As with most organisations Bamburgh Research Project has been been monitoring the developing situation with Covid 19 and trying to come up with a clear plan on how to respond. I am sure it will be no surprise to hear that as the situation is changing so rapidly it is really rather difficult to make plans with certainty at the moment, and probably won’t be for some time so with reluctance we have closed bookings for the summer field school as we feel certain that it would not be repsonsible to try to run in June and July as planned.
It seems sensible at the moment to postpone until at least the late Summer or Autumn. As things become more certain we will update you here and on the website.
If anyone wishes to be added to an email list to be notified when the bookings are open again then we can be contacted through the website.
The application for the 2020 field school is now live and can be found here. We have decided that we can keep the fees at the same level as last year. We also aim to continue with the same general accommodation options and the exact details for this will follow soon.
We will offer as ever both experience with excavation and post-excavation, though with a few changes from last year, so expects further announcements to keep you fully up to date in the days and weeks ahead.
Applications for limited staff positions will follow soon.
2019 was a busy year for the Bamburgh Research Project and it looks like 2020 will continue in the same way. With support from Bamburgh Estate we have been completing the excavation element of Trench 3, the trench located in the West Ward of the castle, to help us complete the work started by Brian Hope- Taylor in 1960. Our aim was always to publish the study of a complete archaeological sequence through the archaeology here. A sequence that we now know extends from the late Bronze Age to the modern era.
One of the most important elements of this is that here at Bamburgh we have what appears to be a continuous occupation sequence from the late Roman to the high medieval including the still quite poorly understood fifth and sixth centuries AD. It was an important transitional period that helped attract Dr Hope-Taylor to the site and remains an important issue to be understood in the region today. We aim to complete Trench 3 excavation in March and April this year and then embark on the challenging but important process of writing the site up to publication.
A more immediate publication challenge is the completion of the monograph of the Bowl Hole cemetery excavation. We are currently working on this and aim to have made very real advances this year with publication proceeding an academic symposium and story telling festival with the Bamburgh Bones project in 2021.
The fieldschool is also to go ahead this summer
Anyone wishing to attend the BRP fieldschool in the summer of 2020 should keep an eye on this blog and the website in the next couple of weeks as we plan to announce details of the new season very soon.
We will be digging for five weeks from June 21st to July 24th and opportunities for learning excavation and also post excavtion will be available as always.
BBC North East and Cumbria visited for some interviews with the project a few months ago and the programme is out this evening on BBC 1 North East. Hopefully we made it into the final edit but either way its made by a local team with a really good track record in documentary broadcasting so should be very much worth a watch.
It’s been a busy week on site, so we thought it was time for a little update on what’s been happening.
Excavation underway in Trench 3
Iron age or Romano-British pottery
One of the most notable finds this week came out of the north-west corner where Constance has been working. Towards the end of last week, she uncovered a flagstone surface which appears to be the base of a post pad. Just to the south of this we found some sizeable pieces of Iron Age or Romano-British pot sherds. What stands out about this pot is that on the base you can see the wood grain of the surface it was shaped on.
Pottery of Iron Age or Romano-British date from the north of the trench
Excavating some of the cobbles
As part of our plan for this off season excavation we are compiling a north to south section that will run the length of the trench and allow us to her lots of relationships between different parts of the site. As part of this section we’ve started taking off a 2-metre strip of the cobbled surface, this will be the first time we get a decent look at what is happening underneath (currently, it’s just more cobbles!).
Tom has finished his sondage
In the north area of the trench we have completely excavated a 2m x 1m sondage (sounding trench) down to bedrock. This small trench has provided us with a look at some of the earliest archaeology within the trench, from the early medieval all the way down to the prehistoric. We’ve had some interesting finds come out of this area that include Samian ware, Iron Age or Romano-British pottery, a bent coin and even a broken copper ring! We have been able to track how the bedrock at this end of the trench forms the side of the cleft in which Trench 3 sits and how steeply the bedrock drops off. The other side of the rock cleft lies beyond the Armstrong Museum and rises up to carry the cross wall that divided the West and East Wards of the castle.
Long time readers of the blog may recall that Paul Gething, one of our four directors of the Bamburgh Research Project, and Edouardo Albert published a book ‘Northumbria the lost Kingdom’ a little while ago. I am sure you will be excited to hear that a new book by the pair is now out. This time it is based on some of the evidence from our burial ground at the Bowl Hole and is called: ‘Warrior a life of war in Anglo-Saxon Britain’.
You can hear an interview with the authors by Dan Snow here:
When we did our round-up of the 2019 Summer dig a few weeks ago we did say we that we had some news of work that would be happening over the next few months, so I think its high time we told you what it is! There have been a number of changes at the castle this year, and more are planned. Amongst these are additions to the experience of visiting the West Ward, where the old Trench 1 has been backfilled and landscaped, and now there is the intention to add more public activities from next summer. As our major excavation (Trench 3) rather sprawls over a substantial area of the ward it is rather in the way of this so following discussion with the castle, we are doing a staff dig to complete the excavation by next spring. We are able to do this due to a generous grant from the estate that will pay many weeks of wages and because we had pretty much reached he same level as Dr Hope-Taylor had managed in the 1970s, so all that remains is to excavate a sufficient sample down to the earliest occupation beneath the Hope-Taylor levels.
Just started and we already have a new stone-lined hearth uncovered
By adding this deeper sample we will have a full sequence from the prehistoric to the modern era. We will of course have to sample the earliest deposits over a much smaller area. This is necessary because of the time available but also unavoidable due to the need to step the area in for safety reasons due to the depth we need to reach. This could be as deep as 4m below ground level in places.
We will have a smaller team than usual so will not be able to do as many social media posts as we would like as we need to concentrate on the excavation, but we do intend to keep you informed as well as we can.
It will be the end of an era for the BRP but not the end of our work at Bamburgh as future projects are already being developed.
As part of the Bamburgh Research Project’s (BRP) funding from the Society of Antiquaries of London (SOA) (learn more about the project here: SOA Funding Success), the BRP have been working with a conservator to identify metal objects that may require additional research and conservation to help preserve them and, in some instances, reveal new details about their form or decoration. The latter is particularly pertinent for iron objects, as corrosion often masks the finer detail of many objects.
Funding from the SOA and Bamburgh Castle has enabled us to have all the early medieval metalwork from the castle conserved. We recently received the conservation report for all the iron objects. Below you can see some of the before and after images of key items from the assemblage.
Angled back Seax with fuller and whittle tang. Swirls indicative of pattern welding, seen in x-ray and during conservation.
Object BC08 6531 sf 3234 has been identified as a small C-shaped fire-striker of probably eighth to tenth-century date, but further research would be required to confirm this.
Each conserved item is returned to the BRP with before and after photographs and an individual conservation report, noting what work has been undertaken, any suggested further work required and how to best store the object(s) in long term storage. You can see an example of such a report here:Iron Fire-striker Conservation Record
Eventually, we aim to create a new museum display within the Castle, so visitors can see the conserved metalwork and learn how this material has added to our understanding of the sites development, particularly in the West Ward of the castle where we have discovered a 9th-10th century metalworking area.
The Bamburgh Research Project (BRP) will hosting a weekend of free activities as part of the Council for British Archaeology’s annual Festival of Archaeology.
Join the BRP on the 20th or 21st of July to explore 2000 years of activity at Bamburgh Castle on their annual excavation within the West Ward of Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland.
The BRP have been excavating through 2,000 years of occupation at Bamburgh Castle. As we excavate, we undertake environmental sampling of the different archaeological layers. These are processed on the trench-side where bones, seeds, charred remains and small artefacts (including coins, gold-filigree decoration and beads) are recovered.
As part of the Festival of Archaeology the BRP are hosting four half-day sessions where members of the public can work with our Environmental Supervisor to process our samples and record the material we recover. This will include specialist training with a flotation tank, tuition in recording the processed material and identification of archaeobotanic material in our on-site lab funded by the Mick Aston Archaeology Fund.
Looking back on our photo archive, to select some additional images for the newly updated website, it has been just too tempting not to post some images to show you Trench 3 in its earliest days compared to now.
Trench 3 is the focus of the 2019 excavation season, as we continue to work through the Anglo-Saxon deposits and marry the Hope-Taylor excavation limit with our own.
Close to the beginning in 2002. We had the year before identified the location of Hope-Taylor’s trench and now began our open area excavation with a little mechanical help.
By the end of 2002 the trench was already close to the size we know today, even if nothing like so deep.
Up to date, Trench 3 at the end of the excavation in 2018
The story continues this summer for six more weeks starting June 16th. We would love you to join us and the details are below:
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.