2018 Funding Success with the Society of Antiquaries of London

The Bamburgh Research Project are pleased to announce that the Society of Antiquaries of London have kindly awarded us £4700 to undertake continuing post-excavation analysis of the material recovered within the West Ward of Bamburgh Castle.

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The project ‘Forging Castle Space’, will focus on the metalwork recovered from early medieval contexts in Trench 3. The funding will allow us to assess and plan the conservation of 7,200 fragments of early medieval metalwork, spanning the 8th-11th centuries, plus conserve a 25% sample of all styca coins recovered.

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The Bamburgh Bird. One of the many early medieval artefacts recovered from Trench 3.

Upon completion of the project the metalwork will be better understood in terms of its function, origin and date, plus its purpose for deposition within an associated building, likely used for working metal (You can read more about the building here: Castling, J. and Young, G. L. 2011. A 9th Century Industrial Area at Bamburgh Castle, Medieval Archaeology, Vol. 55, 311-317). This data will allow us to better understand the function of the building, its associated area and the broader 8th-11th century horizon in this area of the castle. The data generated will also inform ongoing excavation and aid us in our attempt to contextualise earlier excavations (1959–74) for which we only have a partial archive surviving.

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9th-10th century ‘metalworking’ building

The long-term goal is to establish the character and significance of early medieval activity, as this was pivotal in creating the spatial and material precedent upon which the post-Conquest castle complex developed.

We have already made great strides towards understanding this period in the West Ward, as we have recently completed the post-excavation analysis of Trench 8, which sits immediately adjacent to Trench 3. Funding from the Royal Archaeological Institute has enabled us to determine a stratigraphic sequence from the modern to the Roman period using the artefacts recovered and C14 dates to identify and date contexts. You can learn more about this project here: Trench 8 RAI Grant.

If you would like to join us this season to help us undertake the excavation of this fascinating site or work more specifically with our post-ex team (artefacts and environmental material) please visit our website for more information: http://www.bamburghresearchproject.co.uk

 

 

 

Medieval and Anglo-Saxon Metalworking at Bamburgh Castle: the results of the Trench 8 assessment and conservation

As part of the BRP’s ongoing post-excavation analysis of Trench 8 in the West Ward of the Castle (click here for a full description of the research project funded by the Royal Archaeological Institute) a collection of 165 metal objects were sent for x-ray and assessment. Of these, the copper alloy and lead objects were found to be in good condition but the iron objects were poorly preserved with significant surface loss on some.

Of the metal artefacts recovered, 19 were recommended for conservation. Funding was provided by Bamburgh Castle to undertake the conservation where the artefacts were appropriately cleaned and stabilised. These have now been returned to the Castle in the hope that some will go on long-term display within the Castle’s archaeology museum and the rest will be carefully stored for future research.

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Trench 8 under excavation in 2008

The 165 objects ranged in date from 7th century – 1970’s. The majority of the collection is made up of medieval iron nails (85) with various other objects, including horseshoes, a key, bolts and a buckle also dating to this period.

The Early Medieval period is also well represented within this collection. This is not unexpected as Trench 8 lies in close proximity to the 9th-10th century metalworking building located in Trench 3, where a large styca hoard and other examples of Anglo-Saxon metalwork have been discovered (for more info see Castling, J. and Young, G. 2011, A 9th Century Industrial Area at Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland, Medieval Archaeology, Medieval Britain and Ireland, Vol. 55, 311-317). Earlier excavations undertaken by Dr Brian Hope-Taylor (see link above) also recovered the famous Bamburgh Sword (click here to watch a lecture about the Bamburgh sword) and axe head in this area. The Anglo-Saxon material recovered from Trench 8 included a possible clench-bolt, which are often associated with boat building, wagon and building construction, a pair of shears indicative of sewing or personal grooming, a copper alloy strap end with parallels from the Anglo-Saxon port of Hamwic and three copper alloy styca coins.

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Shears before and after conservation

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Early Medieval copper alloy strap end

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Styca coin

There are 23 fragments of lead off cuts, which suggests lead was being worked in the vicinity.

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Selection of lead off cuts recovered from Trench 8

Notably, evidence of Brian Hope-Taylors earlier excavations undertaken in the 1960’s and early 1970’s is seen in the metalwork with a 1974 penny – the last year of the earlier excavations, aluminium foil and modern nails all being recovered by the 2006 BRP excavation team.

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1974 penny recovered during the 2006 dig season

The team also found in-situ finds tags from Hope-Taylor’s excavation, which have helped us understand some of the surviving paperwork and find spots of key small finds from his excavation.

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One of Hope-Taylor’s small find tags

There are numerous other objects that will require further research to date and identify parallels. These include a iron blade, hooked tag and socketed arrowhead, plus a probable copper alloy weight for a fishing net.

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Iron blade with tang before and after conservation

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Socketed arrowhead

There is still further research to be undertaken on the metalwork assemblage from Trench 8 but the initial results suggest the site was particularly active from the 8/9th century through to the 14th century. The information will be combined with that provided from the other material assemblages, such as the pottery, glass and lithic, to build a picture of life in the West Ward. This in turn will be used to support the data gathered from the larger BRP Trench 1 and Trench 3 excavations, and contextualise the unpublished and partial record from the Hope-Taylor excavations – one of the BRP’s primary research objectives within the Castle.

Future blog posts will look at some of the other material assemblages and report on the radiocarbon dates that will help provide clues toward the dating of various complex features observed in Trench 8.

Progress with the Bamburgh Castle Trench 8 publication

We always have a quiet period on the blog following the excavation season but although work has slowed we are still busy. The current focus for the Bamburgh Castle excavation is on producing a publication centred on our re-evaluation of Brian Hope-Taylor’s first excavation in the West Ward of the castle that he undertook in 1960. The Bamburgh Research Project emptied the backfill and re-drew the sections in 2006, taking the opportunity to sample excavate two baulks of material that Hope-Taylor had left in place. We have been fortunate to receive some funding support from the Royal Archaeological Institute towards a good part of the specialist analysis costs and to fund some radiocarbon dates. More information about this can be read here on a previous blog post.

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Combining the H-T and BRP small find locations in QGIS using georeferenced to import Hope-Taylor’s section to our section drawing. Fun but not entirely straight forward.

We now have reports on the pottery and glass and reports on the flint and metalwork are close to completion. Graeme Young, one of the BRP Directors, is currently working on illustrations that compare the original Hope-Taylor records with our own. Not as easy a job as you would imagine as one set of records was compiled in feet and inches and the second, forty six years later, in metric. The two records also show the many changes in excavation techniques that have taken place as well. Given that the trench represented some 2000 years of occupation, and produced some amazing finds, it is definitely worth the effort.

Bradford Kaims 2015 Interim Report Released

Since the end of the 2016 season we have been working hard to process and assess the material which we extracted from the Bradford Kaims, as well as dispersing to work on our other projects. However, we had a wee bit of catching up to do on the 2015 season, in the form of finalising our interim report. We usually try to get the interim reports done prior to the beginning of the next season, as we managed with our 2013 and 2014 season reports, but time ran away with us this year. However, we can now safely say that the 2015 interim report from the Bradford Kaims is available, open access and on our website!

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Trench 6 under investigation in 2015

I shows the highlights and the less glamorous sides of our 2015 scheme of investigation, and covers all the excavation which took place during out two month season, so please give it a look and let us know what you think!

Evidently it is a slightly slimmed down version of our activities, the full details of which will be presented in our end-of evaluation site monograph. However, it should provide details of our exciting finds, such as the Neolithic timber platform in Trench 6, the timber laid working area in Trench 11, and the stake-built building in Trench 9!

Now, a bit of time off to work on other projects, such as the exciting Blythe Beach work, and then the beginning of the 2016 interim report!

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Great news about our Inner Ward publication

The blogs describing our excavations at Bamburgh Castle naturally tend to be concerned with the excavations in the West Ward, where the majority of our work, like Brian Hope-Taylor’s before us, has been concentrated, but now and again we have had the opportunity to do some investigations at the heart of the fortress, the Inner Ward. This is the summit of the hill where the Keep now stands alongside the re-constructed medieval buildings and where we know from the pages of Bede that the church that held the relics of St Oswald had had formerly been built. We can also imagine the great hall of the kings of Northumbria here, once the focus of the palace complex.

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The chapel under excavation in 2004. Two trial trenches were located to investigate features identified by geophysical survey.

The main body of work was undertaken in 2004 and 2008, but we also conducted geophysical survey in advance of that as well as a modest excavation in the centre of the ward with Time Team in 2010. We have blogged about some of this work in the past: https://bamburghresearchproject.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/the-chapel-excavations-2008/ Now we are delighted to have a substantial paper published detailing all of this work in the Archaeological Journal, which is the journal of the Royal Archaeological Society. It’s terrific to have had this opportunity, aided by a grant from the RAI as well as the HLF and the Mick Aston Fund. It has taken a lot of work, not just by the BRP authors Jo Kirton and Graeme Young, but also by the editor Howard Williams and our anonymous referees.

It is the largest publication on Bamburgh so far (you can check out the others here) and intended to be the first of many as we increasingly concentrate on publishing our work. It will be in libraries free to access next year but until then you will need to be a member or have institutional access (Archaeological Journal). Long before then we aim to publish more popular articles on the results, and we will keep you posted on progress.

 

 

 

Gearing up for BRP 2015: Windmill Boffins

With only one week till the dig starts the packing has begun! Today’s staff bios come from Media Coordinator Joe Tong and Field School Coordinator Cole Kelly. Still to come this week will be the Post excavation staff, Bradford Kaims South, and hopefully a word from our Directors about the upcoming season.


Joe Tong

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“My involvement with the BRP began in 2011 when I attended as a student volunteer with the media department. Since then, I’ve been a frequent returnee (and visitor when not working with the project) and managed media departments on other archaeological projects. I graduated from the University of Chester in 2012 and managed to secure myself a position with Archaeological Research Services who I worked for until last Friday and I’m due to start a new career in teaching next September. In my personal life I spend my time talking about Tom Gardner, writing about Tom Gardner or thinking about Tom Gardner. I write short stories, shred waves on my surfboard which is totally radical, play music, and watch others (who call themselves ‘professionals’) play a stupid game called DotA2 because I’m rubbish at it.

Being involved with the media at Bamburgh is really quite exciting. You experience the archaeology differently as a passive observer of the work and really get to know the archaeologists well through interviews and watching them work. It can be rewarding to create videos and see them uploaded to the social media and have people interact with both your work and the work of the project. It also serves as a vital strand to the recording of the archaeology, serving to augment the traditional written records by having the process of the interpretation documented through video. I’m particularly looking forward to seeing what we capture this season and I’m hoping for gold/wooden tools/Oswald’s gilded arm.”


Joe has recently published an article in issue 39 of Internet Archaeology. Check it out here: Vlog to Death: Project Eliseg’s Video-Blogging.


Cole Kelly

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“I recently graduated from San Francisco State University with a degree in Anthropology focussed in Archaeology. I have been accepted for an MA in Archaeology of the Ancient Near East at Durham University starting October 2015. I joined the BRP as a student in the summer of 2013 just to ‘get my feet wet’ and ended up staying for most of the season. I spent last season trying out Photogrammetry in the trenches as well as running the BRP blog and other forms of social media

This year I have been the point of contact for incoming students. I will spend this summer working out a standardization for Photogrammetry in trenches, assisting with outreach and social media, as well as beginning to organize the past 15 years of BRP research into a database.

When not at Bamburgh or the Kaims I like to play the ukulele, paint, make endless Lord of the Rings references, and take apart old broken pocket watches with no real intention of putting them pack together again.

I’m looking forward to meeting all of the students I’ve been talking with these past few months, seeing all my friends, and relaxing at our beautiful campsite.”


Student Placements still available for the season! We start on Monday the 8th of June, so stay tuned for more blog entries, tweets and video footage of the intriguing finds at Bamburgh Castle and the Bradford Kaims! We can’t wait to get started!

The Bradford Kaims Wetland Heritage Project report is now available for download

Regular readers of the blog will know we have been undertaking a pilot study at a wetland site at Hoppenwood Bank as part of our study of the Braford Kaims wetland. The work has been generously supported by a grant of more than £35,000 from Your Heritage (a Heritage Lottery Fund scheme) and also by a grant of £13,000 from English Heritage. As this phase of work is coming to an end we have compiled, what we hope is a pretty comprehensive archaeological report. This is now available to download from our website (link to the Bradford Kaims Report).

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Hopefully we will be back to work later this year

Undertaking this work has been a wonderful experience and we have been both delighted and excited by the amazing archaeological discoveries that have emerged. We are hugely grateful to all the volunteers, students and staff members who have participated in the project, donating so much time and effort in the process. We would have achieved very little without you.

We are glad to announce that although the current phase of funding has run out, this is not the end of the Bradford Kaims project. We believe that our pilot study has revealed an archaeological landscape with huge potential and we plan to continue working to investigate it with your help. We intend to be back in June and July this summer and will be looking into new opportunities, in the mean time, to raise funding with which to continue the work.

If you have enjoyed the journey so far then do keep following the blog, because you will be hearing more from the Bradford Kaims, because, as well as raising new supporting grants we will be looking to offer opportunities for volunteers to get back on site this year.

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A couple of short articles on the Kaims

In the last week or so we have had some short articles on the work at Hoppenwood Bank, Bradford Kaims, published in the newsletters of the Council for British Archaeology North and Border Archaeology Society. A more substantial interim on the work is in preparation and will be published, free to download, on our website in the New Year. I thought I should mention the CBA and BAS as they are two organisations of interest to anyone with a fascination for the archaeology of the region and because they are worth supporting should you be intereested in joining. The CBA offers a wide variety of information on archaeology for people of all ages and BAS has supported local research for many years.
They can be reached at:

http://new.archaeologyuk.org/ and http://www.border-archaeological-society.co.uk/

In addition we have a number of articles from Carol Griffiths, still to publish on the blog, so keep an eye out for further instalments of life at Bamburgh in the post-medieval period.

Happy Christmas from  the BRP

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Volunteers Editing Video of the Kaims

This article was kindly written by volunteer Ruth Brewis, who took part in the video editing of footage from the Bradford Kaims Wetland Heritage Research Project. The Project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and English Heritage.

We’d be delighted if more volunteers expressed an interest in doing some video editing – if you want to have a go at this please get in touch with me, gerry.twomey@bamburghresearchproject.co.uk

It will be possible to arrange one to one sessions or small groups if anyone wants to participate in this, and you do not have to have been a volunteer previously – this is open to all, and it may be possible to do this in your local area – I am prepared to travel with the footage and equipment!

Ruth writes:

Stress, Stress, Stress……

Video Editing…terrifying! Thought I was going to lose all the footage and there was so much of it! A somewhat daunting task and not an aspect I was expecting to be involved in when I signed up as a volunteer for the Bradford Kaims Heritage Wetlands Project, but the opportunity presented itself.

The BRP Editing Laptop!

Editing a small video can take days of patiently sifting through footage, re-watching the same clips over again and re-editing, playing it through many times, searching for a beginning and an ending, deciding if a picture should be static or not, which looks better??

Not as straight forward as I thought it would be!

Under Gerry’s guidance I was able to select snippets of video and assemble them to form a workable version with a storyline that would make sense to anyone viewing the video, at the same time trying to produce something that would be interesting, showing the process of coring done at the Kaims by Richard Tipping, BRP Staff and the volunteers. Looking back at the footage it was hard to decide how much to include in the video, for me it is all interesting and something that was completely new to me, so I wanted to include everything.

I came to the project expecting to learn about archaeology and was happy with that but I got the chance to try video editing, and really enjoyed the experience and I thought it would be good to see how Gerry puts together video’s for Bamburgh Research Project and as I like taking photographs when I’m on site, it was an extension of my interest in photography.

This is Ruth’s completed video which was first uploaded during the summer.

A Prince, An Octocopter, and Many Hands: Wrapping up with “This Week in Photos”

So we’ve finished wrapping up the 2012 season. In order to commemorate the final push, I thought we might have our second ever BRP “This Week in Photos”.

Graeme and Gerry with HRH Prince Charles on the beach below Bamburgh Castle

It was a rather eventful week, with a Tuesday visit from HRH Prince Charles to Bamburgh Village, a spectacular introduction to archaeological aerial photography from an octocopter on Wednesday, and the closing down of the trenches at both the Bradford Kaims and the castle from Thurday to Saturday.

Frantically cleaning Trench 3

Everyone lending a hand

On Thursday, students and staff alike got down on hands and knees (literally) to clean the trenches for our visit from our A.P. Horizons Friends, Paddy and Jack.

A.P. Horizons Boys Paddy and Jack

Even Finds Supervisor Kirstie was (forcibly) lured out of the windmill to make sure Trench 3 was spic-and-span for the octocopter’s aerial photographs.

All our ducks in a row… cleaning S to N in T3. Admire the clean lines in the rather dry trench

While I’m reluctant to admit it, in case I jinx it, the beautiful weather we’ve been having the past week has made the task infinitely more difficult.

Bone dry soil in T1 making cleaning difficult

A view of the E trench wall in T1 (now stone-walled) and the bone-dry soil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

T1 in particular was complaining of bone-dry soil, making it both near impossible to clean properly, as well as very difficult to differentiate between contexts. The students were able to take some final levels and complete the end-of-season trench plan.

Planning Trench 1 is a group effort

Taking a few final levels before tarping over Trench 1

Matthew and Amin taking levels at T1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Despite the complaints, both Trenches were clean by the time Paddy and Jack showed up at 5 pm with the illustrious octocopter. As they set up near Trench 1, we all gathered on the castle walls to observe the show.

A view of T1 and the octocopter from the windmill walls

Watching from the wall

I don’t think I’ve seen us all so united in our excitement this entire season. If only we’d had popcorn…

Supervisor Alex and Directors Graeme and Gerry gather round … to get a real-time birds-eye-view of the trenches

After a tour over T1, the boys set up at T3 to repeat the process.  They finished up the evening with a flyover above Bamburgh Castle. I can’t wait to see the shots.

Jack piloting the octocopter

Approaching T3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday was the last full day of work at the castle for most of us. Trench 1 was tarped and stone-walled along the E section wall. Trench 3 finished planning the SE corner and tarped over it.

Taking down the N quadrant in the NW corner of T3

While some students continued to excavate the N and S quadrants of the NW corner, others worked on planning the NE section of T3. Supervisors from both T3 and T1 frantically worked on closing contexts and writing up context sheets and end-of-year summary reports.

Short-term T1 Ass-Sup Constance drawing up a final plan of T1

Finds Supervisors Jeff and Kirstie finished box-indexing and cataloguing the day’s finds.

Kirstie and Jeff sorting finds

Once lost finds, re-discovered in a cleaning of the Keep

And only with the wonderful and much needed help of some of the BRP students did I survive the day and manage to accomplish most of what I set out to do for environmental.*

Nat flotting 2010 and 2012 Kaims samples

* A special shout out to Sarah, Liam, Natalie, and Americ who helped sort samples, record heavy discard, clean out the flot tank, and any number of other enviro things I asked them to do. Without their help, my role as environmental supervisor might have finally turned me “mental”. Thanks, guys!

A somewhat-sane me, taking a brief pause from the environmental to peek at T1 and listen in on Lauren’s trench tours

We were all hard-pressed to find a spare moment even for tea between taking down the mess tent, washing dishes and duckboards, and doing post-excavation odds-and-ends. Full-season BRP-er Lauren did manage to squeeze in a final tour of the trenches for the public, however.

Lauren engrosses the public in tales of T1 and the adventures of it’s archaeologists

I tagged along for the first time this year and was surprised and delighted to learn things about the start of the project, Brian Hope Taylor’s hoard of records and finds, and the caslte’s dynamic history that I never knew. Lauren’s interest and wealth of knowledge provided an exciting glimpse into the archaeology of Bamburgh Castle, that even I, a long-time BRP-er enjoyed immensely. Thanks Lauren!

Loyal BRP-ers ensure “The Moose” is preserved for posterity

A very warm shout-out to all this season’s staff, volunteers, and students! We couldn’t have accomplished as much as we did without all your hard work and enthusiasm. So, thank you!

The sun sets over the BRP

Finally, while the trenches have been tarped over or back-filled and the windmill locked up, the archaeology continues (albeit in a somewhat more limited form). We’ve got more posts to come in the following weeks and months. Closing up the Kaims. BRP Bloopers. Bamburgh Beast Body Art. Publications. How-to Archaeology. And so much more.

So, don’t disappear, blog-followers. You might miss something interesting. 😉