2024 UK Cerne Abbey Research Project

Location: Cerne Abbas, Dorchester DT2, UK

Season: July 14, 2024 to August 10, 2024

Application Deadline: April 4, 2024

Deadline Type: Rolling


Discount for AIA members: No

Program Type:
Field School

RPA Certified:

University of Sheffield (UK) and Center for Field Sciences (US)

Project Director:
Dr. Hugh Willmott – Senior Lecturer, European Historical Archaeology, University of Sheffield

Project Description:

Founded in 987 CE by Æthelmaer the Stout on the site of an earlier Christian community, Cerne Abbey grew to become one of the most important monasteries in the Southwest of England. Shortly after its closure during the Dissolution in 1539, the site was comprehensively demolished save for a gatehouse, and the precise location of its buildings was lost until archaeological work started in 2022. The abbey sits at the feet of the famous chalk-cut figure of a club-wielding giant that dominates the village of Cerne Abbas. Recent dating of the figure by the UK National Trust has shown that the giant was an Anglo-Saxon creation, and it seems directly connected to the earliest monks residing there.

Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey undertaken by the University of Sheffield provided the first ever evidence for the medieval abbey, and potentially its Anglo-Saxon predecessor beneath. This survey clearly shows the location of the monastic cloister and its west, east, and north ranges. The GPR survey also demonstrated that a significant portion of the monastic church lies within an open area unobscured by later features and available for excavation. Not only do we now have an amazingly clear plan of the cloistral ranges, the survey showed that the buildings remained surprisingly intact with walls up to over 1m in places.

Excavations at Cerne Abbey begun in 2023 and are now expanding to start to answer a set of interrelated questions concerning the life of the abbey and its ultimate destruction in the 16th century. This field school will be part of the Cerne Abbey long term research project and potential Honor, Master & PhD research opportunities are welcomed and encouraged.

Period(s) of Occupation: Middle Ages

Tuition: $4,580. Tuition covers full cost of instruction, room & board and transportation. 8 Semester Credit Units (equivalent to 12 Quarter Credit Units) are awarded through our School of Record – Culver Stockton College

Project Size: 1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: Full session

Minimum Age: 18 Years Old

Experience Required: None. This is hands-on, experiential learning and students will study on-site how to conduct archaeological research. Field work involves physical work and exposure to the elements and thus requires a measure of understanding that this will not be the typical university learning environment. You will have to work outdoors and will get sweaty, sometimes wet and tired. Students are required to come equipped with sufficient excitement and adequate understanding that field work requires real, hard work, in the sun, wind and rain. The work requires patience, discipline, and attention to detail.

Room and Board Arrangements:
The project will be based at the local vicarage, a 10 minutes’ walk from the excavation site. Accommodation is in the form of camping in a private meadow to rear. Students must bring their own tent and bedding but will be provided a sturdy camp bed. There is access to electricity for charging, WIFI and large communal tents for socializing or sheltering in the case of rain. We also have access to a large room in the vicarage which will serve as a classroom and laboratory. Three meals are provided every day (including the days off). Breakfast and dinner are at the campsite and students prepare their own packed lunch in the morning to take on to site. We are able to cater for all kinds of dietary requirements, and there is a well-stocked village store should students wish to purchase additional items. Cerne Abbas has three pubs which serve food and a tearoom. There will be a fulltime camp cook and campsite manager to ensure the smooth running of the domestic side of the project. However, students are expected to assist these staff in the preparation food, cleaning and general campsite duties.

Academic Credit:
8 Semester Credit Units (equivalent to 12 Quarter Credit Units) are awarded through our School of Record – Culver Stockton College.

Contact Information:

CFS Admissions

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Los Angeles




Phone: (562) 584-0761

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