Herstmonceux project


The value of a program like this lies in the class structure. Small size, close interaction with professors and mentors, plenty of class discussion, and tight-knit group dynamics should be mandated standard in university, but sadly they are not. The class structure and the emphasis on discussion and debate meant that I learned far more in a shorter period of time than if I had taken similar classes as pure lectures. Added to this what you learn in class really matters. It makes a huge difference to your experience, because everything is relevant and has practical application in the course.

This kind of learning feels like being given historic x-ray vision: that hill is not a lump it’s a Neolithic house, that road isn’t just the A10 to York, it’s also Ermine Street, the road the Romans built. You start to think about the world around you differently. I felt similarly after having taken semiotics and to use a semiotic term, I felt that the experience changed my umwelt. That is, the way you experience the world.

I wouldn’t say I learned how to ‘question everything’ (far too simplistic and cliché), but rather I learned that every place has a story if you’re willing to look for it. It just takes some digging.  You start to wonder things like, why is King St. straight, but Weber so twisted?

I also found it important as a history student to be reminded that there are other ways of approaching history. One is always aware that the record could be incorrect, but it is initially disturbing to realize that they could be utterly wrong when compared with the physical evidence. It’s a good reminder that “old” and “infallible” are not synonymous. Given that the Medieval Studies program at UW is interdisciplinary I found that this did nothing but compliment my other courses. It’s all very well to take a theoretical class on archaeology, or talk about Roman settlements, medieval crockery, or Neolithic track ways, but to actually see them, and experience them is entirely different. Holding pieces of cooking ware, discarded by medieval farmers at the beginning of the eleventh century is a mind bending experience. Realizing that the last person to touch that fragment of pot, or coin, or bone, not only died almost a thousand years ago, but that no one else has even seen that material since is surreal.


This experience has been one of the highlights of my academic career and was one of the most rewarding. As a student majoring in Anthropology and minoring in history, it allowed me to implement both of my passions into a single learning experience. The opportunity of gaining the type field work in an archaeological setting that this program offered was something that is crucial to my areas of study, especially when looking into future graduate work and career options. The time that I spent at the castle provided me with important knowledge of archaeological methods and procedures that I would not have learned to the same extent from a regular lecture format class. Aside from a general knowledge and understanding of applied archaeology in the field, my time at the castle has helped me narrow down my areas of interest in my studies, giving me a better idea of what I want to pursue in this field of study and work. This type of program and experience is absolutely invaluable to anyone in the fields of anthropology or archaeology, or anyone who has an interest in this type of work.


My experience [...] was unlike anything I had ever done before. Over the course of six weeks I learned practical archaeological skills, made amazing new friends and worked alongside people who were experts in their fields. This experience was valuable [...] because of the hands-on approach to learning that the program offered. Instead of simply sitting in a lecture, we had the opportunity to visit the locations we had learned about and view history in a truly unique way. Participating in a real archaeological dig was also one of the ways that the BISC made this learning experience memorable and distinct from other programs.

Ryan (Canadian BA student, economics / history); summer 2014

[This experience] packs an immense amount of learning, experience, and camaraderie into six weeks. We took two term courses, moved tonnes of earth and investigated millennium-old mysteries, and became good friends with each other. I acquired new skills and experiences that I otherwise would not have gotten. I do hope to be involved in the project as we conceive of the museum collection in Canada. Every student should consider the opportunities that Herstmonceux provides.

Amelia (Canadian BA student, Anthropology); summer 2014

[This experience was] one of the most memorable and rewarding,and certainly among the best decisions that I have ever made! As an Anthropology major planning on pursuing archaeology, I’m very aware that having field experience is crucial when applying for post-graduate studies and a future career in the field. My time at the Castle [...] provided me with [..] valuable hands-on training in the procedures and techniques involved, and introduced me to an archaeological excavation work site. The courses were entirely unique experiences and were enhanced by the extensive field studies across England. Not to mention, we were studying medieval history right in a 15th century castle! Being immersed in British culture made it easy to put the history that we learned in the classroom into context.