A Day in Archaeology

Today is the Day in Archaeology! In celebration, we have submitted a post to the Council for British Archaeology blog to give you an idea of the outreach routine on our site. As mentioned before, this is probably the most mysterious job on a field school, and we wanted to pull back the curtain for all of our friends and supporters. Click here to read it!

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Today is also the day we celebrate youth engagement in archaeology! We’ve hosted three student blogs, here, here, and here. One thing we’d like to draw your attention to are the recurring themes in our admittedly-small sample: a recognition of one’s own opportunity, a push for diversity and accessibility in the field, and a hopefulness that archaeology can one day fulfill these aspirations. Three incredible young women shared with us their perspective on archaeology today as well as a dream for the next generation of archaeologists. It’s so inspiring to see young people with such passion for archaeology that they strive to make real positive change in the field. The future is in good hands.

Meet the Team: Outreach

Lauren Nofi, Outreach Officer

IMG_20190701_100915Lauren is the public outreach officer for the BRP, so she writes the blogs, posts photos, and delivers updates on the various social media sites in addition to giving trenchside tours and talks for visitors to the castle. She has a BA in Anthropology from the College of William and Mary (US) and MA in Archaeology from the University of Sheffield. Her master’s dissertation was based on the 2012 season at Bamburgh Castle. She has worked at numerous field schools and community digs throughout the UK and Ireland and enjoys teaching archaeology to university students and interested hobbyists in those contexts. Presently she is an educator at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh (US), where she teaches a little bit of Egyptian and Haudenosaunee archaeology, but mostly talks to primary school children about dinosaurs because why not just confuse people more about the differences between archaeology and paleontology? Her research interests include multi-period sites that are occupied from prehistory into the “historical period” and colonial contact where communities with a power-advantage encountered communities they intended to subjugate. She also really loves ice hockey and will talk about it even in the depths of summer.

 

Meet the Team: Environmental

This season we are really refocusing on environmental archaeology to better tell the loooooong story of the site. Archaeobotanist Alice is analysing all the data from our soil samples, so here’s a bit about her background in her own words.

Alice Wolff, Environmental Archaeologist

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Like a lot of the team here, I decided to be an archaeologist when I was six and haven’t changed my mind since! I’ve been digging in England since 2013 and doing environmental archaeology since 2014, but only joined the BRP in 2018. Prior to joining the BRP I received my BA in Medieval Studies from Smith College and my MPhil in Archaeology from the University of Cambridge. When I’m not in the field I am a rising second-year PhD student in Medieval Studies at Cornell University where I study human responses to climate change in the first millennium AD. At the BRP I spend most of my time running the flotation tank and looking at charred plants under a microscope.

Meet the Team: Finds Crew

We have an amazing finds team that works with all the artefacts we excavate as well as managing our archives. They identify, sort, draw, 3D model, and store all of the things we have found! Here is a little about them in their own words.

Tom Fox, Finds Supervisor

Tom explaining how we label and wash bulk finds.

Hey, I’m the resident finds goblin here at the Bamburgh Research Project. I’m an MSc Bioarchaeology student at the University of York, graduated from the University of Nottingham. My areas of specialisation are Zooarchaeology and stable isotopes. In my free time I enjoy archery, kendo and a few handy crafts.

Kennedy Dold, Finds Assistant

Kennedy perturbed by her supper.

Hi, I’m Kennedy the Assistant Finds Supervisor. I get to organise the old stuff.

I deal with all things post-excavation with a focus on technical finds illustration, re-organising the project’s bulk finds, and ensuring Tom Fox eats his lunch.

I just graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a First in History & Archaeology and will pursue a Masters in Museum Studies at the University of Kansas this autumn.

Combining my undergraduate degree with my upcoming Masters, I hope to translate the complexities of history and archaeology in new and exciting ways. I love seeing people engage with the past and want to work in international cultural heritage management with the ultimate dream being a job with UNESCO.

For the past four years, I have been a member of the Edinburgh University Mountaineering Club and have spent many a weekend festering in bothys, bagging Munros, or falling in bogs.

I am very excited to be back at Bamburgh for the summer and can’t wait to see what sort of ‘preciouses’ this season will uncover.

Meet the Team: Trench Crew

Two women and one man kneel near the base of a cluster of grey stones.

Clockwise from bottom left: Kelly, Constance, and Tom H.

We have an incredible team working in the trench, so here’s a bit about them in their own words:

Constance Durgeat, Trench Supervisor, Site Admin

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Constance in front of her trench doing what all archaeologists must do…lots of paperwork.

 

I am the Trench 3 supervisor and site administrator. I started at the BRP in 2011 as a student and gradually made my way to a supervisory role. Sadly, my first trench has since been closed (Trench 1) so I have taken over Trench 3, and soon the whole castle if I get my way! I have two masters, one from La Sorbonne in Paris and the other from the University of York. When not at Bamburgh, I teach excavation and environmental processing to first years at York, as well as volunteering for the Council for British Archaeology. My research interests lie in urban archaeology because of its complex stratigraphy, but I also enjoy buildings-archaeology and Anglo-Saxon archaeology.

Tom Howe, Assistant Trench Supervisor

Tom at leisure in Greek ruins.

I like dirt. I love to dig.

I’m the assistant supervisor in Trench 3 I assist the trench supervisor in the running of the trench. My main job role is to help with teaching the students all aspects of the archaeological process within the trench, from digging all through the recording process, until we hand them over to the post-ex team! You can usually find me in the trench, wandering between the students or chatting with Constance about what we’ll dig next.

I’ve always been interested in history as a kid, but it was through watching Time Team and Atlantis (the Disney film!) that got me interested in Archaeology. After I left school, I attended my local culinary school for three years and continued to work in kitchens throughout my time at university. I did my undergrad in archaeology at the University of Nottingham and I am currently studying MA Funerary Archaeology at the University of York. My main interests within archaeology tend to involve human remains and burials, ranging from the Palaeolithic up to the Iron age, missing out the Romans (boooo boring Romans) and Early Medieval barrows!

Dig dig dig DIG.

Kelly Tapager, Archaeological Assistant (to literally every department)

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Kelly modeling a team t-shirt. (More info on those next week!)

Kelly decided to become an archaeologist when she was 12, and she stuck to it! She got her BA in archaeology at Boston University with concentrations in history and medieval studies, and now she is pursuing her Msc in bioarchaeology at the University of York. She first came to Bamburgh in 2014, due to a love of castles, Anglo-Saxons, and digging. In 2017, she did a zooarchaeological assessment of some of Bamburgh’s high medieval midden (rubbish heap), because bones are Kelly’s jam. This year Kelly is serving as the BRP’s archaeological assistant, meaning she gets to gallivant about the castle helping with both excavation and post-excavation processing. When not digging, Kelly enjoys long walks on the beach, lipid residue analysis, and key lime pie. Keep an eye out for her master’s dissertation, “Feeding Groovey: A synthesis of organic residue data from Grooved Ware Pottery across Britain.” Coming this September to a professor’s in-tray near you.

Public Outreach in Bamburgh Village

Julie Polcrack, Public Outreach Officer here!  The main goals of public outreach efforts this season were to: 1) give the public a basic understanding of archaeological excavation and post-excavation practices, 2) allow the public to ask questions about archaeology in general, 3) inform the public about our current findings at the castle, and 4) encourage a general interest in cultural heritage. We sought to accomplish these goals through trench side activities, hands-on activities in Bamburgh Village, and public lectures in the Bamburgh Pavilion. These activities were made possible by a grant from the Mick Aston Archaeology Fund supported by both the CBA and Historic England. To learn more about this please see Community Outreach Activities and Bamburgh Outreach 2018.

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Every day, on the trench-side, we have been engaging visitors with various core post-ex activities, predominantly undertaking finds washing and sorting. This has provided the opportunity for visitors to handle the artefacts as they are excavated from the trench. Our activities down in Bamburgh Village have also involved hands-on learning. Below are some examples of the types of activities we created to help visitors understand how we draw information from the finds we unearth during our excavation.

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Members of the public reading about excavations at the castle and looking at pottery

Activities

What Is It?: Mystery Artefact Demonstration

This activity is designed to demonstrate how archaeologists use artefacts to discern how past people lived. We ask our participants to first hold the object and then guide them through identifying what the artefact is. We also ask them to describe the object. It works best if you ask people to pretend that they cannot see the object and describe it as though they are on the phone. They commonly describe what the artefact is made of, its size, its shape and potential uses for the object. This activity gets them really thinking about the artefacts and begins the interpretative process.

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A replica salt cellar, bone spindle whorl, and whetstone

To guide your participants, you must give hints and clues that lead them to the proper conclusion. Typically you give hints about the period of time when the artefact was made or the context in which the artefact was used (e.g. – textile making). In this activity, the public gets an idea of what archaeologists have to do when they excavate an artefact and have to identify it. It also encourages participants to think about what types of objects they will leave behind for future archaeologists and what it will tell them about life today.

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Participants trying to figure out the mystery artefact

Pottery of the Past

Using pottery sherds from the assemblage uncovered at Bamburgh, we can give the public a tangible way of seeing the different time periods our site spans. When going from Roman Samian ware to Anglo-Saxon pottery, you can ask participants about the physical differences they see and then explain what lies behind these differences – type of clay, inclusions, glaze, slip used in the pottery; where the pottery was made; when the pottery was made; whether it was made on a wheel or it was hand thrown; etc. You also try to ask questions that will get your participant to think about the nature of preservation and why archaeologists typically find sherds instead of whole pottery vessels.

After showing off the Roman, Anglo-Saxon, and Medieval pottery to participants, we will offer different activities to complete. Children and parents can put together a paper pot that they can take home with them or they can try to reconstruct a broken plate. Both of these activities get people to consider pottery reconstruction and the reconstructive nature of archaeology as a whole.

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Participants reconstructing a paper pot

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Participants reconstructing a broken plate

Worked Bone Artefacts

The Bamburgh Research Project has a substantial collection of worked bone finds uncovered in excavation and a number of replica bone tools and objects from friend of the project, David Constantine. This entire collection not only gives the public an insight into the type of finds we uncover, but it also shows them the variety of uses for animal bone in the early medieval world.

The trench-side and Bamburgh Village activities, supported by the free lecture series, are aimed at encouraging Bamburgh residents and visitors to explore the areas history, learn a little about archaeology and hopefully have a bit of fun along the way. We hope to expand our outreach over the next 12 months, so watch this space!

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: