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.

St Aidans

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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Community Outreach Activities: join us this summer at BRP

The Bamburgh Research Project has created a programme of free archaeology activities to run alongside the excavation this year. You can learn a little more about the background to this in an earlier blog post: Bamburgh Outreach 2018

Below is a list of forthcoming events that you can get involved with:

Bamburgh Village Archaeology Activities

Join us at the Cricket Pavilion in Bamburgh Village 2-4 p.m. on Monday 26th of June, Monday 2nd and 9th of July and Tuesday 17th of July.

We will be undertaking hands-on artefact work, including finds washing, sorting and illustration. We will also be displaying some of our more interesting and significant finds from the excavation. Everyone is welcome!

Bamburgh Village Lecture Series

Join us at the Cricket Pavilion in Bamburgh Village 7-8 p.m. We will be delivering the following free lectures:

Tuesday 26th June: Life and death at the early medieval palace of Bamburgh: the results of the excavation of the Bowl Hole cemetery site by Graeme Young

Tuesday 3rd July: Forging Castle Space: Anglo-Saxon Metalworking at Bamburgh Castle by Julie Polcrack

Tuesday 10th July: Searching for humour in dark places: an investigation of humoral theory in the Early Medieval by Tom Fox

Tom’s lecture will explore scientific means of investigating human remains to better understand their diet, culture and society.

Tuesday 17th of July: The Excavation of Bamburgh Castle: an end of season overview by Graeme Young

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Grave cuts been photographed by one of the past directors, Phil Wood, in the Bowl Hole cemetery

Bamburgh Castle Trench-Side Activities

The BRP will also be running daily trench side activities Saturday-Thursday every week until July 18th. These will take place 11 – 1 p.m. and again from 2 – 4 p.m.

If you are visiting Bamburgh Castle please visit us in the West Ward where you can see the excavation underway and undertake hands-on artefact activities. These will run on the trench side and in our bell tent. Activities include finds washing, sorting and illustration, handling and working with pottery or bone and displays of significant finds from the site.

Note: not all activities will run everyday and as these are undertaken outside it maybe necessary to cancel due to bad weather.

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If you have any questions please contact: graemeyoung@bamburghresearchproject.co.uk

 

Our Lecture Series for the 2017 Season

Anyone in or visiting the Bamburgh/Belford area during the next five weeks are welcome to attend our  Wednesday evening public archaeology lectures at the Bell View Centre in Belford, Northumberland.

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No booking is required and entry is free, though any donations to the project to cover the cost of renting the venue is gratefully received.

Lottery grant for the Bamburgh Heritage Trust

The plans for a new heritage centre at St Aidan’s Church, Bamburgh, that will bring the story of the early medieval Bowl Hole burials to life has taken a big step closer with the awarding of a development grant to the Bamburgh Heritage Trust by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Bowl Hole Excavation Project was undertaken by Bamburgh Research Project (BRP) and Durham University and has produced a wealth of academic information about some of the earliest Christian inhabitants of Bamburgh. The burials are contemporary with the early medieval palace site currently under investigation within the castle by the BRP (places still available for this season’s excavation) and together give an extraordinary insight into what is often called the Golden Age of Northumbria.

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Some of the early medieval skeletons on their way from the castle to St Aidan’s Church during the reburial ceremony in 2016

The new funding represents an important step forward in bringing these results to the wider public. If you have not already seen it then do read Tony Henderson’s terrific article in the Chronicle, which details the work undertaken at the Bowl Hole and the planned project outputs.

If you would like to take part in this years excavations at Bamburgh Castle and/or our prehistoric wetlands site at the Bradford Kaims, please contact field-school coordinator  colekelly@bamburghresearchproject.co.uk or visit www.bamburghresearchproject.co.uk.

 

New carbon dates for the Bowl Hole

We would like to thank the Northumberland AONB for further generous grant support for our ongoing project with The Bamburgh Heritage Trust (BHT), aimed at telling the story of the Bowl Hole early medieval burial ground.

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Skeleton 440 during our 2007 excavation. An unusual grave surrounded by stake-holes

The site, thought to be under threat of erosion, was investigated by the BRP between 1997 and 2007 and involved the excavation and recording of 91 individual graves. Thankfully although there is evidence of erosion in the past, at the moment the site appears to be relatively stable. Nevertheless the investigation of the site has really advanced our understanding of Bamburgh in the this early period. Particularly informative has been the analysis of the skeletons undertaken by Durham University by Dr Sarah Groves under the supervision of Professor Charlotte Roberts. The work has resulted in numerous presentations and academic publications but the next task will be to publish the final results in a book and present them to the public. In order to enable this we have teamed up with the BHT with the aim of creating a visitor centre at St Aidan’s Church, Bamburgh. Its a long term project and the latest carbon dates are just one small step along the way, but no less valuable to us.

We already had a number of dates from the site, but as it is a complicated site, in use as a burial ground over many generations, probably from the seventh century to the ninth, we need as many dates as possible to identify if the focus of burials moved over time or if the origins of the people changed over the generations.

The AONB generously funded five new dates costing close to £2000. The graves dated were carefully selected to add to our understanding of how different parts of the burial ground may have been in use at different times and also singled out some of the more interesting individuals based on their isotope data (that tells us what part of the UK or Europe they grew up in) and burial style. We are currently feeding the new information into the site interpretation, but the results are promising. One new revelation is that one of the animal bone fragments dated, from a grave in the central-eastern part of the cemetery, came back with a Romano-British date! We do not think that the grave is from this period, but it does suggest that animal bone, probably food waste, was present in the ground to be disturbed when the grave was cut in the early medieval period. We have good evidence for occupation of the castle at that time but that activity now extends well beyond the castle to the south is interesting and poses quite a few new questions for the future. Its unlikely they were living there, but could they have been working close to the sea, fishing or making salt?

 

St Aidan’s ossuary in the news again

St Aidans

St Aidan’s Church, Bamburgh

An event hosted at St Aidan’s, Bamburgh by the Bamburgh Heritage Trust will provide a further chance to view the ossuary and learn more about its creation and the lives of those buried there more than 1200 years ago.

Follow the link to see more details and information on how to book your place.

http://www.northumberlandgazette.co.uk/news/local-news/rare-chance-to-visit-ossuary-at-bamburgh-1-8076237

Laying the Bowl Hole Skeletons to Rest

Skeleton been recorded

It seems both a long time ago and strangely almost like yesterday that we uncovered a cyst burial (a grave cut outlined with slabs of stone) and realised that we had identified the location of the lost burial ground at the Bowl Hole. Memory is a funny thing! Over the 15+ years since that weekend we have undertaken an extensive excavation, followed by a successful collaboration with Durham University, aimed at analysing the skeletons and understanding as far as we are able the story that they have to tell us.

The results have been fascinating and we very much look forward to sharing them with you in the future, through further academic papers, a long awaited monograph and, we hope, a popular publication and visitor centre. Much of this work lies in the months ahead but tomorrow a long awaited and important landmark in the story of the site will happen when we undertake the reburial of the skeletons at St Aidan’s church in Bamburgh. We always intended to rebury them following their study and ST Aidan’s, a church whose foundation is as old as the cemetery site, is the perfect place to be their final resting place.

You can read a little more about the service in the article below. If you have the chance to attend then please do.

http://www.northumberlandgazette.co.uk/news/local-news/final-committal-of-anglo-saxon-skeletons-after-creation-of-ossuary-1-7975389#ixzz4COCrIfrQ

Exciting news about the Bowl Hole early medieval burial ground

We are very happy to announce that we have received £1890.00 grant for additional carbon dates for the Bowl Hole skeletons from the Sustainable Development Fund of the Northumberland AONB.

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The Bowl Hole early medieval cemetery site, excavated by the BRP between 1998 and 2007 has since been the subject of intensive scientific analysis by a team at Durham University led by Professor Charlotte Roberts. The results are very exciting and those of you with an interest in the academic papers produced so far should have a look on the website hosted at the university (https://www.dur.ac.uk/research/directory/view/?mode=project&id=278).

BRP are currently working with the Bamburgh Heritage Trust to see the skeletons respectfully re-interred in the crypt at St Aidan’s Church, Bamburgh, and to produce a new display bringing the research results to the attention of the public. The new dates will aid us in narrowing down phasing and greatly add to our ability to interpret this amazing site.

The BRP on the One Show

Last night members of the BRP appeared on the BBC’s One Show. The segment explored the early medieval diet of Bamburghs inhabitants. It looked at the skeletal remains from the Bowl Hole Cemetery, the animal bone, shell and seed evidence from the West Ward and finally, a medieval feast using some of the food stuffs evidenced in the castles archaeological record.

If you would like to watch the segment UK viewers can catch it on the BBC I player.

On a different note, the BRP is having their annual winter lecture on Friday at the pavillion in the village. Please feel free to attend.

The Legacy of Dr. Brian Hope-Taylor Part 1.

Today we take a look at the work of Dr. Brian Hope-Taylor who excavated at Bamburgh during the 1960’s and 1970’s. You have probably heard his name mentioned in numerous blog entries over the past few months, this primarily stems from the fact that the Bamburgh Research Project has actively sought to re-investigate the work of Hope-Taylor with many of our trenches sited to explore his work (T8 and T10 for example).

Hope-Taylor’s trenches, as located and re-excavated by the Bamburgh Research Project.

The first systematic excavation prior to the foundation of the Bamburgh Research Project (BRP) in 1996 was conducted, by the late Dr Brian Hope-Taylor, of Cambridge University. Hope-Taylor’s interest in Bamburgh seems to have stemmed from his previous work at the Anglian royal site at Yeavering, some 25km to the west of Bamburgh. It appears that Hope-Taylor believed Bamburgh, being in the first tier of royal centres, would make an interesting parallel to Yeavering and aid in its interpretation. Hope-Taylor began excavations at Bamburgh in the early 60’s and returned between 1970-1974 for more systematic excavation (Young, 2009).

A photograph of BHT's excavation in the West Ward
A photograph of BHT’s excavation in the West Ward

Hope-Taylor never published his findings at Bamburgh, so when the BRP began their first season of investigation in 1996 they were not sure what to expect.

Project Director, Graeme Young, tells us in his article in Antiquity (2009) that “Dr Hope-Taylor loomed substantially in the minds of the small group of archaeologists who formed the BRP, not just because the thought of following in the footsteps of such a famous name seemed a little daunting, but also because without knowing the extent of his work within the castle, how would we integrate our own studies to his. It was perhaps this, as much as the interest of the site itself, that prompted the initial excavation undertaken by the BRP, to concentrate on the identification and investigation of an early medieval burial site close to, but beyond the castle gate” (2009). It was here that the BRP would unearth and excavate approx. 100 bodies from the final phase cemetery known as the Bowl Hole. Follow the link to see the first of three blog entries discussing this site. Bowl Hole: Part 1

The BRP also wished to explore the interior of the castle and decided to situate their trenches in the same area in which Hope-Taylor excavated.

Graeme tells us “ Documentary survey, resistivity and ground penetrating radar surveys were undertaken prior to excavation and, together with anecdotal evidence from those who remembered Hope-Taylor at Bamburgh, helped identify the general area of the 1970s excavations. Sufficiently to at least allow a trial trench to be sited with some confidence within the west ward in 2000”.

Geophysical survey being undertaken in the West Ward of the castle

This 30m by 2m trench, oriented broadly north to south, was by sheer good fortune, perfectly placed to identify the east side of Hope-Taylor’s main excavation trench.

Excavation begins in the West Ward

And once this had been identified, it was a relatively simple task to follow the edge during the following season to reveal the vast majority of a substantial, trapezoidal, open area excavation, divided by a central baulk. The north side of the trench was 10m wide, the south 7m wide, extending 19.4m north to south.

The extended trench in the West Ward

The full trench was emptied to the base of the original excavation, with the exception of the southern 3m, where a service pipe had been inserted in the intervening time between the BRP and Hope-Taylor excavations. This was a relatively easy task, as the trench had been covered with a mixture of polythene fertilizer sacks and tarpaulins weighed down by stones and timber by Hope-Taylor and his dig team at the end of the 1974 season.

The Hope-Taylor level covered by fertilizers sacks and tarpaulin

The Hope-Taylor level covered by fertilizers sacks and tarpaulin

The day of the great unveiling, when the tarpaulins and sacks were peeled back was a memorable occasion, given the quality of the archaeology that was revealed. This was made all the more interesting by the presence of section strings, nails and occasional marker tags left in situ. Clearly, Hope-Taylor had left with every intention of returning in a later season. Once cleaned, the Hope-Taylor trench was extensively recorded by photography, as well as by plan and section. In addition to this record, our strategy was to excavate a parallel trench on the east side of Hope-Taylor’s. This it was hoped, would provide sufficient insight to allow at least a basic interpretation of what had been excavated during the 1970s. Primarily however, it would provide an independent sample of the west ward stratigraphy (Young, 2009).

Trench 3. The extent most people would recognise today. Note the baulk in the bottom right corner

This trench is what many people now know to be Trench 3 and is still under excavation today. The 2011 season was particularly interesting as we began the excavation of the baulk which BHT left in-situ. This has enabled us to begin to marry-up the excavated stratigraphy in the BHT trenches with the stratigraphic sequence we recorded this summer.

In the following blog post we will discuss one of the BRP’s most exciting discoveries to date, which concerns our main protagonist, Dr. Hope-Taylor.

Young. G. Excavating an Archaeologist: Brian Hope-Taylor at Bamburgh. Antiquity 82(318)