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Page last updated at 06:48 GMT, Thursday, 14 October 2010 07:48 UK
New community digs back in time
Boy with animal teeth
Animal teeth and bones were some of the finds at Orchard Park School

History lessons at a Cambridgeshire school came to life as the pupils dug up their ancient past.

Archaeologists moved into Orchard Community Primary School for a fortnight and children took part in a dig in their playing field.

"This is really exciting. This is bringing the classroom to the outside," said the headteacher, Jenny Russon.

The school serves Orchard Park, a new estate built on the outskirts of Cambridge by Gallagher Estates.

Fort gatehouse

This part of Cambridge has long been known as the site of an Iron Age ring fort, Arbury Camp.

But before work started on Orchard Park, archaeologists excavated the site, and discovered the fort's gatehouse.

Naturally, there has been speculation that the Celtic leader Boudicca might have known about the site, because it dates back to, and beyond, the Roman invasion.

So with known human habitation that far back, the pupils had the opportunity to discover finds dating back 2,000 years - and beyond.

Bronze Age

Children and adults at a dig
Children, staff and archaeologists made discoveries at the school

First the children learnt about the different ways people could have lived on the site of their school. They recreated round houses and took part in an art competition.

Then the archaeologists from Oxford Archaeology East, the county council's archaeological service, dug a trench in their playing field.

"Some of the youngsters have found some flakes, that's the bits that have been broken off tools that the Stone Age people have actually made in this area," explained David Crawford, Oxford Archaeology's learning and outreach officer.

"You've got a Bronze Age settlement in this area and I'm hoping that they'll find some Roman and certainly Iron Age pottery and on the school site you have Arbury Camp itself, which goes back to probably late Bronze Age, early Iron Age times."

Archaeology East

The project began in the first week of October 2010 and will culminate with a community open day on Sunday 17 October, so residents of Orchard Park can share in the children's finds.

"They've really got into it," David Crawford said about the pupils. "I've been in every day since last Monday, talking about archaeology.

"They've been making things, they've been writing about things and this is working up to the end of the week when they go to a site and part way through that they get a trowel, get muddy and look for things.

"They've been marvellous."

'Community archaeology'

The developers behind Orchard Park, Gallagher Estates & Lands, provided the money for this project.

"This project is an excellent example of how archaeology is being funded by the developers," explained Cambridgeshire County Council's Hazel White.

"And it's a really great example of community archaeology with the public sector and the private sector working together to really give the young people an idea of where they came from, what was here before them and what's here now."

'Fun and exciting'

Children's art work
The pupils took part in an art competition, inspired by the dig

The children were thrilled about their finds, from Sally with her blue and white china to Esther, who'd found a cow bone.

The school's staff were also delighted with the way the fortnight worked.

"Not only are they having a wonderful time they're actually learning," Jenny Russon, Orchard Park's headteacher said.

"They're on a learning journey, discovering bits of pottery, bits of bone and having a real adventure, while making learning fun and exciting."

Deputy head Karen Martin agreed: "We've found the jaw of an animal and we have found quite a lot of things that go back to the Bronze Age.

"We've also found some nails, which must have been here before, so when we go back to the classroom we can really investigate the finds the children have found."

Open Day

To round off the fortnight of discovery, an open day is scheduled for Sunday 17 October. The children will dress as Celts and Romans and will share their discoveries with Orchard Park's residents.

The event will run from 11am until 4pm in the community centre.

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