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Having retired a few years ago, I was desperate to keep the grey cells active and was looking for something new to engage with. Having worked all my life with the health professions, I thought it was time to think about other interests, one of which was archaeology. As I was growing up in the 1950s, I frequently borrowed my father’s hammer and chisel in attempts to find fossils and often stopped in the local museum on the way home from school to look at their displays. Handaxes and skeletons were of particular interest. Now was my time to indulge this interest. I felt I needed to do a course, but where to find one and how to afford it?Jan

I thought about distance learning, but really wanted to enjoy the social aspects of learning. The U3A didn’t offer anything that grabbed my attention. Undergraduate programmes were out of the question because I already had a first degree and would have to bear the full cost (did you know that retired people may not have to repay a student loan if they don’t already have a first degree? That’s if your pension doesn’t exceed the threshold for repayments.). In searching for something available locally, I naturally looked to my local university and found that Bournemouth offered a range of Master’s courses related to archaeology and anthropology at what appeared to be a reasonable cost in comparison to other institutions. I inquired about the MSc Biological Anthropology and was accepted. I elected to do the course part-time so I could spread the pleasure of studying as well as the cost.

I am now well into my second year. I am by far the oldest student on the course and undoubtedly the only one who travels there and back with my old age bus pass. But my fellow students have been wonderful. They have helped me get to grips with social media (sorting out my privacy settings!) and accessing lecture
whose-hands-2material on my new tablet. They outclass me on tests of human and animal bones, but I appear able to hold my own on other assignments. I have really enjoyed writing course essays and am now preparing for my dissertation which aims to explore the relationship of the human hand to the use of different size stone hand axes. I am looking to recruit participants to help me with this and have a table in the Science Tent on 16 and 17 March to promote it.

The course has been great, the lectures stimulating, the lecturers enthusiastic and helpful; my fellow students impressive but also delightful and helpful. I will be very sad when it all comes to an end, but look forward to many more years of enjoyment using the knowledge I have gained. Already, it has led me to do a short course on flint knapping and I have made other local contacts that I hope will enable me to continue to use my new-found knowledge once the course ends. Perhaps I will run a short U3A course myself!

By Jan Walker

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