In Conversation with Martin Cuthbert, Community Archaeologist

Martin Cuthbert photo

Martin Cuthbert is the Community Archaeologist for the Eighth in the East. His aim? To enable local communities to engage with and learn about the Eighth US Air Force Squadron, who set up just under 70 bases in eastern England during the Second World War.

When I spoke to Martin about the project, I was keen to get behind the scenes and find more about the people who make Community Archaeology projects great, his experience and what Community Archaeology means to him.

So, Martin, how did you get into Community Archaeology?

I had worked in the commercial sector for eight years and at every site I worked on, people would want to know more as soon as I told them that I was an archaeologist. In 2012, my experiences of interacting with the general public inspired me to set up a community archaeology project in the village of Wing, Buckinghamshire with the aim of identifying the location of a Saxon and early medieval settlement.

In two years we have excavated 24 garden test pits and have held archaeology finds days.  The project blossomed into the establishment of the Wing Heritage Group and we now have over 70 volunteers. I also work with a several other groups, including the Buckinghamshire Archaeological Society and the Leighton Buzzard & District Archaeological & Historical Society.

What does ‘Community Archaeology’ mean to you?

It’s all about engaging with the general public. It’s not just about teaching people directly but inspiring them to take hold of their heritage and run with it.

What has surprised you most about working as a Community Archaeologist?

I think it has to be the diversity and differing backgrounds of those individuals who want to learn about their local history and heritage and get involved in archaeology.

What’s the best excavation you’ve ever worked on?

I’ve worked on some really interesting things over the last few years. The excavation of the Saxon Wet Docks in Ipswich, the discovery and excavation of the early Norman defensive ditch of Berkhamsted and of course searching for the location of the early medieval settlement in Wing, Bucks.

And finally… what is your archaeological superpower?

My knowledge in Second World War archaeology, particularly airfields. My undergraduate dissertation focused on the archaeological survival of 15 Second World War airfields in east Suffolk.

Great stuff. Thanks Martin! We’re looking forward to hearing more about Eighth in the East!

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Written by Kezia Evans

Kezia’s parents knew that she would be an archaeologist when they found her digging for ‘old things’ in the garden with a teaspoon at the age of six. She is now a fully-grown, tea-drinking museum-worker who in her spare time enjoys visiting... more museums!

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