Spaces filling up for our 2017 Archaeology Field School

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Student places for our field school this summer are filling up. Given that we have reduced our season to 5 weeks we expect that the numbers of students attending per week to be higher.

The BRP is dedicated to ensuring our excellent teaching standards remain unchanged. To continue to offer our high staff to student ratio we will therefore be placing limits on the number of student who can attend each week. Some weeks are already getting close to full capacity.

We encourage those who are interested in booking a place at the field school to submit their application as soon as possible.

Find the Application Form Here

It’s going to be an amazing summer! We are already counting down the days!

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 Prehistoric Pottery

This week’s experimental blog is courtesy of Rachel Brewer, Bradford Kaims Assistant Supervisor.

 

Following on the heels of the beer brewing experiment, our Week 5 experimental archaeology project was an effort to make a variety of pottery vessels using only raw clay sourced from our prehistoric site here at the Bradford Kaims. We knew from previous seasons that the trenches and test pits often turn up natural clay deposits of varying colours and quality. We’ve also had a few examples of possible Neolithic and Bronze Age potsherds surface during excavation; so this summer’s experimental archaeology program seemed like a perfect opportunity to test out our prehistoric potting skills! Altogether, processing the clay, forming the pots, and the subsequent firing turned out to be a messy, fun and educational experiment for all involved.

 

Step 1: Gathering the clay

While digging a series of shovel test pits earlier in the season, we hit upon a substantial deposit of clay about 50cm below topsoil. Seeing a source of raw material for our pottery experiment, I dug out a bucket’s worth to begin processing. Though the clay was mostly light orangey-brown, there was a thin layer of grey overlaying that; it also gathered a good amount of silt and peat on its way out of our 20cmX20cm shovel test pit. Through processing, these colours and textures blended together as shown in the later photos.

 

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The raw clay.

 

Step 2: Processing the clay

This was the longest part of the process, due in part to my own inexperience and also to the wet conditions on site. I knew from research that the best way to process raw clay is often to dry it out completely, grind to a powder, sieve, and slowly reintroduce water until the clay reaches a workable consistency. I also knew how unlikely it would be that we could completely dry out that amount of clay in a timely manner, particularly when it was raining almost daily. So I opted instead for wet processing, which involved the help of several pairs of hands pulling all of the clay into small lumps and mixing/mashing it up with added water in a large plastic box. This part worked better than expected, and after a couple of days of minimal stirring, nearly all of the clay was liquefied.

 

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Slaking the clay on site.

 

At this point we poured the slip (liquid clay) through a sieve to remove the largest inclusions, mostly small stones and twigs. We could have used smaller screens and sieved multiple times for greater purity, but I chose not to since examples of prehistoric pottery found at this and other sites indicate that prehistoric people were not processing their clay to a high degree.

 

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Sieving the slip.

 

For about a week I attempted to do a daily pouring-off of the water that would accumulate on the surface, hoping that between evaporation and pouring off that the clay would thicken a bit every day. The couple of days I was able to let the boxes sit out in the sun did help, but it wasn’t working quickly.

 

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The slowly thickening slip.

 

On one sunny day I cut open a bin liner and laid it out on the grass like a small tarp, then I poured the thickened slip out on the plastic. This increased the surface area the sun could reach and it was noticeably thicker by the end of the work day, but it still wasn’t drying out fast enough. We had to rearrange the experimental schedule and move pottery back a week – I had only a week to get some workable clay and I was running out of ideas!

 

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Spreading out the clay to increase the surface area for evaporation.

 

My final effort involved pouring the clay into an old pillowcase, tying it closed with string and hanging it from a tree to allow the water to drain out with gravity and air. The better part of the week passed before I noticed much of a change, but much to my relief, the night before we were scheduled to make the pots we had somewhat sticky but relatively workable clay!

 

 

Step 3: Forming the pots

Before beginning our pot making, the students used rocks to crush up a few soft pieces of sandstone sourced from Trench 6; we used this sand as temper.

 

 

Since wheels were not used by prehistoric potters, the students learned to use the two most common methods of building pottery without a wheel: the pinch method (formed by pinching a solid ball of clay into the desired shape) and the coiling method (rolling out rings of clay, stacking the rings, and smoothing them together). A small amount of temper was added by each individual to their own allotment of clay. Of course we had some creative minds in the mix who ventured beyond the utilitarian forms like bowls and jars, and by the end of the day we had quite a collection of unique creations! We set everything we made on two log disks that would be easily moveable and would absorb moisture. After that we just had to let everything dry out completely to prepare them for firing.

 

 

Step 4: Firing

When it was time for firing, we began by building a small fire in our fire pit on site. Pottery has to be heated very slowly, so we began by placing the dried pots around the edge of the pit and then slowly moving them in close to the fire. Once the pieces were against the central fire, we began placing larger branches over and around the pots, completely covering them and creating a kiln effect. We kept a large fire burning for about an hour and a half, then allowed it to die down to coals. Since our time on site was limited to 5 hours and the pots needed to be cooling before we left site, we weren’t able to keep the pots firing for the ideal amount of time, which for our purposes would have been around 4 hours.

 

The final step of firing is allowing the pots to completely cool before removing them from the pit. Before we left site for the day, we dug the pots (none of which had broken!) out of the coals, stacking them against one wall of the fire pit and shoveling the coals to the opposite wall. We then covered the pots with a layer of grasses and sedge, placed a couple of metal sheets over the pit to protect the pots from rain, then left for the night.

 

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The fired ceramics hot from the fire.

 

Upon examining the cooled pottery the next day, I was pleased to see that none of the vessels had cracked or exploded during firing. Additionally, the pieces had fired, if not completely through, then most of the way through despite the shortened firing time. The fired pots are noticeably brittle and not completely water tight, but with a little more practice we could probably produce vessels that would be more serviceable. Since we accomplished our goal of using only raw materials from site and a fire to create prehistory-inspired pottery – and we had fun doing it – I’m calling this experiment a success!

 

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!

Bradford Kaims Experimental Archaeology Schedule

Come and see experimental archaeology in action!

Hot rocks

Hot rocks used to heat water and malted barley as part of the brewing process.

 

19th June – Prehistoric Beer Brewing

Learn the process of prehistoric beer brewing!

26th June – Prehistoric Pottery

Using local materials procured from ongoing excavations, we will attempt to make small pottery pieces!

3rd July – Beer Decanting/TBA

If the beer has fermented sufficiently, we’ll be decanting our brew and testing the ABV (and sampling it!)! If the beer isn’t ready there may be a day of flint knapping.

10th July – Flint Knapping

Learn the basics of creating stone tools (like those discovered on-site) using flint and obsidian.

17th July – Woodworking

Learn the basics of rudimentary woodworking.

24th July – Resin Production/Hafting

We hope to create resin and use it to haft tools that we’ve made during the season.

**Activities are subject to change depending on weather conditions & ability to procure materials and/or resources**

We welcome local volunteers and community members, but for logistic purposes, please let us know ahead of time if you wish to drop by!

 

Becky Brummet

Experimental Programme Director

Email: ruthefordr22@yahoo.com

BRP Office Phone: 01668214897

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Flint blade found in Trench 6.

 

Post-excavation, no matter the weather.

Good morning from post excavation! The first week was a busy and exciting start to the season, with a few rainy days allowing for more indoors work to be completed.

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The Windmill, home of the Finds Department.

 

Students Ayesha, Ian, Joe, and Mike have had a chance to work directly with the previous year’s finds as well as the first finds discovered this season while cleaning up Trench 3. They’ve come into the Windmill to do a bit of pottery washing and begin pot marking (once the pieces were dry).

 

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Students Ian, Joe and Mike cleaning ceramic finds.

 

Another wet trench allowed us to bring the students back in for bulk finds washing (a necessary and mostly fun task), small finds illustration, and a quick dry brush cleaning of our metal finds.

 

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Student Ayesha learning small finds illustration.

 

Interspersed throughout these tasks were many questions and teaching opportunities pertaining to both the BRP’s and the industry’s post excavation processes, as the opportunity to work with Environmental Assistant Supervisor Tom Fox in environmental processing.

 

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Tom Fox conferring with Jeff Aldrich, Post-excavation Supervisor.

We look forward to a fun and fruitful season here in the post-ex department and will be updating again soon!

 

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’.

 

 

 

And so it has begun…

Week one is well underway here at Bamburgh Castle and things are picking up for the 2016 dig season!

Trench One

Trench One was left uncovered over the winter and allowed to weather and next week the students will begin investigating whether this exposure has revealed any discrete features or contexts not previously visible.

This week, excavation began around the base of the Medieval curtain wall at the kiln feature in preparation for photogrammetry. Once the photogrammetry is complete the feature will be sampled for environmental processing.

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Trench Three

Trench Three is almost completely de-tarped and cleaning has begun in preparation for the start of season trench photo. This cleaning removes the washed in silt and weathering from the past 10 months from the surfaces and features within the trench, including wall slots and the 1970s test pit from Brian Hope Taylor’s excavations.

The trench has already yielded its first small find – a possible metal stylus uncovered by student Ayesha.

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Post-excavation

The Finds and Environmental department has been hard at work this week getting ready for the season and updating the databases. The flotation tank is pumping, and everyone seems to be enjoying it.

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As part of our traditional introduction to the site, students started the week washing bulk find material from last season. This helps to introduce them to the stages of post-excavation processing, and familiarises them with the common artefact types and materials found on site – very helpful when they begin excavating!

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More news on the way soon!

Archaeology Basics Video Series by Ashington Learning Partnership

About two weeks ago the BRP was lucky to be able to provide the setting for a group of students from Ashington Learning Partnership for their Challenge Week. There were two groups of students; one would learn about the process of archaeology by opening a test pit at the Bradford Kaims. The other group would be filming this process and then editing the footage trying to figure out how best to present this information to the wider public. The BRP has long been dedicated to sharing what we do with communities all over the world, so it is wonderful to see a group of students learning the practical skills they need to then teach others about the archaeological process, and our shared heritage.
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Site dog Cuthbert being kept distracted to stop him panting like a steam train during the interview with Kaims Director Paul

It is always a real pleasure having the film unit from Ashington Learning Partnership down with us at the Kaims. They are hands down one of the most professional film crews we have ever had on site. Working with Brian and his team is one of the activities which most inspires us, by seeing the enthusiasm, initiative, and skill which they consistently display. Even just a brief talk about troweling, a relatively dull thing in itself, was made into something both entertaining and educational by the group from Ashington, using real world skills like those that archaeology and young people both desperately need.

This video is the first in a series about the basics of archaeology. The other videos will cover mattocking, test pits, and a fun practical video about brewing tea on site.