ERAS was launched in 1961 by John Bartlett, the director of Hull Museum, after a series of public lectures arranged in conjunction with Hull University, were received with much local enthusiasm.
The chance to attend talks by such classic archaeologists as Glyn Daniel, Dr Kathleen Kenyon, Prof. Maurice Beresford, and Dr J. K.S. St Joseph sparked so much interest that he decided to capitalise on this by forming a local group.
Many of the original members were already active in local archaeology and the charismatic John Bartlett recruited many more willing volunteers to work on excavations, alongside museum staff, for whom membership of ERAS went along with the job.
Early excavations which ERAS members worked on included the Easington Bronze Age Barrow, the Ferriby Bronze Age boat, Walkington Wold Bronze Age barrow and execution site, Roman sites at Brough, Medieval and post-Medieval sites in Hull’s High Street area, Peter Halkon’s Holme-on-Spalding-Moor project, and a pit alignment at Winestead.
ERAS lectures have been held at various venues over the years, including The City Hall, The Old Grammar School, and Ferens Art Gallery. ERAS was always quite a sociable group and during the 1970s and 80s there were themed annual dinners on a rather grand scale, organised by Stephanie Armstrong, the wife of archaeologist Peter Armstrong.
For several years, the Field Studies group met in the study room at Hull and East Riding Museum in High Street, where Andrew Foxon and Bryan Sitch allowed members to handle items from the museum collections. In those days, there was no charge for the use of the museum’s room or staff time – it was part of the service. There were also strong links with other Yorkshire groups such as CBA and YAS, with a large ERAS attendance at conferences in York or Leeds.
Site visits have always been a feature, including trips to Wales, Wessex, and Scotland. In 2003, over 30 members enjoyed a memorable and sunny week exploring the archaeology of Orkney.
Nowadays, most archaeological excavation is carried out on a commercial basis, related to the building Planning Permission system, resulting in fewer volunteer opportunities.
However, the development and funding of ‘community archaeology’ means that belonging to a group such as ERAS can give people access, not only to a regular lecture programme, but to taking part in excavation or post-excavation work and meeting people with similar interests.