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!

Pottery Making at the Bradford Kaims – Videos

This blog presents the video interviews from our open archaeology day which focused on prehistoric pottery.

The first shows Rachel Brewer, Assistant Supervisor, discussing the process she went through – first to prepare the clay and then to produce fired ceramics. The second presents some thoughts about the day from two of our students, Ewan and Ian.

 

Thank you for watching!

Stay tuned for more of our experimental sessions – coming soon!

Experimental Brewing Summary and Student Reflections

In a follow-up to our earlier blog on prehistoric brewing, these videos record a summary of the process from Becky Brummet, Experimental Programme Director:

As well as comments and reactions from two of our students who were there on the day:

Experimental Beer Brewing

We began last week’s experimental day by gathering ingredients, trying to use as many prehistoric resources as possible. Though some tools were still modern (the trough, matches to start the fire, chainsaw to cut firewood, a mesh sieve, and a pot) we used a variety of other resources during the day including:

-Un-malted Barley (already acquired from a local source)

-Rocks for the fire (from the T6 spoil heap)

 

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Student Julie gathering stones for firing,

 

-Water & a trough (modern trough, sourced from local farmer, James Brown)

-Elderflowers (gathered from site), and

 

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Assistant Supervisor Charlie, gathering elderflowers.

 

-Firewood (fallen deadwood gathered on site)

 

And after talking through the process, we began the beer brewing!

 

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Super visor Becky, teaching students and volunteers.

 

We started the fire, and heated the rocks for about one hour.

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Fire Starting

 

During that time, we broke the husks of the barley to release the yeast. There was an added level of experimentation in that our barley was un-malted. We’ve had some success with this in the past, and were attempting to replicate those successes in order to test several hypotheses we had developed.

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Students Ian and Julie breaking the barley husks.

 

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Close-up of the grinding process.

 

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The barley after the husks were broken.

 

When the rocks were hot enough (we didn’t verify an exact temperature, just made sure they sat in the fire for an hour), we added water to the trough, added the barley to the water, then added the rocks to the water to heat it up.

 

 

We needed about 7-8 rocks to get a warm temperature. We did not measure the exact temperature, rather we made sure it didn’t get too hot to the touch.

We stirred the mash, and rotated hot rocks in and out of the trough to keep the temperature up.

 

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Supervisor Becky stirring the mash tun.

 

We had lots of down time while we kept the fire going, kept the rocks hot and the mash tun up to temperature, so we gathered local sedge (tusset grass) & began weaving platters & baskets – a skill we recently learned from a local community member, Paula Constantine who teaches basket weaving.

 

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Assistant Supervisors Rachel, Sophie and Charlie weaving sedge.

 

We also took some malted barley (leftover on site from previous beer brewing attempts) and sedge oil (created from pounding sedge root into a pulp and adding water), and created a paste which we then put on the fire to bake. We experimented with an different cooking technique than our earth oven from last year.

 

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Unleavened bread baking above a fire.

 

After the mash tun brewed for two hours, we began to sieve the mixture into our pot:

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Students Julie and Zac sieving the mash into a pot.

 

And then we added the elderflowers to the mixture.

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Students Zach, Ian and Julie adding elderflowers to the mix.

 

We’ll let the mixture brew while we continually monitor the progress throughout the week.

Next Sunday, we’ll check the ABV level with a hydrometer & let it brew for longer if need be (two weeks or so should be sufficient).

We usually can get an ABV level of 5%, so that’s our goal. If we’ve reached it by next Sunday, we’ll sample it, if not, it’ll brew longer.

Stay tuned for next week’s experimental instalment!

 

St Mary’s Middle School Visit the Bradford Kaims

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Children from St Mary’s Middle School visiting Trench 6.

 

Here at the Bradford Kaims we are greatly passionate about involving the local community with the archaeology, and we were delighted to have a group from St Mary’s Middle School visit our site last week. The children from Belford visited the Bradford Kaims on Wednesday afternoon and it was great to see the local children excited about the archaeology and engaging with the area’s past in a tangible way.

The children arrived in the afternoon and were given an introduction to the site by Project Officer, Tom Lally. Tom gave a brief history of the site, explaining the prehistoric eras during which the site was occupied and giving examples of some of our finds, such as wooden artefacts, flint tools and prehistoric pottery.

 

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Project Officer Tom Lally, giving the children an introduction to the site.

 

Despite this kind of information being fascinating us archaeologists, you could notice eyes glazing over when some of the more technical terminology began being used. Assistant Supervisor, Rachel Brewer was the star of the day. Using her previous experience as a teacher she stepped in to talk about the archaeology in a way that was entertaining and accessible to the children. She spoke to the children about Trench 6 and the wooden platform in more depth and also explained about archaeological excavations more generally. The rest of the staff were in awe of her teaching method, as she even managed to keep the children’s interest when explaining archaeological contexts. She did an amazing job engaging the children, who left the excited and enthusiastically asking questions about the archaeology.

 

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Assistant Supervisor Rachel Brewer, teaching the children about Trench 6.

 

We had planned for the children to get more involved and try environmental coring with Dr Richard Tipping from Stirling University, however due to time constraints they were unfortunately unable to join in before having to leave. Luckily the school are planning another visit to the Bradford Kaims later in the season, giving the children another opportunity to try their hand at environmental coring.

Everyone here at the Bradford Kaims hope the children of St Mary’s Middle School enjoyed their time at the site and we are looking forward to their next visit.

Introduction to Environmental Processing

In this video Thomas Fox, Environmental Assistant Supervisor, discusses the process of environmental sampling and what we can learn from it.

 

Stay tuned for further videos and updates here and on our YouTube Channel as the season progresses!

Bamburgh Castle, Trench 1 – Week 1 Interview

In this video Sam Serrano, Trench 1 Assistant Supervisor, discusses progress in the first week of the season and what’s planned for the coming weeks.

Stay tuned for further videos and updates here and on our YouTube Channel as the season progresses!

Bamburgh Castle, Trench 3 – Week 1 Interview

In the first castle video interview of the season Graham Dixon, Trench 3 Supervisor, discusses his initial plans for the 2016 season and briefly describes the trench.

Stay tuned for further videos and updates here and on our YouTube Channel as the season progresses!

Introducing the Staff of the Bradford Kaims, 2016

Site Director
Paul Gething

Paul

I began excavating in 1987 in Coventry. Since then I have worked in the Middle East, North Africa, France, Spain and the length and breadth of the UK. I have excavated and surveyed on sites ranging from palaeolithic to modern industrial, and pretty much everything in between. I was a founder member of the BRP back in 1997 when it began its first fieldwork season. I have worked in the Castle, Bowl Hole, Barrows, garden test pit project and I am currently the director of the Bradford Kaims Wetland Project as well as a BRP Project Director.

I studied Archaeological Science at the University of Sheffield, and post graduate Law at the University of Northumbria. I have an advanced driving qualification and Bronze medal in swimming and lifesaving.

Outside of the project I divide my archaeological time between experimental work, (smelting, bladesmithing and Medieval jewellery making techniques), writing, and lecturing. I have written for History, Current Archaeology, The Great Outdoors, History of War, Time Out and many other archaeological journals. My most recent book is titled Northumbria: The Lost Kingdom.

I currently lecture on the Bradford Kaims, the wider BRP project, prehistoric technology, metalwork, ancient weapons, and smelting to audiences at a variety of venues, universities, Local Societies and groups.

 

North Site

 

Tom Gardner – Project Officer

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I’m Tom, the returning Project Officer for the north side of the Kaims in the 2016 season. I am originally from Glasgow (although you will hear Hertfordshire), and now live in Edinburgh where I am working towards a PhD in geoarchaeology. I have been with the BRP for 5 years now as student and then staff, and love the inclusive and engaged atmosphere of the project. Of course the archaeology is exceptional, but what keeps me coming back every year is the people who you meet, and the general feeling of positivity and shared interests.

I am lucky to be at the head of a wonderful and expanded group of staff this year (see below), and can’t wait to see what we will achieve. My primary aims for the season are to get all of our staff trained up and imparting their new knowledge to our students and community volunteers. While doing this we will continue to focus our attention on Trenches 6 and 10, as well as some smaller excavations together with Tom Lally’s team to the south, on some more of our wonderful burnt mounds! Initially we will get going on our Neolithic trough sequence in T6 and get the majority of the burnt mound material trowelled away. Beyond that, we will reopen some of the areas of wooden platform which we investigated last year, and get to grips with the last of the key interfaces on site before we close up at the end of July. Please do come down and join us, or just come see the site! It would be great to share it with you.

 

Sofi Black – Supervisor

Sofi

My name is Sofia Black. I am from Bulgaria and I have just finished my undergraduate BSc in Archaeology in University of Aberdeen. I have been with the Bamburgh Research Project since 2014 and have been a staff member at the Bradford Kaims since 2015.

When I am not at the site, I preoccupy my time with reading, arts and crafts, music, and obsessing over Criminal Minds and Supernatural. Archaeology-wise, I have a keen interest in forensic studies, indigenous/community archaeologies, experimental, and wetland excavations. At the moment I am on the quest to find what is best for me, after I leave the granite wonder that is Aberdeen.

Excited about this new season and looking forward to working with the old and new people.

 

Rachel Brewer – Assistant Supervisor

Rachel B

I’m Rachel and I’m from Illinois, U.S.A. I’m excited to be back with the BRP after participating as a student in 2014. I have a B.A. in History from Southern Illinois University and an M.A. in Archaeology from Cardiff University, Wales.

I’m particularly interested in the Anglo-Saxons and early medieval pottery, but I loved working at the Kaims so much that I decided to go with prehistoric archaeology for the summer! For the last few years I’ve worked as a secondary teacher, but I hope to work in archaeology in the future. I look forward to meeting all of you!

 

Anna Finneran – Assistant Supervisor

Anna

My name is Anna and I’m from Maryland, though currently living in Florida. I first joined the BRP as a student in 2014, while studying as an undergraduate at Durham University. In 2015 I graduated with an MA in archaeology, also from Durham. This season I’ll be an assistant supervisor in Trench 6 at the Kaims.

 

Rachel Moss – Assistant Supervisor

Rachel M

This season, I am an Assistant Supervisor at the Bradford Kaims. I am currently an undergraduate studying History and Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh. For the past two years I have been a student at the Bamburgh Research Project, however, the archaeology of the Bradford Kaims particularly grabbed my attention and I knew that it was the site for me! In my spare time I am an avid supporter of Southampton Football Club, and enjoy music, good food, and wine.

I am incredibly excited to join the team at the Bradford Kaims, and look forward to seeing what will be uncovered this year!

 

South Site

 

Tom Lally – Project Officer

Tom L

G’day guys and girls, my name is Tom Lally and I am a Project Officer at the Bradford Kaims for season 2016. This is my fifth season with the project, after spending two years as a student, and the last three seasons as a staff member out at the Kaims. I will be responsible for several trenches this season, all of which have very exciting features that need to be excavated and understood to tie in with the rest of the site’s incredible archaeology.

I am from Adelaide in South Australia, which is where I undertook all of my university studies specialising in Indigenous Australian archaeology. Since graduating in 2013, I have spent most of my time here in the UK working on the Bamburgh Research Project, and as a commercial archaeologist; working mainly here in the North-east of England. My particular interests here lie in prehistory, but I have also worked on Roman, Medieval, and Industrial sites.

My time at the Bamburgh Research Project has been an incredible experience. I have learnt a wealth of knowledge about British archaeology and archaeological fieldwork in general, while also making lifelong friends. If I had any advice for students this season, I would say don’t be afraid to have a go. We were all fresh, shy students at one point in our lives too.

 

Becky Brummet – Supervisor

Becky

Hey everyone! Becky here and I’ll be one of the Supervisors at the Bradford Kaims for the 2016 field season. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology, focus on Archaeology, Minor in Irish Studies and a Certificate in GIS Technology from the University of Montana in the U.S. I currently live in Missoula, Montana with my husband and my cat. My archaeological interests are primarily in Northern European prehistory, which is what drew me to the Bradford Kaims in the first place.

This will be my third season with the Bamburgh Research Project. In 2014, I joined as a student to fulfill my field school requirement at my Uni and it was then that I realized I had truly found my calling (playing in the dirt!). BRP has given me the opportunity to learn, work and dig alongside professional archaeologists as well as introducing me to a variety of wonderful people from around the world. In 2015, I returned to the project as an Assistant Supervisor where I continued learning, though this time from a supervisor’s perspective. The skills I’ve learned from BRP thus far have provided me with confidence and experience to apply for professional archaeology jobs in the US and I’m looking forward to expanding that experience and knowledge even more this season.

I’m anticipating continuing my education by entering a Master’s program in 2017, with a focus on GIS/Remote Sensing and its applications to the field of Archaeology. When I’m not digging in the UK, chances are I’m on a hiking trail or camping with my husband somewhere in the western United States. This season I look forward to seeing old friends, making new friends and learning more from the students and staff alike.

 

Charlie Kerwin – Assistant Supervisor

Charlie

I’m a Londoner currently studying archaeology at the University of Nottingham. I first came to the Bamburgh Research project in 2014 to complete the fieldwork requirements of my degree. I absolutely loved the experience and knew straight away I wanted to come back, returning again as a student in 2015. This season I will be working as an assistant supervisor at the Bradford Kaims. The prehistoric site immediately captured my interest despite my degree focus being the Anglo-Saxon period.

When I’m not at BRP or stressing in the library you will probably find me back in London trying to seem cultured, wandering around an art gallery or at a concert. I’m looking forward to the coming season and being part of such an amazing team.

 

Ian Boyd – Assistant Supervisor

Ian

I’m Ian Boyd and I’m from Portchester, Hampshire via a lot of other places. This is my 2nd year with BRP (Bradford Kaims) and this year I will be assisting Becky Brummet in Trench 11, to continue the excavation from where we left off last year… Rumour has it we will be re-opening Trench 8 (exciting times ahead).

During the ‘Out Of Season’ I spent my time participating on a variety of Experimental Archaeology courses, as well as working as a volunteer for Hampshire Trust (Winchester Museums) where I worked ‘Front of House’.