Update on the Discovering Aidan Project

The Discovering Aidan Project has passed another landmark with the full funding for the project being approved by the Heritage Lottery Fund. A new article has been published by Tony Henderson in the Chronicle as well. The project will focus on the excavated Anglo-Saxon cemetery located just outside Bamburgh Castle.

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St Aidan’s Church, Bamburgh

The Bamburgh Research Project, who undertook the initial excavation and worked with Professor Charlotte Roberts of Durham University on the analysis of the skeletons, will be working with the AONB to provide support and information on the research so the full story can be told. In parallel, we are again working with Professor Roberts to see that the full academic report is published as a book. It is an exciting time and we are very much looking forward to what will be a landmark publication for BRP.

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Skeleton excavated in the Bole Hole excavation in 2004

We may not be excavating at the Bowl Hole any more but work at Bamburgh Castle continues and we would be delighted for you to join us excavating a 7th century AD horizon this summer.

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Launch of our 2019 Archaeology Field School

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We are delighted to announce that booking details are now available for our 2019 field school season, which runs from June 16th – July 27th. The field school will operate out of Bamburgh Castle and we are offering two programmes:

Excavation and Post-Excavation or Post-Excavation only

You can book anywhere from one to six weeks. However, we recommend booking two weeks minimum for a well rounded experience. Our dates are listed below:

  • Week 1: June 16th- June 22nd
  • Week 2: June 23rd- June 29th
  • Week 3: June 30th- July 6th
  • Week 4: July 7th- July 13th
  • Week 5: July 14th- July 21st
  • Week 6: July 22nd- July 27th

Student spaces are limited, so we encourage you to book your place as soon as possible.

Tuition is £280 per week, which will cover all on-site excavation and post-excavation activities. You can learn more about what this covers by visiting our website.

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Excavation of Trench 3 is not at 7th century levels

Accommodation must be booked separately. The staff are staying at Budle Bay Campsite and we very much encourage you to join us there for a more communal experience. Most who join the dig find making new friends and the social side of the excavation just as much fun as the dig itself.  Budle bay offers a variety of options from basic camping to booking your own Eco Hut. Options for space in the Bunkhouse that we are booking for staff are also available but do contact us to ensure that places are still available in it before booking with the campsite.

Note: There were a number of changes to the field school last year, such as our training schedule and when you are expected to arrive. Even if you have booked in years past we encourage you to read-through the updated website pages.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to get in touch.

The BRP’s new website is taking shape

It has taken some time, and a good bit of work, but the new website is now up and beginning to take shape. There is still a lot of work to be done, as its pretty sparse, but this is a deliberate choice as we want to do a big update of the content as well as the look of the site. We also hope that it will be a step forward in joining up our media footprint and should be easier to navigate around and find content.

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One thing to look out for soon will be our announcement of the details for our 2019 excavation season. It will be modelled on the 2018 and will run in June and July and I am glad to say we are getting close to deciding the dates. Just as with last year Post-Excavation will be one of our main focusses as well as further exploring the new 7th century cobble surface in Trench 3. We have a busy couple of weeks ahead but are aiming to have the new season details announced, and the booking open, by mid November, so not long to wait now.

What we did this summer: Bamburgh castle excavation 2018

Looking back at this year’s excavation season it is satisfying to see the results that were achieved. The cobble surface, first seen in 2016, has been fully exposed within the trench. In addition the process of integrating the BRP excavation with the northern area, previously excavated by Dr Brian Hope-Taylor, has really advanced. In fact next year we will be able to move the two trenches forward as one.

In the case of the cobbles, rather than a single feature with clear edges, the surface was found to be a complex composed of multiple layers and patches with a rather diffuse edge that blended into the adjacent layers. It was clear that understanding this structure fully and dissecting its varied components is going to be a challenging task, but hopefully a rewarding one. We have made a start but a lot more work needs to follow. At present this complex structure is thought to date from the 7th to 8th centuries AD, based on two radiocarbon dates from the adjacent Trench 8 and the stylistic date for the bird mount that was found on the surface.

In addition to exposing the cobbles we removed a number of adjacent layers to expose what we believe to be, at least part, of the contemporary surface around the cobbles and identified a number of features in the process. Some of these were clearly structural, which means that at present our best understanding is that we have a yard (the cobbles) around which other timber buildings are likely to have stood. It is tempting to see this arrangement as an act of deliberate planning, probably under royal supervision.

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The structural cobble surface fully exposed within the trench

As with the overlying 9th century layers, we see the cobble surface and its surrounding structures as having an industrial function, as ash and waste material continues to be a substantial component of the excavated layers. We are not clear if this remains primarily metal working, but we are now at a similar level to what appears to be a metalworking area in the Hope-Taylor trench (comprising a hearth and a water channel). The animal bone evidence recovered was substantial and varied, so one thing we can be sure of is that the workers in this area continued to live well and dispose of food waste within their working environment.

Finally in order to better understand Hope-Taylor’s ‘lower pavement’, that appears to be a wall foundation running along the western boundary of his trench, rather than a path, we excavated an area of undisturbed archaeological layers that had formed the base for our stepped entrance into the trench. This appeared to reveal that the foundation turned a right angle and extended beyond the limit of the trench and did not continue to the south. This excavation also revealed the presence of a pit filled with rubble including a squared stone block covered in mortar that we hope to further reveal and recover next season.

The BRP team would like to thank Will Armstrong and his castle staff who make us feel so welcome. Particular mention should go to Lisa for her help with getting the metal finds off for x-ray and Stuart for assisiting with the above photograph with his Cherry Picker. We are grateful to The Society of Antiquaries of London for a generous grant towards the assessement of the full site metal archive which is ongoing, and to the Mick Aston Fund of the Council for British Archaeology for a grant to assisit with our outreach programme. I would also personally like to thank our wonderful team of archaeological staff for a great summer. Roll on 2019.

Graeme Young

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Bamburgh Castle Excavation End of Season Lecture

Please come join us tonight (July 17, 2018) at 7 PM for a free public lecture at the Bamburgh Pavilion (on the green in front of the castle). The Bamburgh Research Project team will be giving an end of season round-up lecture of this years discoveries at the Bamburgh Castle Excavation.

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The West Ward excavation

Bamburgh Castle Medieval and Anglo-Saxon Metalwork Analysis and Conservation

Here at Bamburgh Research Project we are now in our fourth week of excavation. Staff and students have been focusing their efforts on revealing and recording a 7-8th century cobbled surface in the south-east of the trench. To learn more watch our latest trench update from Director, Graeme Young, who explains progress so far: Trench 3 Update.

As well as the excavation in the trench we also have a post-ex team working with students to record the finds and paleoenvironmental material as it is recovered. They are also working really hard prepping all the medieval and Anglo-Saxon metalwork from Trench 3 for analysis and conservation as part of our Society of Antiquaries funding (you can learn more about this project here: SOA Grant).

 

We have sorted, boxed and listed all the material and the metalwork assemblage has now gone to our specialist conservator, Karen Barker. Karen will stablilise, x-ray and provide a conservation assessment for us. The details we gather from the assemblage will form part of a interim excavation report and key items will be selected for conservation and display in the Archaeology Museum at the Castle.

 

Karen has begun to x-ray the thousands of metal artefacts, which is particularly exciting when looking at corroded items, as the form and detail of objects is often revealed at this stage.

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X-ray of Trench 3 iron objects

This is one of the early x-rays from the assemblage with various iron objects, including buckles, knives, a couple of nails and a possible door hinge.

We will update the blog as more information becomes available.

 

Thanks to the Society of Antiquaries of London for their grant support.

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Meet the Staff!

Meet our team for the 2018 season!

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Name:  Texanna Day

Where are you from?:  Austin, TX, USA

What is your role at the BRP?:  Finds Assistant

What do you do when you aren’t at Bamburgh?:  I spend most of my time doing volunteer work throughout Austin and I practice aerial dance when I’m not doing that. I also make a mad lemon-zucchini bread.

 

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Name:  Tom Fox

Where are you from?:  Kingston-Upon-Hull, UK

What is your role at the BRP?:  Post-Excavation Supervisor

What do you do when you aren’t at Bamburgh?:  I’ve been working in commercial archaeology for the past eight months in Leicester and I’m going to the University of York in the fall to do an MSc in Bioarchaeology focusing on Bioisotopes and Zooarchaeology. For fun, I practice archery and shoot a long bow.

 

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Name:  Julie Polcrack

Where are you from?:  Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

What is your role at the BRP?:  Public Outreach Officer

What do you do when you aren’t at Bamburgh?:  Last August, I got my MA in Medieval Studies from Western Michigan University. Currently, I work as an interpreter at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum. I also make some mean scones.

 

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Name:  Kelly Tapager

Where are you from?:  Huntsburg, Ohio, USA

What is your role at the BRP?:  Trench 3 Assistant Supervisor

What do you do when you aren’t at Bamburgh?:  I just graduated with my BA in Archaeology at Boston University. In the fall, I will be going to the University of York for my MSc in Bioarchaeology with a concentration in Human Osteology. In my free time, I do theatre for fun.

 

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Name:  Alice Wolff

Where are you from?:  Mountain View, CA, USA

What is your role at the BRP?:  Paleo-environmental Assistant

What do you do when you aren’t at Bamburgh?:  Last August I received my MPhil in Archaeology from the University of Cambridge and am starting my PhD in Medieval Studies at Cornell University in the fall. I also make excellent cappuccinos!

Digging through the 8th century AD

After the first few days back on site at Bambugh Castle the excavation is up and running and we are starting to make some visible progress. The first week always involves some catching up with where we were, but even so we are now moving forward and excavating down to an extensive cobble surface that we previously indentified in a narrow sounding trench.

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Always plenty of recording to be done in the first week.

We have been speculating just what this cobble structure represents for a while now so its good to be getting on with the process of exposing the feature in full and answering this question. At the moment this Director’s opinion is that it will turn out to be a building platform, but a yard surface or even a road are also in the running.  Time and hard work will tell.

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More of the cobble structure being revealed in Trench 3

2018 Project Design: what will the BRP be focusing on this year?

Before the start of the excavation season the BRP directors compile a list of aims and objectives based on what we we want to achieve during this period. This includes how we plan to excavate and record the site, strategies for undertaking post-excavation research, our aims for teaching both staff and students, and what we hope to achieve in terms of our outreach.

We have created a detailed Project Design, which provides background information about the site and previous work undertaken. This is then used to inform our detailed plans for the summer, as set out in the latter part of the Project Design. You can access this document here: Bamburgh Research Project Design 2018

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Overview

This year we will be focusing our attention on excavation of Trench 3, where the main body of our teaching will be undertaken. This will be supported by our finds and paleoenvironmental teams.  We will also be prepping the bulk of the medieval and early medieval metalwork to go for specialist analysis thanks to funding from the Society of Antiquaries. Recent funding from the Mick Aston Archaeology Fund has also allowed us to expand our outreach activities, which you can learn more about here: 2018 Outreach Activities

If you have any questions about our plans please email graemeyoung@bamburghresearchproject.co.uk

 

 

Come Join Us This Summer: places made available on the 2018 field school

Due to a last minute cancellation we now have two digging spaces available per week for the following weeks: June 24-30, July 1-7, July 8-14, and July 15-20. Join is for one week or all four!

The Archaeological Experience

You can learn more about the field school here on our website: Field School Info

You can submit an application here: Application Form

We hope to see you soon!