Can you dig history?


IMAGINE Boston Market Place filled with hundreds of people of all nationalities shouting and trying to sell their wares to anyone who will listen.

Animals mill around the area while rich and poor mingle, going about their daily business.

That was the Boston of 500 years ago, and a world which volunteers involved with the Big Dig are aiming to discover more about.

Over the past two-and-a-half weeks, a troupe of around 80 volunteers have been working shifts to excavate trenches in the market place, coming across some unbelievable finds.

From dozens of pieces of medieval pottery to a nit comb from the 16th century, the items are giving an insight into a way of life for Bostonians way back when.

Many of the items they are uncovering are very rare for the UK, according to lead archeologist Gavin Glover.

Gavin, who works for Network Archeology, the company which is leading the project, said: “The preservation here is some of the best in the country.

“Because the ground is damp, it provides perfect conditions for organic remains like leather and wood and bones.

“Leather is common in Boston, but nationally it is very rare because items usually perish. It’s fantastic when you find it.”

Dozens of shoes have been found in the trenches, which have been outside Greggs, at the base of Church Lane, and outside the Assembly Rooms. A further trench will be opened near Marks & Spencer.

The locations were chosen based on a town map from 1741, which showed that these were the sites of the Butter Cross, the Corn Cross, the butchery and the market houses.

Teams originally set out to discover remnants of these buildings, but excavation of the first two trenches revealed that evidence of those structures had gone, and volunteers got right down to medieval finds.

Gavin said: “It’s not what we were expecting, but in some ways it’s better. It tells us more about what life was like for people in Boston.”

There are three trained archeologists leading the three-week project, but most of the work is being done by volunteers. It is the first time local people have been able to get involved in a project like this in the area.

Luke Skerritt, principal museum, art and heritage officer at the Guildhall, which is showing some of the finds from the project, said: “The fact that the local community is able to take part in this and the fact they are able to generate the finds themselves is what makes this so exciting.

“Having this level of vitality is something we are not often able to enjoy. It’s a brilliant aspect of being able to show these things.”

More finds are being discovered by the hour at the site.

A site-office is acting as a storage area for the many trays of mud-covered items which volunteers are digging up in the excavation.

Volunteer John Harrison, 68, said: “I found two pins and a needle, as well as other things.

“We’ve not got a great deal of history really because it’s a relatively new place and everything is vital that we can find out about it.”

Work is being carried out alongside £2 million renovation work on the Market Place, which is due to take several months to complete.