Our end of season lecture is available to view online

Our wrap-up lecture was a great success! We had nearly 40 members of the community, students, and staff members attend. We started the evening with Director Graeme Young discussing our Bamburgh Castle trenches followed by a short explanation of 3-d model rendering and photogrammetry by Outreach Officer Cole Kelly. Finds Supervisor Jeff Aldrich gave us an overview of the small finds from the castle and Director Paul Gething wrapped up the evening talking about our Bradford Kaims site. A big thanks goes out to Phyl Carruthers for coordinating space for our lectures at the beautiful Bell View center in Belford.

Or watch the lecture on youtube.

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Young Archaeologist Club winners visit the Kaims

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Excavating the burnt mound in trench 6

The Bamburgh Research Project was happy to host the winners of the Young Archaeologists Club at our Bradford Kaims Wetland Site this last Saturday. The winners were William Allis, Elizabeth Allis, Kitty Underwood, and Rosie Underwood. We had a blast showing them around the Kaims and teaching them about prehistory and burnt mounds. We can’t wait to have more visitors from YAC next year!

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Trench 6 supervisor Tom Gardner with the YAC winners

Elizabeth Allis (11 years old), wrote about her day at the Kaims:

“My brother and I had a great time digging at Bradford Kaims with the team of archaeologists. I really liked the long wooden platform that had been discovered, especially as it is the only one in the country! There was a strange wooden object near the middle of the platform, it had a sort of handle and three holes in one end. No-one knows what it is yet, I think it’s something that prehistoric people made and buried to confuse archaeologists later on. We did some troweling in trench six with Tom and found some charcoal, we put it in sample bags and labelled them. Cole showed us some of the finds like flint arrowheads and a prehistoric giant cow tooth. It was called an auroch. We were given t-shirts with an auroch skeleton on. I learnt a lot and the day was really fun. Thank you YAC, Paul and the rest of the BRP team.”

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Introduction to trench 6.

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Making simple rope from the sedges that grow near the site.

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Beautiful floor surface in trench one

While half-sectioning what we thought was a large pit feature we uncovered part of a highly organized stone floor surface. It would be extreme to call it mosaic, but the stones are small and arranged carefully. Floor surfaces such as this are not uncommon in the later medieval deposits in trench 1, but we have never run across one associated with an anglo-saxon context.

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Since then we have uncovered more of the floor and sampled the soil above for dating evidence, such as seeds and bone. The surface is cut by several small pits and post holes, which although damaging to our floor surface can provide a better understanding of the stratigraphy of the site.

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Harry and Chris working in trench one

Our 2014 Season Wrap-up Lecture

Please come join us for the final lecture of the season. We will be talking about all the exciting discoveries of this season. If you can’t make it out, don’t worry. We will film the event and put it on our youtube channel. Hope to see you there!

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Windy day in the 9th century

Sometimes the most fascinating aspects of archaeology are those rare moments when you get to connect to a past event through a discrete little discovery. Whether it is the finger prints of a potter on an ancient pot or a personal object lost by an individual, it is all part of a rich tapestry of reconstructing the past.

A thin wind-blown sand lens lies just beneath the dark deposit that the leaf blade is lying on

A thin wind-blown sand lens lies just beneath the dark deposit that the leaf blade is lying on

We have been cleaning the south west corner of Trench 3 in order to record it a final time before we cover it to prevent its slow erosion. We made one of those small discoveries in the process. Bamburgh lies close to the beach and can be pretty windy. Its particularly annoying when the wind blows sand over our cleaned surfaces, adding a thin layer that has to be removed. It was amusing then to find such a thin layer of blown sand within the stratigraphy. Just a few millimetres thick separating accumulated waste lenses in the surface to the south of the 9th century metal working building. That must have been a stormy day in the early 9th century!

Shedding light on the metal working building

Stephanie, Trench 3 Supervisor, here with another update:

Over the past week, excavations in Trench 3 have focused on the SE corner, where the 2009 sandbags were removed to recover the section sides. Students have worked diligently to excavate the early medieval layers upon which the 2009 sandbags were sat. Long time followers of the blog may recall that Trench 3’s metal working building is located in the SE corner. While most of the metal working building was removed during the 2012 season, some of the foundations remain. Seeing as the SE section edges lay just south of the metal working building, we hoped that our recent excavations in this area might shed additional light on the building and its surrounds features.

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Burning deposit

Thus far, we have discovered that directly south of the metal working building sits a rather thick burning deposit. We believe that this deposit is the result of the repeated dumping of burning material, creating layers and patches of light to mid-brownish orange, dark brownish-red, and black burnt material. The burning deposit is amorphous in its shape and varies in thickness. While at this time we can only speculate that the formation of the burning deposit is associated with the metal working building’s industrial processes, finds from the deposit, such as iron nails and other iron objects/debris and slag, further support this speculation. Additional finds from the burning area include pottery (possibly Middle-Saxon or Norman?), a lead object, a copper pin, burnt animal bone, and burnt shell. Additionally, two post-holes have been discovered today, just along the edge of our area of excavation—one to the southwest of the metal working building and one to the southeast.

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Post-hole southwest of metalworking building

Farther to the southwest of the metalworking building, students have been excavating the remains of a large dumping context, lovingly known as (3241). This context once covered much of Trench 3 and was well-known for being rich in large animal bones, as well as small finds of various materials. This season, small finds from this context have included several stycas, several iron objects/nails, and two flint fragments.

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Students excavating the burning layer and 3241 south of the metal working building

We expect to finish excavations at the edge of the SE corner tomorrow, as we are nearly level with our 2014 area of excavation. After the SE corner has been photographed and planned, and the new layers have been added to our previous section drawings of the trench walls, we will finally begin the process of tarping and stonewalling the section sides so that they are preserved for future seasons.

An abundance of stake holes: Trench 9 at the Bradford Kaims

We have made excellent progress here in trench 9 in the past few weeks. In the south area of the trench, beneath the layer that contained bronze age pottery, we began to find some preserved wood. It looks similar to some of the wood that’s come up through the peat over the last few years in the surrounding landscape. It will need further investigation as we are not sure if it is an archaeological artifact or natural to the landscape.

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We have been identifying the edge of the burnt mound and have put in a section to help us determine our sampling strategy. We placed the section in the center of the burnt mound where it should be the deepest but it is rather shallow. From our section we can see that the soil beneath the mound contains no burnt stones.

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Student Chris working in T9. Observe the lack of stones in the deepest part of the section.

At the top of that section underneath the burnt mound we have discovered more stake holes that seem to be following a linear alignment. In the north section of the trench we have found more preserved wood in the peat layer. Very close to the preserved wood we have found more stake holes that are circular in layout.

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Ben working on uncovering more of the preserved wood. The circularly arranged stake holes are in the background.

At this time we have a total of six clusters of stake holes. One thought as to their function, given their place in the landscape, is that they were used for staking down fish traps if the water was particularly high. However, we are reserving any solid analysis until we know how many stakes holes we’ve got and what shape their in. At this point we are going to excavate and record them and get them on plan to see how they relate to everything else.

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One of the stake holes up close.

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Find of the week: Bulky Buckle

One of our recent blog posts discussed the removal of a mortar floor surface in the northwest corner of Trench 3 at Bamburgh Castle. This surface has been a fixture in the trench for quite some time, so everyone was hoping for great finds from fill underneath. We were not disappointed. Amongst the usual artefacts of animal bone, shell, and charcoal we recovered the find of the week: a bulky iron buckle. Personal items such as this are a rarity in our trenches and there has been quite a bit of excitement surrounding its discovery.

The corroded buckle was recovered in situ by one of our students Isabelle and it has been dated as Early Medieval due to its context and association with Anglo Saxon pottery found nearby.

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At a hefty 85 grams and measuring 7×6 centimetres, this isn’t a delicate fastening, but a seriously sturdy buckle that might have been worn in conjunction with vocational clothing. Though it’s possible that the iron corrosion hides some ornamental elements, at this time the buckle appears to be unadorned or missing its decorative portion. Because it’s fashioned from iron rather than a more precious metal it’s likely the buckle was utilitarian in nature and not a part of a high status wardrobe. Even if it didn’t belong to King Oswald, this latest find from Trench 3 is a very interesting artefact and we’re looking forward to seeing what additional finds are recovered from this area of the trench.

Further investigations in Trench 6 at the Bradford Kaims

Trench 6 Supervisor Tom Gardner and Assistant Supervisor Sam Levin give us an update on their trench at the Bradford Kaims.


Over the last two weeks we have been very busy in trench 6 at the Bradford Kaims. Our investigations have been focused in three distinct areas, each of which merits a whole excavation to itself, but are best appreciated in the context of the other two.

Primarily, we have continued the removal and investigation of the five burnt mound phases across the trench. This involves the removal of the burnt mound, apart from specially retained sampling baulks from which we can retain the stratigraphy and can obtain our micro-stratigraphic environmental samples.

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The intention of the burnt mound removal is to uncover the valuable interfaces between the mounds, to establish their cross-trench sequencing, and to identify any possible internal stratification within the deposits themselves. Equally, their removal gives us the opportunity to expose the land surface beneath them, which appears to be covered in archaeological features sealed by the mound.

Our second investigation has been the area exposed under the burnt mound deposits. Under our central burnt mound, 6020, there appears to be a series of stake-holes and post-holes peppering the subsoil.

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These are currently exposed only in a small area, but seem to run in a series of parallel linears, with individual stake-holes in lines perhaps representing wattled structures, and a post-hole linear with stake-holes around the circumference of the post, perhaps as a repair method.

Our final area of intense investigation has been our wooden platform feature. We once again had Dr. Richard Tipping of Stirling University on site to assist us with our coring and environmental analyses. Richard allowed us the use of his Russian core in order to take wide-gauge monolith samples from the platform, and to assess its depth. With this core, and a quickly dug section into the peat we have ascertained that our platform feature is almost 1.2m deep from its top, and is supported by some pretty huge timber posts and stakes.

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This discovery prompted us to investigate the platform’s length through investigative 1-inch cores, which allow us to observe the platforms structure and extent without opening test-pits and keeping it preserved in situ. Through this we discovered that the feature stretches over 11m from the burnt mound in trench 6, through all of our extension test pits, and out into the bottleneck of the peat and lacustrine system of Embleton’s Bog, which runs through the Bradford Kaims.

Our investigations will continue for the next three weeks, and will focus upon the sampling and removal of the burnt mounds, the sectioning and sampling of our post-holes and stake-holes to see if they constitute a series of structures, and the sampling of our platform feature in plan and in section.

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What lies beneath?

Having removed the mortar floor surface in Trench 3 we have been trying to excavate the construction slot along its west side, as we previously excavated the one on the east side. It has proved to be very difficult to trace at times, but we need to excavate it to separate the finds from its fill from the finds within the layer that lies beneath the floor surface next to it.

Beneath the mortar floor layer. The west constructon slot is under excavation in the foreground

Beneath the mortar floor layer. The west constructon slot is under excavation in the foreground

We still have some questions unanswered, such as: Was there a construction slot on the south side? But having looked for evidence for this diligently for some time, and not being able to answer this question, its time to move on. We should see a new north west corner emerging next week.