Trench One, Week Four Update – Bamburgh Castle


This week in Trench One we starting digging the test pit which we discussed in our last blog post. During excavations we identified a feature running east to west which showed as a dark patch running across the sondage with 4-5 vertically standing stones within it.



Test Pit A.


Also uncovered were at least two areas of burning which may possibly be related to the early timber palisade defence wall of the castle, but the evidence is currently inconclusive.

Excavations have revealed a grey patch, a pit dug on the robber trench, closer to the south edge of the trench, which is filled with rocks. It can be seen in section on the east wall of the test pit.



Test Pit A – facing St Oswalds Gate.


A second sondage was dug (measuring approximately 20x40cm and 60-70cm deep) in order to see if we could reach the bedrock and determine the depth of the natural boulder clay. This extent has not yet been reached.

The plan for the next couple of weeks is to identify 2-3 areas of interest to dig small sondages through to the bedrock. Digging out the whole trench would take far too long and too much effort when targeted depth investigations will suffice.

On a side note, the kiln has very nearly been completed and only one more layer remains within the kiln.


An Excerpt from the Promontory – Bradford Kaims

Trench 12, 13 & 42 were opened (reopened, in T42’s case) this season for sampling & investigations into the burnt mounds located on the promontory.

T12 is a 2m x 3m trench located on the southern end of the promontory. Shortly after opening the trench, we began to find some really interesting artefacts. In the peat layer, we found a piece of burnt quartz & when we continued down through the peat onto the burnt mound layer, we found more: two pieces of worked flint & two pieces of burnt bone! Quite exciting finds for a trench originally opened up for sampling.



A piece of worked flint from trench 12.


Trench 13 is 1m x 2m trench located just off the edge of the promontory, near the waters edge. Like T12, it was opened for sampling & has also produced some really interesting finds! Just below our peat layer, we discovered a layer which consists of shells & sand moulded & formed together. In that layer, we uncovered two pieces of charcoal, nine small (4-10cm sized) pieces of worked wood & one log roughly 1m long. We think the smaller wooden pieces may have been stakes & considering their proximity to the waters edge & the fact that a couple were orientated at a 45° angle, it could indicate fencing.



A piece of worked wood from trench 13.


A 2m x 4m portion of trench 42 was reopened for sampling, with the focus being on the burnt mound, the trough & the limestone piece. A 1m x 2m spit was dug out of the north end. We expected the burnt mound material to continue at least a half meter, but we quickly uncovered an interesting mottled orange clay layer only 4-5cm into the burnt mound layer.



The re-opening of trench 42.


Since the weather has turned more amiable for excavations to continue in our other trenches, we have taken a break from our work on the promontory, but plan on returning to it to as soon as feasible.

Bamburgh Castle, Trench One Update.

Welcome to this Trench One update!

Test pit A (as mentioned in the week 1 interview video) has now been set up and we’ll keep you posted as progress continues.



Test Pit A extending north-south across the width of Trench One.


We found the construction cut for the 12th/13th Century curtain wall and it contained a number of pottery sherds, mostly green glaze. It was also the source of the ‘mystery’ clay circular objects which we tweeted last week. One possible explanation of them was bungs scored into unfired ceramics which then popped out during the firing process.


Clay obj tweet photo

Unidentified clay objects. Any thoughts?


Underneath the rubble foundation of the curtain wall we have an earlier (possibly 8th/9th Century) masonry block with adhered mortar associated with two others, which may have been used as the  backing corner of the kiln.

Last week in Trench One the kiln was sampled as planned. It looks like it was damaged and/or broken with use quickly discontinued – there is grain still in situ in large quantities, and the upper fill layer appears to be a ‘demolition’ context with extensive CBM fragments from the body of the kiln. In the video below Sam Serrano, Trench 1 Assistant Supervisor discusses the kiln and its excavation in more detail.


Work has also continued excavating half-sections in various small features, post-holes and pits to help add to the stratigraphic sequence and story of Trench One.


Introducing our new Trench 9 at the Bradford Kaims

Last season as well as excavating our regular trenches we undertook some very basic survey using a penetrometer (basically a pointy steel rod) to investigate any slightly raised areas of ground with different patches of vegetation. We thought it was possible that this simple technique could help us identify further burnt mounds. It seemed to work, as when the penetrometer point came down on something hard and crunchy, we dug a very small spade-width test pit to confirm what we had, and most times we found burnt stone fragments that indicated a newly discovered burnt mound. In the case of one discovery, near to the fence line, even the small pit revealed the presence of burnt bone. Too intriguing to pass up! So this year we have placed a much larger trench on the site to investigate the mound, find out how large it is, and to see if we can reveal any other features associated with it.


Removing topsoil from Trench 9

The results so far have been very encouraging. We found a number of sherds of pottery directly beneath the topsoil, some close enough together that they might even be from the same vessel, within a small pit. At the moment we think that they date from the Bronze Age, but confirmation of this will come from specialist analysis.


Pottery revealed during excavations

Near to the pottery there is what we believe to be a further, larger, pit together with several stake-holes. We have yet to resolve these into anything structural, but as we clean further we will keep a keen eye out for further evidence as identifying any structural remains associated with the burnt mound will be of great interest. We already have investigated evidence of a stake-hole structure at a higher and later level, slightly closer to the bog. To see a short video about this later level feature click here.


The stake holes are identified by the white tags. With the soil wet you can see the dark circles around the tags.

In addition to the stake-holes we have recovered numerous flint fragments. Some are micro-tools and once a simple blade. One piece of flint in particular has caused much excitement as it is a fine red colour. A very unusual find indeed, and the first such piece from the excavation. Tracing its origins could prove very enlightening as it may hint at contacts between our site and the wider area.


Bizarre red flint

HLF Logo


Field School 2013

Don’t forget there are still spaces available for the field school with us in Bamburgh this summer.

Survey techniques

Survey techniques

We will teach you excavation methods, site recording, artefact processing and much more.

Nat and Liam in the flot tank

Nat and Liam in the flot tank

Camping accommodation is provided along with your tuition, which is great value at £235. We stay in nearby Belford, where there are all the mod-cons (Like a Co-Op, Pubs, Takeaways and stores!) and we have a great social life onsite too.

For more information, go to
or join us on Facebook or twitter (@brparchaeology)

A chance to get back into the field!

Although the weather remains cool for April there has been enough of an improvement over the last few days for us to risk venturing out to Hoppen this Saturday (6th April) to do a little digging, recording and possibly some survey. Any volunteers who fancy joining us do get in touch ( We will meet at the usual parking place.

Kaims Video update – Burnt mounds?

This is the latest video in our Bradford Kaims Wetland community heritage dig series. Last time we gave you coring, this time it’s all about the features. What exactly are we digging up? The sites themselves are remarkably well preserved and subtly different, and our excavations are revealing that the promontory identified by Richard Tipping’s coring was extensively used, with multiple sites of burned stones, intermittent pits and exciting results from the geophysics.

Get your fists ready… “Team Kaims!”

Coring with Matt Ross in Trench 42

I know I mentioned at the end of yesterday’s post that today’s blog would focus on coring at the Kaims. It turns out that everyone else has things they wanted to post as well, so “Coring with Matt Ross” is going to be delayed a few days. We are, however, continuing with the Kaims theme. The first of today’s posts is written by Kaims Coordinator Neal Lythe and provides an update on this seasons progress. The second of today’s blogs (to be posted later this evening), is written by Laurel Nagengast, “a true Kaimanoid”, about her experience with the Bamburgh Research Project and Bradford Kaims Project.

On that note, if any of our past students and/or volunteers would like to contribute a blog about their experience with us (to be posted in the off-season) please feel free to leave a message on our blog, on the Bamburgh Research Project facebook page, or on my facebook page (Megan Taylor).

 Kaims Update Week 7

Gerry, Media Director, filming the excavation of Trench 42

What a season it’s been so far at the Kaims. We have done numerous test pits. We re-excavated trench 4, to help understand context relationships in trench 6. We’ve performed numerous coring transects. And we’ve opened a series of brand new trenches in the adjacent field, based on the findings from the archaeological magnetometry survey performed by our friends at G.S.B.Prospection.

Based on the data supplied by G.S.B., we opened Trench 42 and immediately came down onto archaeology less than 10cm below our feet. We have also attempted to pinpoint various other anomalies, by placing a number of test pits in the immediate vicinity. After several weeks of digging–and, lets face it, horrendous weather–we have uncovered some cracking archaeology and some very nice finds, which include what is believed to be a sherd of prehistoric pottery, a very nice flint arrowhead, numerous flint scrapers and quite a lot of flint debotage (see “A Day at the Kaims” post).

Initial view of the stone slab that suggested a possible cist or cairn

The excavation of Trench 42 is progressing well, as we continue to uncover more and more of the large stone feature very similar to the one found in trench 6.  The presence of the large stone slab in the middle of the stone feature suggested a possible cist or cairn. Further excavation over the last few weeks has led us to revise our initial theories, and we now fairly certain we are dealing with a burnt mound, though as of yet, we cannot say what it may have been used for.

Hilary in the early stages of excavating the burnt mound

Numerous burnt mounds have been excavated all over Britain as well Northumberland itself. An example of these type of mounds is Titlington Mount in north Northumberland (report published by Peter Topping, 1998).

There are several lines of thought as to what these mounds are used for:  a sauna, meat curing, iron or copper extraction and even beer making. Further excavation at the Kaims site will hopefully expand our knowledge of burnt mounds in general, and more specifically, give us insight into how our ancestors were utilizing the wetland area of the Kaims. Initial assessment of several of the environmental samples taken from Trench 42 revealed surprisingly little. Contrary to our hopes, flotation produced very few, if any burnt seeds/grains, and minimal amounts of charcoal. In fact, the predominant content of the flot residue was modern wirey stems (aka roots). Hopefully, some of the samples yet to be flotted, will produce better results.

The effects of the rain

Week 7 started with rain and the loss of several true Kaimanoids. However, with a break in the terrible weather and reluctant acceptance of our loss, we moved on with more archaeology. Trench 55 looks nice and juicy, with several features poking through. The current theory is that they could be structural, and which may or may not relate to the activity in trench 42. As we are rapidly running out of time, we are quickly trying to record everything as is and we will not be excavating any features that we have in either of the two trenches this season.

“Represent!” (T-shirts are for sale)

In what is my last week, I have to say that this has been my favourite season on the project so far. Yes, even for someone who is not a pre-historian. I would like to thank all of the people for their hard work at the Kaims this year, you have all been fantastic. It’s been a pleasure to help teach you and I hope you all have a great time. We have uncovered some fantastic and interesting archaeology and we have had great fun along the way. To the True Kaimanoids, I have one thing to say, and I am sure you all know what that is. … Get your fists ready… “Team Kaims!!!!!” — Neal Lythe

A Day at the Kaims – Part 1

The following is a report from my day at the Kaims… it’s taken me a while to get it posted.

Last week, I heard Matt Ross was looking for coring volunteers. I’d never done coring before and knew very little about the process or it’s archaeological potential. Keen to try my hand at something new and archaeologically relevant, I decided to take a day off Environmental and escape to the Kaims. After a week of rain, we had a day of sunshine and almost-blue skies. It was amazing. In the morning, they even let me have a go at trowelling in the west extension of Trench 42—it’s been so long since I’ve done actual archaeology. (I may have been a bit overzealous and taken out a few more stones than necessary… sorry, Graham).

Walking down to the trenches at the Kaims

To begin, I was extremely impressed with the archaeology at the Kaims. I, along with the other new students, got a site tour from Jackie, the Kaims Assistant Supervisor, first thing in the morning.

The last time I was at the Kaims, was in June 2011. Trench 6 had been opened and expanded to reveal a large burning area, possible hearth, and post-hole. Victorian era drainage pipes were being found and excavated. And the whole area didn’t look like a bog, though I admit to having to stand in a few inches of water to attempt a section drawing.

This is what it looked like when excavation of the Kaims began in 2010.

What a typical trench at the Kaims used to look like – a 1 m x 2 m rectangle.

First Kaims Supervisor Joanne Kirton teaching students how to test pit

What we once thought was interesting archaeology

This is the Kaims now. That’s progress.

Part of Trench 42, originally 20 m x 2 m. (It continues both to the north and west off the photo).

Community diggers excavating Trench 6 in the off-season

The archaeological features that have appeared this season are enough to satisfy the appetite of all you prehistoric archaeologists–a burnt mound reminiscent of others found across the UK and Ireland and what was originally hoped was a cist burial.

Kaims Supervisor and Director standing at the edge of T42 – note the sharp boundary at the south edge of the burnt mound.

Recent theories as to origins/purpose of the burnt mound and surrounding area: cist burial , beer production site, fish drying site, tanning site, sweat lodge, cooking area.

An extension was made to the east of trench 42 to allow for a pit to be dug to explore the theory that the large worked stone that was uncovered in T42 might be a stone slab/head stone of a Bronze Age cist burial.

West extension of T42 – edge of burnt mound not yet uncovered

The extention has revealed one edge of the burnt-stones area, but as of yet, there is no compelling evidence of a burial in that direction. Could it possibly be under the stones to the west?

Sarah attempting to find the edge and base of the test pit in T42

When I was up there on Friday, Sarah Aguirre was continuing the excavation of the long, thin sondage/test pit in the east quadrant of T42—next to the stone slab. The work revealed a series of stones, but no burial as originally hoped.

Meanwhile, Eva Rankmore was excavating a pit feature in the northern part of the trench. As of yet, it’s unclear whether the pit is natural or man made, though the most recent (and mostly likely) theory is that it’s a tree throw.

Eva in her possible pit feature (the north part of T42)

Nearby, in the area to the SE of T42, students new to the Kaims were taught how to set up and excavate test pits in the hopes of uncovering the cluster of possible burials. As of today (Thurs. July 19), 10 new test pits have been put in, and nothing particularly archaeologically exciting had been uncovered. However, two of the test pits did reveal a continuation of the modern (Victorian era) drainage feature, evident—although the terracotta pipes had been removed at some point—in the south end of T42.

Opening test pits and new trenches at the Kaims

Other than excavating what I feel is some very promising/intriguing archaeological features, a number of interesting finds have also been found this season – A piece of prehistoric (Bronze Age?) ceramic. A beautiful little flint point (likely an arrowhead). A lot of what is believed to be un-worked jet.

BK12 (4209) <92> Prehistoric pottery (Bronze Age?)

Same piece of pottery in profile

BK12 (4202) <054> Flint blade

Same blade in profile

BK12 (4202) <048> Flint arrowhead

Same point in profie

BK12 (6020) <019> Raw jet?

That was somewhat my morning at the Kaims. I hope you enjoyed it. Tomorrow’s blog post will continue my insider’s view of a day at the Kaims, accompanied by a more technical explanation of the coring process provided by Matt Ross. A more detailed summary of this season’s work at the Kaims will also be forthcoming.

If any of you readers have any questions for the Kaim-anites about any of the archaeology or finds coming out, feel free to post to the blog or our facebook page. We’re more than happy to answer your questions to the best of our abilities.

Coming up – Part 2: Coring at the Kaims, with Matt Ross

Bradford Kaims Outreach

Bradford Kaims Co-ordinator, Neal Lythe, provides an update on the work being undertaken out at the Kaims.

Neal’s Report

This season the Kaims has so far produced some interesting and exciting archaeology. We have opened numerous test pits, excavated more of Trench 6 and opened a brand new trench on a ridge in the field to the south of Trench 6. This work has been undertaken by students from the Bamburgh Research Project, as it has been for the past 2 seasons, as well as by numerous volunteers from our Bradford Kaims Project, which is a community project for local and regional volunteers.

So far we have had numerous volunteers and we are continuing to get more every week. Many have had little or no experience of archaeology, others have volunteered on other projects and some have come along just to gain more experience to further their career. The volunteers have played an integral part in the excavation and recording of our site this season. For example, Ruth and Bob, half sectioned a pit that surrounds the hearth in Trench 6. This pit was sampled, photographed and drawn and if the weather improves, will be 100% excavated.

Bob section drawing the feature

The volunteers have also worked alongside Bamburgh Research Project students and together they have opened numerous test pits looking for human activity and settlement surrounding the former lake. This involved de-turfing and then painstakingly mattocking and shovelling the various deposits out of a 1×1 metre test pit, whilst looking for archaeological material. The volunteers also played  an important role in helping the BRP staff and students open up our new trench, Trench 42, on a ridge in former lake to the south of Trench 6. More information about this exciting area will follow in future posts.

The opening of Trench 42 with students and volunteers

Everybody has enjoyed themselves during our first 4 weeks and as we continue to get more interest, more archaeology will be uncovered, which will make for a more exciting season.

We were also visited by Wooler First School last week. They came to have a look round the site, have a go at coring and watch Co-director, Kristian Pedersen, undertake some flint knapping. A good time was had by all.

Kristian demonstrating flint knapping

Gerry demonstrating coring to the school children