The best of British archaeology – and that’s official!

Operation Nightingale : Current Archaeology Award Winner

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At a well‐attended awards ceremony in the British Museum on 9 July, many of the best projects, discoveries and communications relating to British archaeology over the last two years were officially recognised by the biennial British Archaeological Awards.

DCMS Tourism & Heritage Minister John Penrose MP presented the awards in a ceremony compèred by Loyd Grossman, Chair of The Heritage Alliance.

The main Awards announced were:

Best archaeological project & Best archaeological discovery: Must Farm excavations 2011 –

The Must Farm project is the first landscape scale archaeological investigation of deep Fenland. Its exploration of deeply buried deposits is transforming our understanding of prehistoric life and revealing a level of preservation previously only dreamt about. The excavation was undertaken by The Cambridge Archaeological Unit, University of Cambridge, in collaboration with Hanson UK, and was delivered in an exemplary manner to the highest standards. The exceptional nature of the discoveries included Neolithic pavements, Early Bronze Age fence lines and Late Bronze Age pile dwellings, together with 150m of prehistoric river channel containing nine Bronze Age logboats.

Best community archaeology project:

Thames Discovery Programme –

The Programme communicates an understanding and informed enjoyment of the historic Thames – the longest open‐air archaeological site in London – to the widest possible audience. Over 300 people were trained in archaeological fieldwork and recording as part of Foreshore Recording and Observation Group (FROG) teams, and volunteer research projects linked with the finds are on‐going.

Best archaeological book:

Gathering time by Alasdair Whittle, Frances Healy & Alex Bayliss, published by Oxbow Books –

The book presents the results of a major dating programme that re‐writes the early Neolithic of Britain by more accurately dating enclosures – places of construction, labour, assembly, ritual and deposition. The book is genuinely game changing in several ways, as well as being highly readable.

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Best archaeological innovation:

The Grey Literature Library ‐

An online facility provide by the Archaeology Data Service which enhances access to over 12,000 reports on archaeological work utilising advanced technology to allow users to locate reports by geographical location. As a result of this work the Grey Literature is no longer as grey as it once was.

Best representation of archaeology in the media:

Time Team (Reservoir rituals, Tottiford, Devon programme) –‐team

Time Team continues to make an outstanding contribution to public understanding of archaeology with high editorial standards. The Tottiford programme clearly and engagingly communicated archaeology as a process whilst investigating a complex, multi‐period landscape. The ceremony also contained two additional presentations from the trustees of the British

Archaeological Awards:

Prof Mick Aston was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award for his long‐term commitment to public education and for his on‐going support for developing our understanding of past human behaviour, as well as major personal contributions to archaeological knowledge and the development of new methodologies.

Operation Nightingale is a ground‐breaking archaeology project on Salisbury Plain and elsewhere which helps aid the rehabilitation of soldiers from The Rifles who have been injured on operations in Afghanistan. It is an imaginative and humane use of the quiet, relaxed yet disciplined, thoughtful and physical atmosphere of archaeological excavation to benefit injured and traumatised soldiers. Several of the soldiers are now studying for archaeology qualifications. For these reasons it was recognised as a project of special merit.

Dr Mike Heyworth MBE, Chairman of the British Archaeological Awards, commented:

“All the winners and other highly commended nominations are to be congratulated. Individually and collectively they demonstrate the diverse and flourishing nature of archaeology across the UK. It is a discipline which not only advances our understanding of humanity, but also engages everyone and has the potential to make a significant contribution to our individual well‐being and sense of community.”


1 The British Archaeological Awards are currently held every two years and managed by an independent charity chaired by Dr Mike Heyworth MBE, Director of the Council for British Archaeology. The 2012 Awards ceremony is sponsored by The Robert Kiln Trust, The Society of Antiquaries of London, The British Museum, English Heritage, Historic Scotland, Cadw, andGlasgow Museums.

2 The six main Awards are given to recognise aspects of archaeology from the last two years which have been nominated by the archaeological community, and have been independently judged by panels of appropriate archaeological experts.

3 The Awards ceremony at the British Museum was also the launch event for the 2012 Festival of British Archaeology, coordinated by the Council for British Archaeology (see

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Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 7,500 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.

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