Archaeology experiences for all

Dirty Weekend: Big Garden Dig on the Gwent Levels

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A woman reclines with a cup of tea next to her test pit.
Three people huddle in a test pit, they are smiling and laughing.


Unearth history in your own back garden in a very special weekend with DigVentures and Living Levels.

Dates: Saturday 03 – Sunday 04 July 2021
Location: Gwent Levels, Wales (with a live online tutorial)
Experience level: Everyone welcome, including families!

Love your garden? And history? If you live along or near the Gwent Levels, between Cardiff, Newport, and Chepstow, we’re inviting you to be part of an exciting new project to unearth the history buried in your garden.

From medieval castles to Roman forts, the region is filled with a rich and fascinating history. The ‘Big Garden Dig’ will enable households across the Gwent Levels to be part of a real archaeological dig – at home.

Starting with a live online tutorial on Saturday morning, our friendly team of archaeologists will talk you through the process of digging a small ‘test pit’ in your garden. We’ll be on hand to guide your search for evidence every step of the way, and your discoveries will become part of a collective effort to unearth the history buried in gardens across the Gwent Levels.

How do I start digging? We’ll show you! What shall I do with my finds? We’ll explain!

It’s all part of Living Levels – a huge, ongoing project supported by the National Heritage Lottery Fund to reconnect people to the heritage, wildlife and wild beauty of the historic landscape of the Gwent Levels.

What we'll do

The Gwent Levels is teeming with ancient remains – from medieval buildings, to Bronze Age footprints. What might be lurking under your lawn?

Over the course of this very special weekend, you’ll learn all the basic skills that a field archaeologist uses on a dig. We’ll start with a live online tutorial on Saturday morning, where we’ll show you how to set up and dig a 1x1m archaeological test pit in your garden.

You’ll then have until Sunday lunchtime to finish digging your test pit, when it will be time to down tools and begin our next live tutorial – how to clean, photograph and record your discoveries!

Our friendly team of professional archaeologists will be on hand via Zoom and WhatsApp to guide your search for evidence every step of the way, and show you how to handle anything you find.

By the end of the weekend, you’ll have dug deep into your own history, learned a whole new range of archaeological skills, made a real contribution to science… and had fun while you’re doing it!

Plus, as soon as you sign up, you’ll have instant access to our ‘How To Do Archaeology’ online course so that you can start familiarising yourself with the basics in advance if you want to. And if you find anything really special, you’ll have a chance to find out more about what it could be during a bonus tutorial the following weekend.

IMPORTANT: You must have your own private garden, permission to dig from your landlord, and be certain that there are no protective designations (such as scheduled ancient monuments or sites of special scientific interest before you sign up). We will also take you through any further legal and ethical precautions you must follow at the start of the weekend.


Day 1 - Saturday 03 July 2021

We’ll begin our Big Garden Dig with a Live Tutorial at 10:00 from our team of archaeologists. You’ll get an introduction to the kind of archaeology that you might expect to find across the region, and a step-by-step walk through of how to set up and dig your own 1x1m Test Pit. You’ll then have the rest of the day to dig your test pit, with a live check-in at 14:00. Our team will also be on hand to provide support and guidance throughout the day via Whatsapp and Zoom until 17:00.

10:00 – Live Zoom Tutorial #1 (Intro to archaeology, and How To Dig a Test Pit)
11:00 – Start digging!
14:00 – Team Huddle and progress check-in
17:00 – Tools down

Day 2 - Sunday 04 July 2021

You’ll continue your Big Garden Dig with a Team Huddle at 10:00, and resume digging. You’ll then have until 14:00 to finish digging your test pit, when we’ll move onto the next stage – recording our discoveries! We’ll spend the afternoon cleaning your finds, photographing your discoveries, and filling out a short description of your test pit. Our team will be on hand to provide support and guidance throughout the day via Whatsapp and Zoom until 17:00, when you’ll be ready to submit

10:00 – Morning Team Huddle
10:30 – Resume digging
14:00 – Live Zoom Tutorial #2 (How to clean, photograph and record your finds)
15:00 – Start recording your Test Pit discoveries!
17:00 – Tools down and official end of Big Garden Dig

Day 3 - Saturday 10 July 2021 (Optional)

Want to learn more about your discoveries? Join us for a bonus tutorial to learn more about the finds that have been discovered during the Big Garden Dig!

10:00 Live Zoom Tutorial #3: Fabulous Finds!

Our project area

You can take part if you live along the Gwent Levels between Cardiff, Newport, and Chepstow, or relatively nearby... Bristolians, you're welcome to join us!

Additional info

Who is this experience suitable for?

This experience is suitable for people of all ages living in or near the Gwent Levels area of Wales – as long as you have your own private garden.

You can choose to sign up as an adult, or as a family. We’ll tailor the information we send you according to the option you choose.

What happens when I sign up?

You can choose to sign up as an adult, or as a family if you intend to dig with your children.

Once you sign up, you’ll receive a confirmation email welcoming you to Dirty Weekend: Big Garden Dig on the Gwent Levels.

This email will contain the Zoom meeting links you’ll need for taking part in the weekend. Remember to check both your inbox and junkmail.

Your welcome email will also give you instant access to our How To Do Archaeology online course (or How To Be A Junior Archaeologist online course if you sign up as a family). You’ll continue to have access to this course until 18 July 2021.

While we encourage everyone to have a browse, doing the online course is totally optional – it’s simply there for those of you who want to swot up and learn a bit more about doing archaeology before the Dirty Weekend: Big Garden Dig begins!

What equipment do I need?

  • Trowel
  • Bucket
  • String
  • 4 x tent pegs or large nails
  • Tape measure
  • Canvas or sheet to pile your dirt onto
  • Finds trays (tupperware, seed trays, or shoe boxes will do)
  • Finds bags (small sandwich bags will do)
  • Sharpie or permanent marker
  • Smartphone or camera

Do I need a garden?

Yes, if you want to dig, you need your own private garden.

IMPORTANT: You also need to make sure that you have permission to dig in your garden, and that your garden is not protected as a Scheduled Monument, or an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest).

If in doubt, please check with your landlord and local authority.

What if I don't have a private garden?

You won’t be able to dig, but you’re still welcome to sign up and follow along!

You’ll have access to our online course, be able to join the live tutorials, and still be able to learn loads about archaeology in your area.

Once you’ve signed up, you’ll receive a welcome email, as well as some helpful reminders as the weekend gets closer. Please remember to check both your inbox and junkmail.

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Dirty Weekend: Big Garden Dig on the Gwent Levels



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