University archaeologists dig for charity
Release Date 12 July 2011
The Archaeology Department at the University of Reading is holding a special day at its Silchester Roman excavation site to raise the profile of multiple sclerosis, the idea for which was sparked by one of its own students who suffers from the condition.
Clark French, who graduated last week, was diagnosed a year ago, and thought a day out for people with MS, their friends and family and archaeology students would be a great way to have fun and make people more aware of the illness.
MS is a condition of the central nervous system. It is the most common disabling neurological disease among young adults and affects around 100,000 people in the UK. MS is most often diagnosed in people between the ages of 20 and 40, and women are almost twice as likely to develop it as men. Once diagnosed, MS stays with you for life.
Clark said: "I'm really excited about the event and it promises to be a great day out for those diagnosed with or affected by MS, although anyone is welcome to attend the day. I went digging at Silchester as part of my ancient history and archaeology degree and really enjoyed my time there. I thought that as there were such good disabled facilities at the site and as there are many different activities available, that this would be the perfect opportunity for people to get involved and hopefully have an interesting and fun day out."
The University of Reading has been excavating the Silchester site since 1997. The Silchester Field School takes place every summer for six weeks during which time all first year archaeology students at the University of Reading attend, along with external participants from all over the world. They have been excavating Insula IX, one part of the large town at Silchester. The purpose of the excavation is to trace the site's development from its origins before the Roman conquest to its abandonment in the fifth century AD.
Silchester Field Director Amanda Clarke said: "I was very happy to support the idea - and to offer Silchester as a backdrop. I have always believed that excavation can be for all - and so this is chance to explain field archaeology to an audience who may be new to it and to explore opportunities for involvement in archaeology for those who have MS."
During the Dig4MS day, on Saturday 16 July, visitors will experience life as a Roman in Britain in the first century AD. The archaeologists will explain the history and the techniques used at the site and people will be able to clean artefacts and sort out items in the science hut.
Kevin Ward, of Action4MS which is helping co-ordinate the day, said: "Multiple sclerosis is a debilitating condition and a mantra to those who live with it (including friends and family) is not to let it get the better of you and carry on living life. Action4MS has been set up with this in mind - to engage with 'MSers' and get out there and see the world.
"Dig4MS is the first big event by the charity and we believe archaeology is a great subject to involve people of all ages and abilities. The site is wheelchair accessible and working with University is a natural partnership, with Clark French being a graduate from Reading. We want those attending the day to enjoy themselves and have fun."
The Field School, which runs until 14 August, will also be holding its regular Open Days for the public, on Saturday, 23 July, and Saturday, 6 August, during which a number of activities are held for the whole family. In addition, visitors are welcome to see the excavation in progress every day, except Fridays, between 10:00am and 4:30pm. Groups must book in advance. For more information and directions to the site, please visit www.silchester.rdg.ac.uk/directions