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Place & Past Field School

The PLACE Field School is a Bournemouth University summer field school by current students and experienced archaeologists.The fieldwork takes place within Dorset, a county of outstanding natural beauty and one of the best preserved archaeological landscapes in Britain. This year the project is based in Purbeck, on the edge of Poole Harbour. 

The PLACE project is studying the the role that Dorset's ancient and historic communities played in networks of production, exchange and communication with the rest of Britain and the continent. Students from our range of archaeology courses are able to gain hands-on experience at a fascinating site, while anyone with an interest in archaeology, Dorset's history, or the project as a whole is welcome to join us for the excavation.

On the Purbeck site this year, we were hoping to gain insight into how harbourside communities developed over time and how those groups and individuals related to wider maritime connectivity and historical changes. The site features numerous workshops and industrial architecture that includes buildings, terraces and salt boiling hearths. The 2019 excavations have revealed an extensive array of previously unknown industrial remains that suggest that the site was a significant production centre which included a complex workshop that was burnt to the ground in a catastrophic fire shortly before the Norman conquest.

Radiocarbon dates from the site show that it was in use in the 10/11th century - just before the Norman conquest. The date places the site in an important period in British history, a time of power consolidation and rivalries between church and state. The site at Wytch Farm would have been an important source of monastic wealth, making it central to Britain’s real-life Game of Thrones.

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Since 2018 the PLACE Field School has been Bournemouth University's primary training dig, taking over from the Durotriges The Big Dig.

If you've applied for one of our undergraduate or postgraduate degrees or simply have an interest and want to get involved, why not come and join our excavation?

Read more about the 2015 dig that uncovered the prehistoric town, the 2016 dig during which we found a late Iron Age cemetery and a late or post Roman farming settlement, consisting of five buildings and associated kilns and ovens, dating to the period AD 300–450, and the 2017 excavation which told us more about every day life.

Please note: You must be aged 16 or over to take part.

Key information

Next start date:

June - July 2020 (with the open day - tbc)


Purbeck, Dorset


26 days

Entry requirements:

No formal qualifications are required to attend the field school, which has been designed for students and participants (aged 16 years or over) who wish to gain experience in archaeological field practice.

Course details

Work on site will take place daily between 9am - 5pm, five days each week (excluding Saturday and Sunday).

We would recommend that you attend for a minimum of two weeks to expect to undertake some or all of the following activities:

  • Site preparation, top-soil sampling, and trench excavation
  • Stratigraphic excavation of deposits and features
  • Context and feature recording (including written and photographic descriptions)
  • Sampling for environmental materials and specimens for scientific testing
  • Illustration: production of measured plans and sections
  • Sieving and sorting of soil samples to extract environmental materials and artefacts
  • Finds processing: cleaning, marking, logging, documenting and packaging different materials
  • Topographic survey for the collection and mapping of spatial data (total station; GPS etc.)
  • Geophysical survey for detecting and mapping below-ground features (resistivity and magnetometry


We are not able to provide accommodation for the dig, but we can give you a list of accommodation available in the area. Please mention this when you contact us and we can arrange to send it to you.


Daily transport from Bournemouth University to the site is available, if required.

Equipment etc

Full details of what you need to bring and a suggested reading list will be provided when your booking has been confirmed. However, you may want to start thinking about the following:

  • You will need to dress appropriately for excavation in the UK. Bring 'stout' (i.e. walking boots/steel-toe capped work boots) footwear (not sandals/trainers/flip flops etc.)
  • You will need to bring hats, sun cream and rain wear and don't forget food (packed lunches) and (importantly) an adequate supply of water (there is a water supply on site but in order to stave off potential dehydration your own supply is imperative)
  • Also to allow you to do magnetometry, pack some shorts or tracksuit type trousers and T-shirt which do not have ferrous buckles or the like on, and some sneakers or trainers without steel eyelets - most metal fittings on clothing are alloys and not a problem - you can test them with a small magnet. Don't worry if this is a problem as we can kit you out
  • Ensure you have up to date tetanus protection
  • If you have your own trowel, please bring it along.

How to apply

Booking for this incredible experience will be available on Eventbrite.

Please note you must be aged 16 or over to take part. We recommend that you book for at least two weeks to get the best, hands-on experience of working on a live excavation alongside experienced archaeologists, our students and others with an interest in archaeology.

Dorset residents, BU staff, current BU students and BU alumni are elgible for a significantly discounted rate. If you think you qualify for this rate before purchasing any tickets, please email Faculty of Science and Technology short courses for details of how to obtain this discount.

If you prefer to pay by cheque please email us and we will send you a booking form for you to complete and return with the cheque.

Any questions?

Please contact askBU enquiry service or call us on 01202 961916.

Additional information