School teams can now enter an archaeology competition. Lynne Wallis reports
For the first time since it began in l978, the Young Archaeologists' Club annual competition for Young Archaeologist of the Year is open to schools under its new group award category.
Explaining this widening of access to schools and youth clubs, the club's co-ordinator, Alison Bodley, says: "We want group entries from schools to encourage children to work as teams to learn about archaeology. For the individual category we often have entries from very highly motivated pupils, but we want more children to have the opportunity."
JJThe new category is particularly welcome now that the subject has been scrapped by AQA, the only exam board offering it at GCSE.
Schools which enter have to become "archaeological detectives" and work out the purpose of a mysterious archaeological site owned by the National Trust and dating from about ad230.
Entrants will help design information for "reconstructions" to be put on archaeological boards. The material will explain the history of the site to visitors when it opens to the public. The prize for the two winning group entrants - there is one for 8 to 12-year-olds and another for 13 to 16-year-olds -will be a day of archaeological activities at their school or club, boxes of goodies, and a trophy trowel.
Entrants to the competition, sponsored by English Heritage, will be given two photographs of the mystery site - one from ground level containing a few clues, such as the outlines of corner turrets and gates, and an aerial view which includes a crop-mark plan.
The site, which is near the sea, could have been a prehistoric henge, an Iron Age village, a Roman fort or a medieval abbey.
Finger rings, thought to have belonged to someone important, have already been found as well as a tile with letters stamped on it, which entrants are asked to translate for clues to the site's use.
When entrants have identified the site's purpose, they must answer questions about it, such as who they would have met there and what they would have been like.
There are questions for group entries only, such as identifying what was special about the site and whether it was linked with any others in Britain.
Entries will be judged on research, attention to detail, and presentation, and must be received by post (not email) at the Young Archaeologists' Club by August 31.
Group awards will be made on November 26-27 and winners and their families must be willing to travel to the secret location for the presentations.
Club patron, Tony Robinson - presenter of Channel 4's archaeological roadshow Time Team - says: "The Young Archaeologist of the Year Award is a top opportunity to inspire and engage young people about archaeology. This year's theme, 'become an archaeological detective', challenges young people to think like an archaeologist. For the first time schools can enter and I really hope teachers will use this competition to get children and young people fired-up about archaeology."
l Tel: 01904 671417 www.britarch.ac.ukyac