This paper reviews the results of more than a hundred small archaeological “test pit” excavations carried out in 2013 within four rural communities in eastern England. Each excavation used standardized protocols in a different location within the host village, with the finds dated and mapped to create a series of maps spanning more than 3500 years, in order to advance understanding of the spatial development of settlements and landscapes over time. The excavations were all carried out by local volunteers working physically within their own communities, supported and advised by professional archaeologists, with most test pits sited in volunteers’ own gardens or those of their friends, family or neighbors. Site-by-site, the results provided glimpses of the use made by humans of each of the excavated sites spanning prehistory to the present day; while in aggregate the mapped data show how settlement and land-use developed and changed over time. Feedback from participants also demonstrates the diverse positive impacts the project had on individuals and communities. The results are presented and reviewed here in order to highlight the contribution archaeological test pit excavation can make to deep mapping, and the contribution that deep mapping can make to rural communities.
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