sharing. Open data is a core value, and LoCATE also encourages members to use open access materials and software, for example Snuffler freeware geophysics software (Staveley 2018). Inter-partner support is fostered through a variety of means including shared prospection activities, and project social media channels.
Now in its fourth year, LoCATE has become well established, enabling relationships that support the research agendas of all partners. It has developed both capacity and expertise in the use of archaeological prospection activities in the local region. Example of the success of the project can be seen through the diversity of the outcomes from the work of LoCATE members from prehistoric monuments, including previously understudied Neolithic long and oval barrows and Bronze Age double ring ditches, to extensive Romano-British sites along the Avon Valley and on Cranborne Chase (Hampshire) (Gill 2019a, b). Through these surveys LoCATE members have achieved their own research aims, but also contributed to the collective goal of the project in enabling an improved understanding of the rich archaeological heritage of our region.
In conclusion, LoCATE provides a new model for community engagement in archaeological prospection projects. In an era where the integration of techniques and data are central themes, it is perhaps timely to also consider the integration of people, and how we best work with a variety of different communities to create a shared understanding of our collective past.
Bibliography Gill, M. 2019a. New long barrow discoveries in the vicinity of the middle Avon Valley and Cranborne Chase. PAST 91, 5-7.
Gill, M. 2019b. Putting old kit to good use, the LoCATE geophysical project. British Archaeology, March/April 2019, 30-5. Staveley, D 2018. Snuffler - Freeware Geophysics Software. Available from: http://www.sussexarch.org.uk/geophys/snuffler.html