In February 2012, the University of Liverpool's Centre for Manx Studies together with Culture Vannin, jointly funded a new 'Community Heritage Initiative' on the Isle of Man.
The Centre conducts an Archaeological Training Excavation and Field School during June and July each year. International undergraduate students first gather in Ireland to learn Graveyard Recording Techniques, before joining various local students, postgraduate supervisors and volunteers on the Isle of Man to dig, under the guidance of the Centre's Director, Professor Harold Mytum and Archaeological Technician, Kate Chapman.
The current excavation, at the site of Bersu's infamously large Iron Age roundhouse, at Ballacagen on the outskirts of Castletown, has provided an excellent opportunity to get the community involved in the work of the Centre. Although open days were held in previous years at different sites, the 2012 season at Ballacagen represented the first year school visits were organised. In total, 713 Manx school pupils have experienced some degree of local archaeology in action over the course of the pilot project.
Each activity was designed to show the pupils as many stages of the archaeological process as possible. Pupil feedback included:
"I enjoyed the experience and I liked learning about what things people do during the dig and the people were very informative."
Teacher feedback included:
"All the students/experts were excellent with the children and explained things so well - please thank them from us."ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ - Marilyn Blain Laxey Primary School Yr. 5 Class Teacher
"The students really enjoyed sifting through the mud and looking at the samples in the classroom. They also enjoyed the sorting exercise. They were less keen on the machine that assessed the soil density [Resistivity Survey] as they couldn't all have a go but those that did enjoyed that." - Katy Duffy CRHS Teacher