Prize for Archaeologist Jan Oke


The University of Exeter’s Archaeology Department has announced that a prestigious bursary set up in partnership with Fairlynch Museum, Budleigh Salterton has been awarded to Little Knowle resident Jan Oke.

Jan is the third recipient of the Angela & Tony Colmer Bursary, established to honour the husband and wife team who devoted many years as volunteers   to conserve and display artefacts in what is now the Museum’s Priscilla Carter Room. She has just completed the three-year course in Archaeology having been inspired to study the subject after taking part in local digs.

The Bursary was awarded to Jan for her work on the Ipplepen excavations in Devon, particularly for her processing and analysis of the archaeobotanical remains from the site which she wrote up for her dissertation.  Archaeobotany is the study of plant remains from archaeological sites to better understand the environmental context of past societies and how the environment was exploited and modified.

Jan, a member of the Devon Archaeological Society, gained her first experience of fieldwork when she volunteered to help with surveys on Woodbury Common as part of the Pebblebeds Project, after a talk given by Professor Chris Tilley to the Friends of Fairlynch. That was followed by working alongside professional archaeologists in a group of half a dozen volunteers keen to gain experience of digging into thousands of years of history on High Peak, near Sidmouth. But she had already experienced the thrill of making unexpected discoveries from the past when a pile of Victorian toys were found under the floorboards of her house. The result was a children’s book, Major Glad, Major Dizzy, which she wrote in 2011, following on from an earlier book Naughty Bus.

The Fairlynch team is hoping that Jan will be able to find time in her busy schedule to give the Museum the benefit of her experience in what she has obviously found to be a fascinating subject.

Michaels Downes (Fairlynch Museum)