A computer reconstruction of the stone building in Trench 1

We have been fortunate to have Jet Jansen, of York University, undertaking a project for us on a computer model for one of the buildings in Trench 1. Here is a little right up of the work from her:

stone building

The basic model

For my placement with the Bamburgh Research Project, I made a 3D reconstruction of a stone building based on the robber trench found in Trench 1. When making a reconstruction I normally look for 4 kinds of information:

  • A site plan for the outlines of the structure I am trying to reconstruct. On this I would look for any remaining walls or posts, or negative features such as a robber trench.
  • Section plans of any remaining features of the building, such as walls.
  • Other finds associated with the structure, such as building materials that are no longer in situ or any artefacts that can give an indication who occupied the building, or how it was used.
  • Any archaeological or historical evidence of buildings of the same time/function from other places.

If there is a lot of this information available, it can be relatively easy to make a reconstruction. For the building in Trench 1, however, there was not much evidence. Only half a robber trench was found, so the full outline of the building is unknown. There are also no walls left and the associated finds were a few stones and a lead fragment. Additionally, there is not much evidence on early medieval buildings of stone, and most of these buildings are churches. Since the building lies close to St Oswald’s gate, we think it is more likely to be a defensive structure than one of a religious nature, which means that the surviving churches are not exactly perfect material to base the reconstruction of the building in Trench 1 on, but that is the evidence there is, so that is also what I worked with.

When making a 3D reconstruction it is necessary to create the basic shape of the building you are reconstructing first. This includes the position and height of the walls, the shape of the roof and the location and size of the door and windows. The position of the walls can be based on the robber trench. Since we don’t have the robber trench for the east wall, it is not possible to say with certainty how far the building extended to the east. Logically, the maximum size it could have been is to the edge of the plateau/the wall of the ward. The stones in the east indicate that it is likely that the building extended till at least that point. For this reconstruction, I chose to place the east wall on these stones, so this reconstruction shows the minimum size of the building. There is no evidence for this building to be a multi-story building, so the reconstruction of the building only has a ground floor.

The position of the door was based on the function of the door and the position of the building. Since the wall on the south side is quite close to the gate cleft of St Oswald’s gate, it is unlikely that there would be a door in this wall. After all, it is not sensible to put a door where there is a high risk of people falling down quite a steep drop after a few steps. However, since this building is thought to be a defensive structure, it would be likely that the door would be in such as position that the people in the building could reach the gate in as short a time as possible. Therefore, the door in this reconstruction is located on the east wall, near the corner with the south side, so that the gate could be reached without having to run around the building first.

The defensive nature of the building was also taken into account when making the windows. If the building was a gate house of sorts, the people would want to be able to see as much of the gate as possible, but also would not want to have too big windows. The style of windows was based on a small and simple window from Escomb Church.

The surviving churches of that time and the stone buildings from a slightly later period have gable roofs, so that is the type of roof used for this reconstruction as well. The lead fragment that was found could have been part of the roof, so the reconstruction of the building was given a roof of lead.

After the shape of the building is done, it needs to be given textures. The stones for the walls were chosen to resemble the walls of the churches, wood was used for the door and the roof was given a lead plating texture. After the texturing, the reconstruction is more or less finished. For the end product it is possible to make animations with the model or to edit it into a photo of the trench, or it can be left just as it is.

stone building placed

The model placed into one of our site photographs

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