Archaeomagnetic Dating Project

Recently, BRP archaeologists have been working with the Paxton Before the House Community Research Project, which has been lucky enough to be included in an archaeomagnetic dating project undertaken by Lancaster University.
Archaeomagnetic dating is a method of dating archaeological material using changes in the Earth’s magnetic field. The direction of magnetic north on Earth changes over time. Some materials such as fired clay or burned stone ‘record’ the direction of magnetic north at the time of their burning. By comparing their unique record to a master curve showing the location of the North Pole through time, materials and events can be roughly dated. The technique is particularly useful at prehistoric sites such as the Bradford Kaimes.

The University of Lancaster team took samples from a site in the Kaimes wetland area that is currently being excavated by the Paxton Before the House Community Research Project team.

The samples were taken from a burnt clay surface adjacent to a stone feature identified at the site. The feature is unusual: it is a much localised spread of irregularly shaped sandstone slabs, the function of which is unknown. Current theories about their use are varied and range from the stones forming the base of a sweat lodge, to being part of a cist burial.

Team members taking samples from the area adjacent to the feature.


Much further investigation is needed before we can begin to refine our theories. A date for the feature will be key to its interpretation, so the work of the University of Lancaster team is much appreciated, and the results of the project eagerly anticipated.

The BRP and Paxton project team will be working on this puzzle throughout the winter – we’ll keep you posted as our results come in! If you’re particularly interested in the Paxton Before the House Project, visit their working blog to see how they’re getting on, and find out what they’ll be up to in the coming weeks.

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