Introduction – Gary Brown (Managing Director)

That the archaeological profession is overwhelmingly white and middle class is a given. Raksha Dave (formerly of Time Team) has recently made this point and it is backed up by the data collected in the Profiling the Profession report.

This is unlikely to change unless or until other non-white and/or non-middle class communities find or are provided with a mechanism to engage in the history and archaeology of the British Isles. It is usually the case that members of these communities totally identify with being British but that their routes to becoming so are different to those in the white middle class group.

How do we get these communities to engage and participate in archaeology in Britain? To be honest I don’t have the answer, but I am hopeful that Pre-Construct Archaeology can in some small way help one small group of young Muslim men to gain an insight into commercial archaeology and to assist their own distinct Muslim community.

We are very pleased to be undertaking archaeological investigations at the Baital Aziz Islamic Centre, in Southwark. The mosque is very popular and crowding is an issue. To overcome this the mosque is adding a large community centre, with basement, on the north side of the existing structure. Unfortunately for them the site is located in an Archaeology Priority Area and nearby excavations and evaluations have revealed a wealth of archaeological remains, so the potential for this site is high.

As it is well known, archaeological excavations are relatively expensive, and this one is no exception. For the mosque this is a particular problem as it has no source of income other than donations from the congregation. One solution we have developed to reduce costs but with no impact on quality, is to invite participation from members of the mosque’s community. This solution has full support from the Southwark Archaeology Officer and from the Trustees of the mosque.

Prior to commencing on site the volunteers, eight in number, have attended an intensive training session at our Brockley offices. This training covers a wide range of topics, for example Health and Safety, archaeological practice and recording, use of the dumpy level, use of the GPS, small finds sorting and classification, environmental processing, and site photography. OK, this is little more than a taster and we certainly do not believe that they are or could be finished products. For their part it has more than whet their appetite and interest and they are raring to start on site, in conjunction with professional archaeologists, and to put their theory in to practice.

The fieldwork component should last eight weeks, by which time the volunteers will have much more practical experience (it will be a 9-5, five days a week experience for them), and confidence. They will have a much better understanding of the construct of British commercial archaeology, and hopefully may be so enthused that they would like to continue participating in an amateur basis, or preferably to try and extend their experience as paid employment at some stage.

We intend to update you on this page as the excavation progresses.

Finally, if you would like to contribute to the mosque’s construction fund please contact Trustee Mr Uddin: husnaynargis@yahoo.co.uk

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