Archaeologists Unearth the First Thing They Ever Dug Up

Flag Fen Trench 1

As archaeologists, we spend our time looking at things that happened a very long time ago. But not much feels like it was as long ago as when we first became archaeologists!

Four years ago, on a leap year, we officially launched DigVentures – the world’s first crowdfunded and crowdsourced archaeological organisation!

Technically, that means today (Monday 29th January 2016) is our very first birthday. To celebrate, we’re rewinding the clocks right back to when DigVentures was first born, and delving into our online archives to take a look at some of the very first things we ever did…

This was our very first tweet!

Back in 2011, DigVentures was just a twinkle in our archaeological eye. Just a few months later we launched the world’s first ever crowdfunded archaeological excavation… and it turned out to be the biggest display of public support for archaeology we’ve ever seen!

This was our very first website!

Our first website Flag Fen

Flag Fen was the target of DigVentures’ first excavation, and from the very beginning, we published our progress online. Since then, we’ve upgraded our systems, and you can check out all the records from Flag Fen on our shiny new Flag Fen website!

This was our very first crowdfunding video

Discovered by Francis Pryor one night on the way to the pub in 1982, Flag Fen is now one of the UK’s most famous Bronze Age sites. It developed 3,500 years ago when people built wooden causeways to traverse the wet and boggy fenland, but as the Fens continue to be drained, the ground level is sinking, the earth is drying out, and the site’s internationally important archaeology is disappearing… getting in there to dig it really was a matter of time!

This was our very first Venturer!

Venturer Rebecca Parr 600x390

Becca was the very first person to pledge her support for Flag Fen Lives and sign up to join the excavation team. Since then she’s joined us on two excavations and one Dirty Weekend. What an archaeological superhero!

This was our very first trench

Our first trench

Within 90 days, people around the world had pledged £32,000 to keep digging Flag Fen before it all dries out. In August 2012, our crowdfunders rolled up their sleeves and helped us open our very first trench, and the team started finding postholes and stakeholes almost immediately!

These were our very first finds

Flag Flen Flint Flakes

Alongside all the postholes, the Venturers also unearthed plenty of worked flint and assortment of bladelets, some of which had been deposited long before Flag Fen’s Bronze Age timber causeway was constructed…

And this was our first mystery…

Flag Fen wood

Bronze Age timbers like these are exactly what we were hoping to find at Flag Fen, and we certainly found plenty! But what we didn’t find was the Bronze Age platform – even though the original excavation team were certain we’d positioned our trench in exactly the right place. So where is it..? That’s a mystery we’ll unfortunately have to leave for another day – but it really does show the urgency of continuing excavations at Flag Fen. Not only are there huge gaps in our knowledge of the site, but as the water table fluctuates and the earth continues to dry out, the archaeology is simply disappearing…

The records from DigVentures first ever excavation are now online for all the world to see, and you can relive the entire experience at!

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DigVentures crowdfunds archaeological projects that everyone can be part of, in the UK and overseas. With help from people all over the world, we investigate the past and publish our discoveries online for free. Become a DigVentures Subscriber and be part of great archaeology - all year round!


Written by Maiya Pina-Dacier

Head of Community at DigVentures, Maiya digs with a trowel in one hand, and a Twitter feed in the other. She reports on all our discoveries live from the trenches, and keeps our Site Hut full of the latest archaeology news. Got a story? Just drop her a line...

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