A Successful First Weekend for the Bradford Kaims Wetland Heritage Research Project

The first weekends work at the Bradford Kaims, for our new community project, was incredibly successful. Project Director, Graeme Young, discusses the weekends activities and some of the preliminary results.

A bit of coring of a weekend.

We were very fortunate to have Dr Richard Tipping, an expert in environmental sciences, out with a group of staff and volunteers this weekend. His knowledge is extensive and his enthusiasm was definitely infectious. There is something almost magical about preservation properties of peat and the ability of a real expert to read a core sample in the manner of an open book of environmental history.

One thing was definitely certain, our wetland site looks much more like a wetland site in the middle of winter! Open areas of water were standing over the low-lying ground that is lush grazing in the summer.

Early prospection, the water in the background is rather icy water standing in the field and not as it looks, the bank of a stream.

We did some general prospection with a narrow auger in order to find the area where the deeper and least disturbed peat and sediment deposits were to be found, preferably as close to the known and dated late Mesolithic/early Neolithic hearth area as possible.

The sediment and peat sequence revealed by the small auger boded well for getting a good sample.

In the course of this it became apparent that we may have a small peninsula or island to the south of our site with a well preserved sequence of layers to its east side in what is perhaps a small embayment. We plan to return to do some much more extensive investigation of this area in the next few weeks. This will help us map the general topography and also see if we can find any sign of early human activity on the ‘island’. (If you have not already signed up to get involved and would like to, keep an eye out here on the blog for announcements or sign up to our newsletter on the BRP website.)

Once we had identified a good sequence we switched to a much broader auger called a Russian, which has a clever mechanism that allows a half circular column sample to be taken and sealed below ground in order to prevent any contamination when the corer is lifted back out of the ground.

Once the sample has been lifted the core is rotated in the opposite direction to reveal a half section sample, which can be carefully cut loose, supported by a plastic tube and wrapped in plastic for transport to the lab.

As you will see from the photos we did get quite deep.

The perspective may make it look a little longer than it was in reality, but despite that we did get several metres deep.

At the bottom of the sequence we identified a series of lake sediment that represents the presence of an open body of water in the centuries following the end of the last Ice Age. These were succeeded by the peat layers, which represent organic material that had been preserved by the waterlogged conditions that prevent oxygen reaching down and allowing decay to take its course.

This is one of the lower cores that shows the grey lake deposits that higher up turn to the dark peat layer.

A close up view of the transition between lake sediment and peat layers. It happened thousands of years ago but may have been quite a short period of time. You can see green organic material preserved in the peat, almost looking as if were laid down yesterday. The darker bands represent periods of poorer preservation, dryer environmental conditions, when more decay takes place.

A very provisional look at the peat layers suggests that there are variations between very high preservation and somewhat lower preservation conditions. This may mean that the conditions and particularly the water table oscillated quite a lot during prehistory.

It took only a couple of people to get the thin auger into the ground. The broader Russian with which we took the sample was more a case of as many hands as we could fit on.

The samples have been carefully packaged and are on their way to the University of Stirling where they will be carefully analysed and the pollen that the layers preserve, extracted. Identification of the pollen from each thin section will allow a remarkably detailed reconstruction of the immediate environment to be made and mapped over thousands of years.

The Future

The first weekend of this project has demonstrated the quality and preservation of the site that we are lucky enough to be working on. The environmental data combined with the archaeology will be used to inform us about the prehistoric landscape and how its resources were used by past inhabitants. The blog will continue to bring updates about the forthcoming events and report on the investigations of the Bradford Kaims Wetland Heritage Research Project as it happens.

2 thoughts on “A Successful First Weekend for the Bradford Kaims Wetland Heritage Research Project

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