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Bradford campus dig reveals Victorian street


Archaeology student Alice Ward on a 'dig' on campus

Graduates regularly headhunted by commercial firms, says academic

First year archaeology students at the University of Bradford have uncovered a Victorian street running through their campus.

The discovery follows the recent launch of a new BA Heritage and Archaeology course at the university.

Watch our video about the School of Archaeological & Forensic Sciences.

Dr Cathy Batt, Head of the School of Archaeological & Forensic Sciences, said students would normally be conducting such fieldwork in Orkney but travel restrictions due to the pandemic forced a rethink.

“Normally, we run student training in Orkney but this year that was impossible due to covid, so we thought we would turn that to our advantage and do something closer to home.

“We started with a geophysical survey to understand what was beneath the ground and then put trenches in. What was found was a Victorian cobbled street and we’re now beginning to uncover the yards and outhouses that would have backed onto it.

“At Bradford, archaeology is a very practically taught subject, with a lot of hands-on experience, which is why we were determined students would get to experience a dig this year, despite the pandemic.”

Old Victorian terraced houses being cleared near the University of Bradford in 1966

The University’s School of Archaeological and Forensic Sciences made headlines around the world last year after leading the discovery of the Durrington Pits near Stonehenge and more recently by uncovering new evidence of a massive tsunami (the so-called Storegga Slide in 2600BC) in the North Sea, which decimated the ancient land bridge between the UK and Europe.

Closer to home, the University of Bradford recently won a contract to begin creating a virtual 3D replica of the city using laser scanners and drones - Virtual Bradford will help with planning and flood defences but could also have broader commercial applications.

Students headhunted

Dr Batt, who has worked at the University for 25 years and conducted fieldwork in places like Sri Lanka, Pakistan and the Shetland Islands, said because of a national shortage of archaeologists, her students were regularly headhunted.

“Because there is a shortage of archaeologists at the moment, our graduates are regularly headhunted. I have companies ringing me up to ask who is graduating this year. Bradford has some world-leading experts and it’s a very practical course with vocational and transferable skills.”

It is believed the recently discovered Victorian street dates from around 1880 and would have been covered in the 1950s or 1960s - numerous objects have already been recovered, including a 1950s Pepsi Cola bottle, model aircraft wing and tableware.

Dr Batt added: “When you discover objects like this, it doesn’t matter whether it's 70 years or 7,000 years, it’s the story that object reveals in terms of its human connections. I think we have uncovered enough here to consider extending the dig for another year.”

Prof Shirley Congdon speaks to archaeology students on campus

During the dig at the beginning of June, students were visited by Vice-Chancellor Prof Shirley Congdon, who granted permission for the excavation.

Geophysicist Professor Chris Gaffney, from the Faculty of Life Sciences, said: “Although we are on campus we are conducting the dig using the same method as we would anywhere in the world. It’s fascinating to imagine how life was then and how much our city has changed.”

Find out more about our: BA Heritage and Archaeology programme and our existing UG and PG courses.