A NATIONAL festival of archaeology is being launched in York by Culture Minister Barbara Follett.

The MP is kicking off this year’s Festival of British Archaeology which starts tomorrow with a visit to the site of Hungate, the largest excavation to have taken place in the city for 25 years.

More than 630 digs, walks, talks and activity days will be taking place across the country as part of the 20th Festival of British Archaeology, co-ordinated by the Council for British Archaeology.

As part of the programme, people will be able to visit Hungate for free on Saturday, August 1. Visitors will have the chance to experience a live archaeological dig and will be able to ask the team working on the site questions about the excavation and the discoveries they have made. The excavation will be open from 10am to 3pm. In addition, there will be free tours of the site, every day from Monday to August 2 except on July 26. They will happen at 10.30am, 11.30am, 12.30pm, 2pm and 3pm. Pre-booking is required, phone 01904 615505.

Throughout the festival, there will be no charge for children to enter medieval townhouse Barley Hall, in Coffee Yard, in the centre of York. The resident barber surgeon will be on hand tomorrow to talk about gruesome treatment methods and grizzly cures at the Plague, Poverty And Prayer exhibition.

Sarah Maltby, director of attractions at York Archaeological Trust, said: “Archaeology is great fun and teaches us so much about how the world we know today was shaped. Having Barbara Follett here to help us launch the festival is fantastic; it will help put the event on the map and encourage more people to get involved in the excitement of archaeology and finds.”

There will also be an opportunity to walk on the site of the Battle of Marston Moor with a costumed guide. Meet at the War Memorial, Marston Moor, at 11am next Friday. Places for this free event are limited and pre-booking is required.

For a full listing of events, visit jorvik.co.uk