The King in the North – a talk

The Friends of St Aidan’s Church, Bamburgh have organised a talk by Max Adams on his biography of St Oswald. It is at St Aidan’s at 4:00 pm Sunday 24th April. Entrance if £5.00 and includes afternoon tea.

Max Adams lecture poster

Writing a biography of an early medieval king is a challenge, so succeeding in writing an acclaimed one, as Max has, suggests we will be in for a treat. Do make it along if you get the chance.

Exciting news about the Bowl Hole early medieval burial ground

We are very happy to announce that we have received £1890.00 grant for additional carbon dates for the Bowl Hole skeletons from the Sustainable Development Fund of the Northumberland AONB.

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The Bowl Hole early medieval cemetery site, excavated by the BRP between 1998 and 2007 has since been the subject of intensive scientific analysis by a team at Durham University led by Professor Charlotte Roberts. The results are very exciting and those of you with an interest in the academic papers produced so far should have a look on the website hosted at the university (https://www.dur.ac.uk/research/directory/view/?mode=project&id=278).

BRP are currently working with the Bamburgh Heritage Trust to see the skeletons respectfully re-interred in the crypt at St Aidan’s Church, Bamburgh, and to produce a new display bringing the research results to the attention of the public. The new dates will aid us in narrowing down phasing and greatly add to our ability to interpret this amazing site.

Some weeks starting to fill up!

We still have places available for our archaeology field school this summer. However there are a few weeks that are starting to fill up so book soon to avoid disappointment!

No experience necessary! Our training is open to all people over the age of 12 (parent supervision required under the age of 16).

Apply here:

http://bamburghresearchproject.co.uk/?page_id=1027

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Research into the Bamburgh Castle animal bone

Our blog has been quite quiet over the winter but behind the scenes we have actually been rather busy, making plans and working towards what we think is an exciting future for the project.

One area we have been working on is the analysis, interpretation and publication of the extensive Bamburgh Castle, West Ward excavations. Work here started in 1960 when Dr Brian Hope-Taylor opened his first trial trench and continued when he returned to the site in 1970, excavating each summer until 1974. Sadly he was never able to complete or publish his work and we rather inherited this work when we began our own investigation in the West Ward in 2000. It will be some time in the future before we approach bedrock, but a we are now close to joining up with the Hope-Taylor excavation and the time has come for a major post excavation effort. Its a daunting body of archaeological research but has the potential to hugely enhance our understanding of this amazing site, so its research and publication is a big priority over the next few years.

We will need a number of academic partners to aid us in our research and we are delighted that students and staff at the Archaeology department of Nottingham University, led by Dr Naomi Sykes are currently assessing numerous boxes of animal bone from the West Ward.

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Busy at work sorting and identifying!

This is the first of what we intend to be a number of exciting partnerships that will enable a full understanding of the site.

Great news from the Bamburgh Heritage Trust

The Bamburgh Heritage Trust have been working with the Bamburgh Research Project with an eye to creating a new visitor attraction in Bamburgh Village. The plan is to open the crypt at St Aidan’s Church and and create a display to tell the story of some of the earliest Christians in the region, using the evidence from the Bowl Hole excavation.

Its early days for the project and we will keep you posted as it develops. In the mean time check out the Berwick Advertiser article below:

http://www.berwick-advertiser.co.uk/news/local-news/all-news/bamburgh-plan-gets-26k-funding-boost-1-3975443

Bookings Now Open for Our 2016 season!

We hope you can join us for the Bamburgh Research Project’s

20th Anniversary Season!

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2016 marks 20 years since the founding of the Bamburgh Research Project. Over the years we have introduced hundreds of students and community members to the wonders of archaeology. We don’t know how the time has passed so quickly. Regardless, there is TONS of archaeology just waiting to be discovered in what is sure to be an amazing season.

Our dates for next season are June 6th- July 30th

Find the Booking Form and Information here.

We hope to be able to offer several community events throughout the season that are not to be missed! More information will be available in the weeks leading up to next season.

Applications for staff members will open shortly.

The Many Successes of Challenge Week

Though the current installation of the Archaeology Basics video series by the students from Ashington Learning Partnership is at an end we have one more in store for you. Now you can hear from the students themselves about their experiences throughout the project. It’s really quite inspiring stuff!

Brian Cosgrove, the lead teacher for the project had this to say:

“Challenge week was, without doubt, a fantastic success with all of the students taking part finding their niche in the project. They didn’t want to leave on the final day! They want to follow up the work on Test Pit 63. Naturally I have to thank the ‘stars’ of our four little videos. Tom Gardner needs extra praise for the time and effort he dedicated over the three days; working with the students and welcoming them into the team on site. They really did feel a part of the Kaims project and finding the timber in the trench was inspiring. I would (of course) like to thank Graeme, Paul, Cole, and everyone at the BRP and the Kaims for making an opportunity like this available to our students. I hope we can build on this in the future.”

What a Year we have had in Trench 9

A final blog post from Trench 9 Supervisor, Tom Lally.

Although the 2015 Bamburgh Research Project season is now over, and Trench 9 backfilled and returfed, there is plenty to be excited about when it re-opens next year. At the halfway mark this season, things were reasonably straight-forward in our interpretation of the trench. It appeared that it would be a matter of easily removing context by context and coming down onto the natural surface. We were wrong. Since then Trench 9 has thrown up all sorts of new and exciting features and finds, which means 2016 should be a really intriguing season. Just as Trench 3 did, this blog will be split into area-by-area portions regarding the key features we found this season.

Wooded Area (NW Corner)
In my last update we had only just started to reveal this wooded area within our peat layer uncovered last season (see link below). Since then, student Tom Fox spent a week removing the peat around the wood to further reveal its extent. During this excavation he found a large amount of wood that appeared to be in alignment across the peat bog and over to Trench 11. Our initial interpretation is that this area may be the start of another wooden platform at the Kaims. This theory is strengthened by the finding of several upright timbers, which could be pegs that people used to stake down the wood to create the platform, as well as some intact hazelnuts and hazelnut shells (see link below), just like those found along the large wooden platform in Trench 6 and Trench 10! We may extend the trench around this wood next season to reveal more of it and gain a better understanding as to whether it is indeed part of another wooden platform or not.

 Student Tom planning the possible wooden platform

Student Tom planning the possible wooden platform

Mesolithic Post and Post-Hole
As was mentioned in my last blog, and in the recent blog post by Assistant Supervisor Franzi Le (see link below), our Mesolithic post and post-hole has been a rather unique find in Trench 9 this season. What started out as a simple piece of wood being revealed by student Rachel Moss during a trench clean, has now become a very interesting and important feature within the trench. Volunteer Bob during excavation of the post-hole found two pieces of bone/horn and a piece of Mesolithic flint to provide us with a date for the feature, as well as finding in situ pieces of wood within the post cut.

Wood pieces found within post-hole

Wood pieces found within post-hole

Since then we have continued to reveal around the post-hole, even extending the trench in order to find the extent. In this we have found even more sizeable wood pieces, most of which we believe to be fragments from one large post as opposed to several stakes. We have lifted several of these pieces which are being stored correctly and safely during the off-season. On further reveal of the wood in the extension, it is also starting to look similar to that of platform wood with all pieces lying down flat and all facing the direction of Trench 11. As is the same with the wood in the NW corner, this area will require further investigation next season to determine what people were using this post-hole for and if the wood in close proximity is also part of a wooden platform.

Assistant Supervisor Franzi working on the wood in the extension around the post-hole

Assistant Supervisor Franzi working on the wood in the extension around the post-hole

Mesolithic Hearth
Arguably the most exciting and most important feature in Trench 9 now is our recently discovered Mesolithic hearth. This feature was found almost by accident by student Carrington during the removal of a context above but which we didn’t believe went as deep as it did. Initially it was just a large piece of clay that came off, but which contained a heavy concentration of charcoal underneath. We were stunned at the amount present in this once piece of clay and so after further reveal we uncovered a metre-by-metre area of charcoal, which also contained burnt stones and sandstones (see link below).

 Hearth found late in the season

Hearth found late in the season

Upon further investigation we also came across a small piece of flint, believed to be a Mesolithic bladelet, which has provided us with a date for this feature, and a very small fragment of burnt bone within it! We now believe it to be a hearth used by the people of this area thousands of years ago. During the investigation we also uncovered a possible channel dug just to the west of the hearth, which may have provided a water source, and may tie into the final and most impressive feature discovered in Trench 9 this season.

Water Channel (left) and Mesolithic Hearth (right) in Trench 9

Water Channel (left) and Mesolithic Hearth (right) in Trench 9

Possible Sweat Lodge
The feature found latest in the season and that is causing all kinds of excitement for next season is our possible sweat lodge (see link below). The area where it sits was first pointed out to us by Director Paul as a possible burning pit after some discolouration became clearly visible after an overnight rain. It was noted but not investigated, until a full trench clean was conducted in the last fortnight prior to trench photos being taken.

'Burning Pit' feature when first identified

‘Burning Pit’ feature when first identified

After the trench clean, the feature began to stand out even more, and a clear ring of different coloured soil was identified. The trench clean also identified a large number of stake holes that appear to all situate within the circular feature, as well as some clearly burnt stones scattered throughout. From this evidence, it looks very much like a sweat lodge used by Native Americans, which is typically a dome-shaped structure held up by multiple stakes and covered in natural materials. The feature appears to measure 2.5m x 3m wide and is situated just up slope from the Mesolithic hearth. It is from the close proximity and stratigraphic sequence that we believe that the water channel, hearth and circular feature are all contemporary, and hence why we believe the feature is a sweat lodge. With a water source, somewhere to heat up stones, and a structure in which to sit all so close together, it provides us with our strongest interpretation at the present time. Further investigation will definitely take place in this area next season, so hopefully from that we can have a firmer understanding of the uses of these three features by prehistoric people.

The possible Sweat Lodge in Trench 9

The possible Sweat Lodge in Trench 9

As well as all these impressive features, Trench 9 is still scattered with archaeology. There are loads more stake holes dotted around the trench, some of which are in interesting alignments and may be contemporary with some of the above mentioned features. To the south of the sweat lodge are possible areas of burning closely associated with the lodge itself, as well as our Neolithic plank and stake holes arrangement discussed in my last blog post which still needs some investigation. So as you can see, Trench 9 is absolutely loaded with archaeology. It was thought that we would be able to close the trench by the end of this season, but with all these features and finds and possible features still to be investigated, Trench 9 will re-open again next season. The main focus next season will be to determine what and if the water channel, hearth and sweat lodge area are contemporary, but we will also investigate some of the other features dotted around the trench to come up with a full interpretation for the entire trench.

On a personal level, Franzi and I would like to thank all the staff, students and volunteers who have assisted us with our excavations this year. You have all been an absolute pleasure to work with and teach, and we both hope you have learnt a whole lot. We look forward to seeing you all again in 2016.

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Bye for now!
Franzi & Lally.