Loss of Sheffield University's archaeology department will have a worldwide impact - and shows we don't know what we've got until it is going

From the outside, the University of Sheffield’s Archaeology Department on Regent Street in the city centre looks like any other academic building.

Wednesday, 26th May 2021, 2:36 pm

You’ve probably walked past it without a second thought many times, as have I. The department wasn’t really on my radar until last week, when the campaign started to save it from closure took off.

But since then, the department’s importance both to the city it is based in and the rest of the world has been shouted from the rooftops. Heard of Sheffield Castle? Manor Lodge? Heeley City Farm?All of these places have benefited from the department, whether it be advice on funding bids, borrowing equipment, working on excavations, or helping young people discover and go on to work in the field, and they have told the Telegraph just how important the university’s staff and students have been to their projects for this week’s paper.

The department has a quite astonishing reach right around the world as well and is ranked in the top 50 across the globe.

A rally to save the archaeology department at the University of Sheffield. Picture: Chris Etchells

A quick look at its website shows Venus in Pompeii to be among the sites classed as a ‘research interest’ to which the department is connected and there are others as far away as Africa.

Staff have collaborated with universities in New York, Siberia and South Korea.

It explains why there has been such an outpouring of concern about the future of the department, from alumni and experts alike.

The Council for British Archaeology has described it as a ‘massive blow’ for the field in the UK, and understandably other university departments will be concerned.

Campaigners have vowed to continue their fight until a final decision is made, and can only hope for a U-turn. For t his week has shown that sometimes, we don’t know what we’ve got until it is about to go.