End of Season Report for Trench 3

Today we have an overview of the 2011 season in Trench 3. Apologies for the lack of a north arrow and scales in the pictures. They are my own, informal images taken throughout the duration of the dig. Please feel free to ask questions, disagree etc. The more ideas the better.

Trench Three End of Season Report

It’s been a jam-packed season of new features, new finds and new supervisors in Trench 3 this year.  Work has primarily focused on bringing to the fore those areas that have received limited attention, primarily the NW and NE corners of the trench and Hope-Taylor’s Baulk A. This has proved very rewarding as we have unearthed some amazing finds as already reported, and several substantial structural features have begun to emerge.

Baulk A, which is part of the remnant of Hope-Taylor’s main excavation in the 1970’s has been the focus of much attention.

Baulk A under excavation. Facing west.

The primary context we were excavating this year comprised of a major occupational dumping deposit, which abuts against a massive stone wall to the east of the baulk. Within this context we found numerous objects such as the possible cauldron fragments, the bone comb and many styca’s (8th-9th century Northumbrian coins). These finds were amongst a mountain of discarded animal bone, shell and rubble from the collapsed wall. The evidence suggests that this area probably dates to around the late 8th to 9th century. Below this deposit we found several stone linear features, which may be the remnants of post-beams for structures, kept off the floor by a stone surface. Next year one of the primary goals will be to further explore the relationship of the stone wall in relation to the surrounding features and deposits.

Anglo-Saxon wall at the east end of Baulk A

We will also reach Hope-Taylor’s levels on the north side of the baulk, which will allow us to marry-up his excavations with that of the BRP’s. This will be a pivotal moment, as we can begin to amalgamate his archive with our own; a long-standing aim of the Bamburgh Research Project.

Work on the NW corner was underway concurrently with the Baulk A excavations. In this area we had a number of structures, including a large, rubble filled wall, burnt out post-holes and mortar spreads, all of which were covered by a burning episode.

Students cleaning the NW corner in prep for recording before excavation could begin.

The finds, including the gold filigree fragment and one of the earliest styca’s we have been able to date, have been found below this burnt deposit. This indicates that this area dates to around the 8-9th century. This is particularly interesting as this part of the trench is substantially higher than the SW corner which we believe dates to the same period; confirming our suspicions that the land level drops off towards the SW corner, following the contours of the natural bedrock. Next year we will focus on taking of the remaining later contexts that abutted the burning layer, allowing us to unite this corner with the rest of the trench.

The NE corner also received something of a face-lift in the latter part of the season. This exposed more stone features and was pivotal in helping us recognise a large linear that runs north to south across the trench (See below). It also appears as if part of the bedrock may have been removed to accommodate a structure. This is a building technique more commonly observed in Trench 1.

Students excavate the NE corner of the trench

During the removal of a large deposit which almost covers the whole trench (3239 for those of you who are interested) we began to unearth many interesting stone features (See Linear 1 and 2 below). This work is not yet complete and will form one of the primary tasks as the beginning of the 2012 season. However, at this stage it does appear as though we have substantial stone structures emerging. There size and function remains elusive. Furthermore, the removal of context 3239 has slowly been revealing areas of burning, which were originally presumed to be related to metalworking. However, in the closing weeks of this season, a competing theory has emerged.  Excavation of these features has uncovered potential packing stones, indicating that we may be dealing with a series of burnt-out post-holes, suggesting some sort of structure. This is supported by their roughly linear arrangement, running N-S across the trench, interrupted by an area of stone paving, which we have dubbed ‘the porch’.

The ‘porch’ feature. Facing south.

Until recently we were a little stumped by this feature, as it appeared to be sitting alone in a sea of archaeology. However, we are beginning to think that it may be associated with the burning deposits, forming part of large wooden building that has burnt down. The man-made cleft in the rock, in the NE corner, could potentially be part of this building, as its sits on the same alignment as the burning. At this stage these are simply suppositions as the archaeology still remains largely to be excavated but this mystery will form a major part of next years investigation.

T3 facing SW
T3. Facing NW

The hammerscale sampling that was begun in 2010 continued this year under the supervision of Dan Bateman. Next year we intend to extend the sampling across the SE corner where we have a small building, which we believe to have been associated with metal-working. This area of the trench is the subject of an article appearing in the Journal of Medieval Archaeology next year, so keep an eye out for a more in-depth discussion.

Finally, we spent several days conducting engineering work on our section sides. After a terrible winter they were beginning to look a little worse for wear and needed a bit of TLC. We now have new dry-stone walls and a back-filled sondage to add to our list of achievements.

T3’s engineering team

I must extend a huge thank you to Dan for all his efforts this year and Steph for stepping into the breach and taking on the role of assistant supervisor. A huge thank you to all the students who worked incredibly hard and I hope to see you all back again next year.

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