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Did you dig it?

14 June 2016 by Liz

South Castle Street excavation

South Castle Street excavation

Merseyside Archaeological Society (MAS) marks its 40th birthday this year. To celebrate Museum of Liverpool is highlighting some of the finds from some sites excavated by the society in a new display Digging it!, which opened today. We will also be hosting the society’s conference in October.

In March 1976 a committee met with the aim of bringing forward plans for the creation of an archaeological society for Merseyside.  MAS was one of a large number of new societies in the 1960s and 1970s which aimed to enable people to build their knowledge about local heritage and to provide opportunities to get involved in fieldwork and research.

On its foundation MAS’s aims included working to:

  1. Promote archaeological activity, research and publication associated with the County of Merseyside.
  2. Organise archaeological fieldwork and excavation.
  3. Encourage the preservation of local sites, buildings, monuments or records of archaeological interest.
  4. Arrange meetings, lectures, exhibitions, conferences and visits to places of historic interest.

From the earliest days the society worked closely with the county museums, predecessors of National Museums Liverpool. Brian Shepherd, the first county archaeologist for Merseyside described the relationship: “The Society would provide manpower, organise excavations and public relations and publish the results; the DoE (Department of the Environment) would fund the appointment of a Field Archaeologist for three years and continue to support rescue excavations; the County Museums would provide a base for the Survey and the County Planning Department would provide maps, information and financial support; The University of Liverpool would act as employer and its Institute of Extension Studies would organise extra-mural students in documentary research and field-work” (Sheppard 1978).

The Museum of Liverpool continues this partnership, and will host the Society’s anniversary conference, Past Forward, on 8 and 9 October 2016.

One of MAS’s first projects was working on an excavation at South Castle Street, before the construction of the Crown Court. This work took place before there was legislation in place to require archaeological investigation of a site in advance of development. The role of the local society in negotiating for and undertaking this work was vital. Many local people worked as volunteers on the site, revealing the remains of a post medieval market. Items from the excavation are on display in the History Detectives gallery in the Museum of Liverpool.

As part of the celebrations of their birthday, Merseyside Archaeological Society are keen to find people who have been involved in MAS projects and fieldwork throughout its history, and record their memories of the experience. If you remember trying your hand at digging in 1976 at South Castle Street or on other sites MAS has worked on through the last 40 years, please get in touch via museumofliverpool@liverpoolmuseums.org.uk

If you’re interested in getting involved with archaeology locally through the Merseyside Archaeological Society you can become a member.  Their activities are shared on the society on facebook and twitter pages @MerseyArchSoc.

Davey P.J. 1977 ‘South Castle Street 1976: Interim Report’ Journal Merseyside Archaeological Society volume 1, pp 13-15.

Sheppard, B. 1978. ‘The First Six Months of the Archaeological Survey of Merseyside.’ Paper presented at the Council for British Archaeology Group V Conference. April 22 1978.

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