Case Study: Community excavation at RAF Lakenheath

When plans were made to redevelop a vacant area that lay between past excavations of Iron Age, Roman and early Anglo-Saxon settlement at RAF Lakenheath the opportunity arose to carry out the required excavation as a community project involving base personnel and their families…

Suffolk Archaeology's Tim Carter helping a volunteer identify finds at the RAF Lakenheath community excavation

The airbase at RAF Lakenheath, Suffolk lies in a multi-period archaeological landscape on the edge of the fens and has been the location for extensive archaeological works by Suffolk Archaeology for the past 20 years.

Instead of commissioning a standard commercial project the airbase asked Suffolk Archaeology to prepare a proposal for carrying out the work as a community excavation for base personnel and their families, as part of their annual ‘Earth Week’. The aim was to provide an opportunity for every person on the airbase to take part in an archaeological excavation and to highlight the outstanding archaeology of the airbase to its personnel.

A volunteer sieving spoil at the RAF Lakenheath community excavation

The project, which was financed by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), took place in April and May 2014 and involved the participation of over 20 volunteers on site and in finds processing, working alongside the professional team. The project also included site tours for groups of adults and parties from the base schools, with 100’s of children getting an opportunity to visit, practical archaeology sessions for school parties/home tutored children and displays of previous archaeological work on the airbase.

The excavation identified further evidence of the Roman occupation of the area, with features such as ditched enclosures, pits and buried soil layers. A full assessment report for the project is now in progress, following a final phase of normal fieldwork on an adjacent area in autumn 2015.