Unearthing new skills

A grandfather-of-three is showing it’s never too late to dig deep for fresh knowledge.

Jeff, 72, is studying a degree in Ancient History and Archaeology at Cardiff University. He recently returned from a five-week dig in Glauberg, Germany, an area world-famous for revealing incredible historical finds.

“It was hard work,” said Jeff, who lives near Cardiff. “The day would start with a smear of sun cream and we were digging all day long. I found a piece of Neolithic pottery, which made the whole thing worthwhile.”

He has been captivated by ancient history from a young age, when his brother took him to Caerleon at the age of eight. But it wasn’t until he retired that he decided to pursue his interest further.

“I had extreme difficulties taking it easy - it didn’t feel right,” he said. “I heard they were looking for volunteers at a dig in Caerau, so I went along. I worked with a mattock and spade but the main thing I did was sieving, searching for an interesting find. I realised we were not learning history, we were learning how to do history.”

During the dig at Caerau Hillfort, which was organised by the The Caerau And Ely Rediscovering (CAER) Heritage Project , Jeff heard about the pathways to a degree being run at Cardiff University. An alternative to A-level and access qualifications for adults, the pathways are designed for adults returning to education who want to move towards studying at degree level. The Exploring the Past pathway allowed Jeff to start a part-time degree in the School of History, Archaeology and Religion.

And Jeff, who is going into the second year of a five-year course, hopes to get involved with more digs before his degree is finished.

“You can’t really learn archaeology unless you’re out in the field. You need to experience just how challenging and satisfying it is, to be able interpret what’s in front of you,” he said.

Dr Paul Webster, Exploring the Past Pathway co-ordinator, added: “Jeff’s enthusiasm and desire to learn have been evident since he first started taking Exploring the Past Pathway courses. He really has taken to the study of ancient history and archaeology, and has made quick and clear progress both as a pathway student and now on the degree. At every stage, he is proving that it is never too late to learn new skills and gain new experiences.”

The University provides 10 routes into undergraduate degrees in a range of areas including healthcare, journalism, medical pharmacology and modern languages. Further information is available here.