Flag Fen Lives

In 2012, we ran the world's first-ever crowdfunded dig at one of the UK's most important Bronze Age sites. See what we discovered.

108% Funded
£27,000 Pledged
£25,000 Goal

Protruding from the edge of a freshly re-cut drainage dyke, the chance discovery in November 1982 of Flag Fen’s waterlogged timbers set in train one of the iconic ‘Great Excavations’ of British archaeology. The work generated major public interest and media attention, resulting in the development of a visitor attraction (the Flag Fen Archaeology Park) based around the excavated finds and archive. The ‘Flag Fen Lives’ campaign was launched on 29th February 2012, comprising a 90-day crowdfunding window followed by a three-week archaeological excavation.

At a glance:

  • Over 250 participants from 11 countries: the United States, United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, South Africa, and China
  • We trained over 120 people in archaeological field skills, including students from five universities and four countries, as well as retirees and those employed in other professions
  • Over 2,000 visitors to Flag Fen in three weeks, including international visitors
  • Visitor numbers at the Flag Fen Archaeology Park were raised by over 29%; of these, nearly 60% had never been to Flag Fen before

Since Francis Pryor’s discovery, the integrity of the preservation environment has been of major concern, with reductions in water levels assumed to be seriously impacting Flag Fen’s archaeological sustainability. Drainage, farming and development impacts have been exacerbated by an annual trend of low rainfall in the eastern counties and reduced saturation within the peat, resulting in oxidisation, fluctuating acidity, and degradation of organic archaeological materials.

The site custodians (Vivacity Peterborough) approached DigVentures to design and deliver a community-based archaeology project, with the principle research driver being the need to provide baseline data to facilitate the site’s future management. The archaeology was deteriorating at an unknown rate, but equally pertinent was the fact that visitor numbers to the park were in a similar state of decline, down from an annual average of 20,000 in the final year of excavation, to less than 11,000 in 2011.

The ‘Flag Fen Lives’ project represented an opportunity to kick-start the regeneration of Flag Fen by positioning research-led excavations in the context of an evolving archaeology park. The ‘Flag Fen Lives’ campaign was launched on 29th February 2012, comprising a 90-day crowdfunding window followed by a three-week archaeological excavation. Project supporters were able to take part in the project by purchasing benefits from £10 to £2,000, with higher level contributions enabling participants to join the excavation team for a day, weekend, week or longer.

In addition to the dig team and funding crowd, the project attracted over 2,000 visitors to the Flag Fen visitor attraction across the duration of the three-week dig, 75% of whom cited archaeology as the main reason for their visit. This represented a 30% year-on-year increase in visitors, accounting for a third of the site’s annual gate fees; 60% of these people had never visited the site before, half of whom were local to the area. Of the site visitors questioned on exit, 90% would come to see similar archaeology events, and 70% would come to see the site when no digs were taking place. This data supports the contention that this uplift in visitors could contribute towards financial resilience beyond the lifespan of the excavation.

  • The world’s first-ever successfully crowdfunded and crowdsourced archaeological excavation; 250 crowdfunding participants; 130 people trained on site; 2,200 visitors (30% uplift year-on-year)
  • GIS modelling/archive consolidation; auger survey; archaeological investigation; palaeoenvironmental assessment (including pollen, plant macrofossils and insect remains), archaeological wood and timber condition assessment (including water content, SEM, Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy and pyrolysis Gas Chromatography), faunal and finds (pottery and struck flint) assessment
  • Scheduled Monument Consent; Natural England derogation

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