Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

current issue

February – March 2024 : The little things READ ONLINE


Homeless heritage dig

April 09 2012
Homeless people and students join forces for a dig with a difference


Homeless people and university students in York have joined forces for an archaeological dig with a difference.

Unearthing York’s Homeless Heritage is an excavation of areas used by the city’s homeless community during the 1980s and 90s in the grounds of a hospital.

The project, a collaboration between students from the University of York and residents of the Arc Light homeless shelter, aims to use archaeology to highlight contemporary issues within our society. The excavation’s finds were on display during March in a public exhibition alongside photographs, maps and a short film all designed to explore the culture of contemporary homelessness in York.

University of York student Rachael Kiddey, who is using the subject for her PhD, said: “It is a fascinating anthropological study that will illuminate an area of our society that is so often hidden from view.

“While detritus such as cigarette butts will not be the grandest archaeological finds in this most historic of cities, they are important in understanding our society.

“Archaeology is the study of past societies, and it is vital that we look at every aspect of society, from all time frames, which is the aim of this project.” The project first began in Bristol in 2008, before Rachael decided to continue her work in York six months ago with a team of five University of York students and residents from Arc Light.

The space excavated, in the grounds of Bootham Park Hospital, was a popular space for homeless people due to its privacy and closeness to the city.

Arc Light is a charity that provides accommodation and support to homeless men and women in York, and has been delivering services since 1999 for York’s homeless. For more information visit