This Wednesday (14th May) a small band of Bamburgh Research staff (Graeme Young, Jo Kirton and Joe Tong) will be heading up to Bamburgh Castle to prepare for the arrival of a group of post-grad students from the Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington. The students along with their professors will be partaking in a pre-season excavation. From Saturday (17th of May) we will be working in the Anglo-Saxon and Viking period layers in Trench 3, in the castles West Ward.
The students are a mixture of post graduates studying History, Medieval & Byzantine Studies, English, and Anthropology. A real mix! Their team leader is Dr Lilla Kopár, Associate Professor at the university with a particular focus on art-history, Old English and archaeology.
Dr Kopár explains why she decided to bring her students across the Atlantic to work with the BRP and Bamburgh Castle.
“It all started about a year ago with a conversation with Jo on a field trip in search of early medieval sculpture in the Wirral. We talked about the significance (and fun) of being involved in excavations as a student and the difficulties of being a scholar of material culture of the Middle Ages “from the other side of Pond.” Then Jo had a brilliant suggestion: Why not join the BRP dig for a few weeks, or even better, take a group of students along to Bamburgh?
Our institution, The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., has no official program in medieval archaeology but we have a strong cohort of medievalists at the Center for Medieval and Byzantine Studies and in various departments, and a number of us have a keen interest in material culture. As the “local Anglo-Saxonist”, I teamed up with my historian colleague and friend, Dr. Jennifer Davis, who regularly teaches a course on medieval archaeology for historians, and proposed a trip combining the archaeology field school with visits to historic sites (Lindisfarne, Hexham, Jarrow, Durham, York), all embedded in a team-taught graduate course on early medieval Northumbria. The idea was received with great enthusiasm by our adventure-loving master’s and doctoral students and we quickly had a crew of ten signed up for the trip. CUA’s Center of Global Education welcomed the idea of a study-aboard experience for graduate students and has provided financial and organizational support.
Our students come from four different graduate programs (History, Medieval & Byzantine Studies, English, and Anthropology) and bring various kinds of expertise as well as expectations to Bamburgh. Some had participated in excavations before, while others know more about Old English and Bede than about trowels and trenches. We all are looking forward to hands-on training in archaeology, the excitement of new finds, the breath-taking surroundings, and the experience of being in England (well, not so much the rain). It will be an unforgettable trip and we are very excited to join the BRP crew.”
The students are looking forward to excavating through layers of archaeology dating to periods they have been researching on their courses. CUA English Lit student, Sara Sefranek told us….
“I don’t know what to expect, to be honest! My degree is in English Lit with a focus on Old English Poetry. For years I’ve depended on the work of archaeologists to help inform me about the history & culture that produces the texts that I study, so I was excited by the opportunity to learn about that first hand. I hope I’m ready for whatever turns up! As a lit student I’d be curious about finds that incorporate text in some way… some of my research has also been on Christian incorporation of pagan iconography, so if such things have been found, I’d love to see them.”
We will be updating the blog and Twitter feed @brparchaeology with all our activities and discoveries during their stay, so please pop back soon.