case studies

Mobile Connectivity at Flag Fen

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Mobile Connectivity at Flag Fen

Peterborough's Cultural Trust

NEP Connect



NEP Connect (formerly known as SIS LIVE) has helped a unique archaeological dig at a 5,000 year-old Bronze Age site near Peterborough reach an international audience thanks to its satellite broadcasting technology.

The aim of the professional archaeologists’ and site owners, Peterborough’s cultural trust, Vivacity, was to bring Bronze Age Flag Fen to life for a three week dig in August.

Flag Fen is one of the bestpreserved and most important wetland Bronze Age sites in Europe and is spoken about in the archaeological community in the same terms as stone henge – the key difference being that the site’s treasures and stories remain hidden underground.

To date, only five per cent of Flag Fen has been excavated; the last time being more than 10 years ago. The finds discovered to date have been extremely exciting, particularly a one-kilometre long causeway made up of more than 60,000 timbers.

The dig broke new ground, quite literally, in more ways than one. ‘Flag Fen Lives’ was the first crowdfunded and crowdsourced excavation in Europe. Not only was the project funded exclusively by the public, but enthusiastic amateurs could also get involved and dig alongside the professionals on site.

The team hoped to find evidence predating the Bronze Age causeway, and also investigate the speed and impact that climate change was having on the area and therefore the delicate timbers and organic materials that had yet to be discovered.

While pursuing these goals, a key objective of Flag Fen Lives was to engage with the public by providing live feeds from site, including news about the latest finds, photos and blogs, as well as regular Facebook and Twitter updates.

There was only one problem; like most archaeological digs, Flag Fen was not in an easily accessible site. Nor was it within easy reach of the all-important broadband connection. Which is where NEP Connect’s satellite broadband services came into play.

“Our job was to bring the site to life. We knew from the outset that we had an exciting project and some really fun elements, such as Fergus, the ‘dig dog’, who had a camera strapped to his back for a ‘dog’s-eye’ view of archaeology. But we knew that having internet connectivity could make or break the project. We really wanted people to feel that they had up to the minute information about the dig so that they felt genuinely involved. Without access to the internet the experience would have been totally different and reached only a fraction of the potential audience.” DigVentures’ Managing Director, Lisa Westcott Wilkins

With just a few weeks to go until the launch of the dig, DigVentures still didn’t have the internet link they so desperately needed. That is, until they contacted NEP Connect. As Sarah Stannage, Head of Heritage at Vivacity said, it made all the difference:

“NEP Connect literally gave the project a lifeline. The satellite link was ideal for this kind of project in such a remote location and worked perfectly for the duration of the dig. From the initial site survey by the engineers to the removal of the equipment, the system worked flawlessly. I’m not sure what we would have done without it and hope that we can work with NEP Connect again on other, even more remote, archaeological digs in the future.”

NEP Connect’s specialist IP team provided a fast, 2MB internet connection via an on-site satellite dish, which allowed up to 10 hand held devices (phones, iPads, etc) to be connected to the internet via wifi, with a master computer being used to edit and upload larger video and audio files to the web. The results of the dig surpassed expectations, with more than 250 people becoming ‘venturers’, 150 of whom actually joined the dig for one or more days. The web site proved a real hit around the world, attracting more than 100,000 unique visitors over the three weeks.

As a result of word-of-mouth and the excellent publicity surrounding Flag Fen Lives, including regular coverage in the print and broadcast media, culminating in an extended item on Radio 4’s Today programme, the event saw nearly a third more visitors at the site than over the same period in 2011.

Commenting on visitor numbers, Sarah Stannage said: “We were really pleased that so many people came to enjoy this special event and that so many chose to take part – particularly when we were up against the Olympics at the time.

“We look forward to welcoming DigVentures and NEP Connect back to Flag Fen again and hope that it’ll grow to become one of the biggest archaeological events in the calendar. We would particularly like to thank SIS for their invaluable support and assistance.”

Flag Fen at-a-glance

  • Internationally significant Bronze age archaeological site
  • Located just outside Peterborough
  • Discovered by archaeologist Francis Pryor in 1982
  • Evidence of communities dating back 5,000 years
  • Site finds include oldest wheel in the country and kilometre-long wooden causeway

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