Spaces filling up for our 2017 Archaeology Field School


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!

The Bradford Kaims awarded Moray Endowment Fund grant

We are pleased to announce that Tom has been awarded a small grant from the Moray Endowment Fund of £1992 for comparative research into the geoarchaeology of burnt mounds and associated soils, most of which will be undertaken at the Bradford Kaims, with a smaller study being conducted on Allt Thuirnaig burnt mound at Inverewe, in the north-west of Scotland.


Tom taking micromorphological samples through peat deposits at the Bradford Kaims

The Moray Endowment Fund is an internal funding body of the University of Edinburgh, where Tom is currently undertaking his PhD studying the wider geoarchaeology of burnt mound deposits across Great Britain and Ireland, for which the Bradford Kaims forms a core case study. This funding will allow us to look in great detail at a larger suite of micromorphological samples from the burnt mounds at the Bradford Kaims, and from the fills of some relict streambeds associated directly with the burnt mound use. Thin section micromorphology, a technique in which Tom is becoming well versed, involves the microscopic analyses on in situ sediments and soils, and seeks to better understand what archaeological sediments consist of, where they came from, how they got to where they are now, and the processes that have changed them since they were deposited.


Thin section micrograph of micromorphological samples through the burnt mound in Trench 6 at the Bradford Kaims

Through this form of study we already know that some of the earlier burnt mounds at the Bradford Kaims were deposited seasonally probably in summer and autumn, and vary widely in their fuel types from small Roundwood charcoal through to grasses and sedges. From this, and with our wider landscape analyses, we are able to better understand the movements and activities of people living around the Bradford Kaims in the Neolithic and Bronze Age, and how they interacted with their environment.

We thank the Moray Endowment Fund for their support, and all of our readers for their continued attention!


Student bookings now being taken for our 2017 Field School Excavation

Our 2017 student booking form is now available.

Our season will last 5 weeks from June 11- July 15th and will cost £300 per week.

This will include camping accommodation and access to modest cooking facilities. Unlike previous years, a tent will be provided for you upon your arrival. Be aware you will not be permitted to use your own tent.

You can find more information on our website. If you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to get in touch:

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If there is anyone interested in a staff position who has not yet applied, please do so ASAP.


Update about our 2017 field school dates

It has been a bit quiet on the blog so we just wanted to give our followers a quick update about next season.

We will be running a five week field school season next year from June 11th through July 15th.

We expect the student applications to be available in the next few weeks and will post an update when they are available. If there are any groups who would like to make arrangements for next year please get in touch:

End of Season Reflections, Southern area at the Bradford Kaims

 With a hive of activity happening in this area at the conclusion of season 2015, the South trenches looked to hit the ground running again in 2016. Trench 9 was re-opened once again, to finish off the investigations started in 2014, while two new trenches were established with one being for the purpose of resolving the archaeological questions that had risen from two previous trenches in the Southern area, and the other as part of an investigation into the other side of the wetland, on the dry ground. Trench 14, which was opened over Trench 8 (season 2013) and Trench 11 (2015 season) with the hope of establishing the relationship between in the stone mound found in T8 and the large timbers found in T11. The other trench opened in the south area, was Trench 15, which was opened in the second half of the season to establish the limit of archaeology in the southern area. Despite a horribly wet start to the season, we still managed to gather plenty of information about this area of the site from these trenches.



Trench 14 (foreground) and Trench 9 (background) during the 2016 season



Unfortunately for us, season 2016 was not a nice one for Trench 9. After two years of weird and wonderful features and finds from the trench that lay on the edge of the wetland’s tidal area, this year, the weather won out. Despite getting the trench opened (with some changes in dimensions to accommodate the need to investigate specific features), cleaned and ready to be excavated again in the first week, the rains came and came and came, turning the trench into a pond, a lake and finally a dam. This meant that it was never plausible to excavate in dry conditions until the last fortnight of the season.



Trench 9 after the heavy rains

With the end of the 2015 season providing us with a wealth of things to look at in Trench 9 this year, sadly, many of them could not be investigated. The north-western corner stayed under water the entire time, meaning our brushwood platform and Neolithic post-hole settings could not be looked at further. Instead we targeted central area where we had the sweat lodge, hearth and Neolithic plank, with the latter being the first area of investigation. With the new extension of the trench, 1m further into the wetland, we were hoping to find the plank extending further, with more stake-holes running parallel with it to provide hope on our walk-way theory. Instead, the wood only extended a further 20cm with a multitude of stake-hole present at its extent, but with no real alignment in their arrangement. We only had time to photograph, plan and record these new findings before the season finished, but we no longer believe the plank to be part of a walkway and so further investigation may be undertaken in this area in the future.

Another feature we looked at this season was our prehistoric sweat lodge. Once cleaned and photographed again, a quarter-section of the circular feature was excavated down to natural, with the hope of finding floor deposits and artefactual material associated with the feature on the way down. Sadly, it was to no avail, and so the only dating we can do for this feature is based on its position in the stratigraphy. The Mesolithic hearth, however, yielded some further evidence of its purpose and age, with an additional two pieces of worked chert discovered during an environmental sampling of the feature. The hearth was not found to be very deep, although the weather in the early part of the season had scoured away a significant amount of the original feature, despite our best efforts to minimise the rain’s impact, but measured ~1m in diameter. We still believe that the hearth and the sweat lodge are contemporary with each other as they both sit on the same level in the stratigraphic sequence of the trench, but as for the other areas of interest in Trench 9, we can’t make further comments as we simply didn’t get a chance to investigate them this season due to the weather conditions.


Excavation of the hearth (foreground) and sweat lodge (background) in Trench 9


It is still unclear as to what will happen with Trench 9 in the future at the Kaims. In terms of evaluating what archaeology was present in this area of the wetland margins, we have done so with aplomb. There is still firm belief that the area where Trench 9 lies, may be connected to the area where the new Trench 14 is located, and so it may be opened for one final time to conduct a large evaluation between the two trenches.



Volunteer Tim (foreground) and students Jack (middle) and Carrington (back) digging out the extension.

When we last visited Trench 14, we had a couple of goals in mind. One goal was to expand the quarter section to provide a fresh understanding of the stratigraphic sequence of the stone mound, brushwood platform and peat layer. Our other goal was to expand north, to an area that we expected Trench 11’s paleochannel to continue through. We accomplished both goals, first expanding the quarter section and excavating down to a depth of over one metre below the surface, into the peat layer. We removed the layer of brushwood and we were very excited to discover large timber “planks” lying parallel to each other. This discovery was made the second to last week of the season, so great care was taken to record the planks in detail: photographs, plans and Timber Recording sheets in preparation for next year’s field season. We hope to continue in T14 and to discover if there are more timber planks underneath the stone mound and in the surrounding area.



First timber revealed in the quarter-section.

As our attention turned to expanding into the expected paleochannel area, we were happy to discover that it does indeed continue and the layers of sand in T14 are similar to the layers of sand found in T11 last year. Minimal excavation was carried out on the channel, but hopefully next year more excavations can be conducted. One interesting discovery made during excavation of the quarter section (an area abutting where we expected to find the paleochannel) was a layer of sand different than what was found in the feature last year. This sand had a definitive reddish hue to it, whereas the sand found last year in T11 had a yellowish-brown hue. The reddish sand was recorded thoroughly at the end of this field season and will probably come into play next year as excavations continue in this exciting area of the Bradford Kaims.



Sand variations in the western trench wall of the extension.


Situated alongside Winlaw Burn, and to the very west of our area of investigation in Embleton’s Bog, we opened up Trench 15. The purpose of this trench was to establish whether we had any archaeological evidence as far west of our site as this, and to investigate an anomaly on a LIDAR survey of the Kaims area. Being so close to the burn, and with the knowledge that the burn was constantly cleaned out during the Victorian period, we quickly determined that the anomaly was just a large dump of upcast from the this. Some very modern finds were also evidence of this. This still didn’t answer our question of archaeological limit, and so we carried down further, hoping to find the same prehistoric ground surface that has been found across the site in Trenches 7, 9, 42 and 55.

Despite several sterile layers of clay in the 2m x 1m trench, we finally reached what we believed to be our target surface ~1m below the top of the trench. Although no features in this trench, we did manage to find a solitary piece of worked flint at the very bottom of our sequence, indicating that we do indeed have evidence of human occupation as far west as this on our site. We may come back to this area in future seasons to search for further archaeological evidence, but for now we need to keep searching for the western limit of archaeological potential at the Bradford Kaims.



Trench 15 (foreground) in relation to Trench 9 (background)

On behalf of myself, Becky Rutherford (Trench 14 Supervisor), Charlie Kerwin (Assistant Supervisor) and Ian Boyd (Assistant Supervisor) we would like to thank all the staff, students and volunteers that have worked with us in the 2016 season. Without your eagerness to listen and learn about archaeology, and your enthusiasm to help us reach our research goals, we would not have been able to learn as much as we did about this area of the Bradford Kaims this year. Thank you to all, and we hope to see you again next year.


Tom Lally (Project Officer)

End of Season Reflections, Trench 6 at the Bradford Kaims

So the season has ended at the Bradford Kaims, and a week of sleeping off the exhaustion has allowed us to reflect on our findings. Trench 6, the largest and longest running area of excavation at the Kaims, really came into its own in the two months we spent plumbing its depth this summer. While it has always been an area that has thrown up fascinating and breathtaking archaeology, such as the wooden platform, its numerous Early Neolithic burnt mounds, and our beautiful troughs, this year it outdid itself.

Our excavations focussed upon the central body of the trench, as opposed to its extensions into the bottleneck of the fenland to the south which were the focus of last year’s work. We had several key interfaces between the dryland burnt mound sites on the higher ground, and the wooden platforms in the fenland, which we knew we had to work out before the excavations could expand. The beginning of the season was centred around the removal of all of the burnt mound deposits within the trench, excluding two large baulks which will remain in place for posterity. The removal of the burnt mounds, while not hugely stimulating work, brought us down fully, and for the first time, onto the preserved prehistoric landsurface beneath. And what a land surface it is! Things are never as expected at the Bradford Kaims, so instead of a blank and featureless colluvial layer beneath the Early Neolithic burnt mound deposition, we have come across two significant post built buildings, a ditch, more wooden platforms and detrital dumps of woodworking material, and hundreds of stakeholes. This adds to our trough sequences, and the hundreds of stakeholes already identified.


Trench 6 at the beginning of the season

The Buildings

What started as one small rectangular building supported by significantly sized raking posts, and containing a large fire pit with in situ burnt timbers, quickly became two structures, with a reused gable wall joining them. The second building is also post built, using a beam-slot and post construction method, extends into the northern edge of the trench, and will have to be chased next year. However, the primary building, which we believe to be later in the phasing of the site, is of a very rare construction technique for the Early Neolithic. It’s raking posts are large, but the footprint is small, suggesting a low-roofed building, with a deeply sunk (>0.6m) fire pit in the centre. This fire pit is truncated by a massive later pit, in which was found an intact and in situ post tip, as it dropped below the water table. The entire building has been sun into the colluvial clay which forms the fenland bank, with the excavated material being redeposited as a levelling dump for the channel-side of the structure. Not bad for a structure that shouldn’t be there!


The post-in-trench built gable end of Structure 2, with a reused raking post at the far end for Structure 1

The Wood-Working Detritus

The key interface between wetland and dryland aspects of Trench 6 which we needed to evaluate this year, was how the wooden platforms interfaced with the burnt mound deposits. We had long suspected that the platforms were not quite as they seemed, and excavating their interface with the mounds has proved that the term platform should, perhaps, be applied more carefully to the dense deposits of laid and staked wood which we have known of at the site since 2014. As we excavated a brushwood platform layer above the burnt mounds, we came onto a burnt mound deposit, which was simple enough. Upon going through this, we came onto another wood dominated layer, this one comprised of wood ships, bark, broken wooden artefacts, and larger debarked timbers. Below this, was another layer of burnt mound material which, when removed came onto a layer of light brushwood containing one massive trunk, which had been debarked, debranched, and still boasted its felling cut-marks. We know, through coring, that dense and anthropogenically laid wood exists for a full 3m beneath this level, but without burnt mound material within it. It then poses the question of what is going on in these interfaces.

Our interpretations, based upon the interleaving burnt mound and wood rich deposits, and the wooden offcuts, wood chips, artefacts, and timbers found in the ‘platform’, are that these deposits are a series of detrital dumps of wood-working debris, used as a large stabilising platform stretching out into the fenland bottleneck, and interspersed with burnt mound deposition. While further excavation is needed, the idea of two prehistoric processes, of burnt mound deposition and wood-working, occurring simultaneously at the edge of the fenland, is highly intriguing.



A worked wooden plank tip, complete with sewn holes, from the wood working dump

Another Look at the Troughs

Finally, we achieved another brief look, and a further excavation of, our wonderful wooden trough sequence associated with the burnt mounds in Trench 6. As always, the latest trough in the sequence, constructed from an entire oak trunk, hollowed out vertically and sunk up to 0.6m into the colluvial bank of the fenland, steals the show. This year we fully excavated it, and took a suite of high-resolution photographs for photogrammetry to model it in detail. As it is stratigraphically below a lot of other archaeology which had to be dealt with, exposed in a 20th century field drain cut, the excavation of the rest of the area will have to wait until next year. Regardless, it was wonderful to see it exposed again!


Our trunk-lines trough fully excavated

Although brief, this should stand as a quick record of our findings in Trench 6 this summer at the Bradford Kaims. Thanks go to the tens of students and volunteers who helped us excavate the site, and also to the dedicated and wonderful staff who trained, organised, and led the excavations! We will be back next year, when we shall hopefully finish the archaeology within Trench 6. Join us then for more!

Tom Gardner, Project Officer

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!

History of the Northumbrian Styca


A Monne styca, struck by the most prolific of the Anglo-Saxon moniers.


In the 8th through the later 9th century AD, beginning with King Æthelred I circa 774 and likely ending with King Osberht circa 865, the styca replaced the sceatta as the most common form of currency in Northumbria. While both the styca and the sceatta depict the name of the monarch on the obverse, the sceatta was a base silver currency portraying a quadruped on the reverse whereas the styca was a base copper currency which denoted the name of the moneyer on the reverse. Incidentally, this also meant that the styca was one of the first minted coinage that held a higher face value than its material worth. Much of the information known and presented here is based on the writings of Symeon of Durham, Roger of Wendover, and modern author, Sir Frank Stenton.



A styca from the BRP excavation finds.


As the currency was re-struck for each ensuing monarch, there is a noticeable difference in silver content, indicating that each subsequent iteration or design of styca was debased, or melted down in order to remove the precious silver, then replaced with less expensive raw materials, such as tin. This is evident when comparing late 8th Stycas to mid-9th Stycas, the quality of the material is varying centred on the level of corrosion present. There have been several discoveries in recent years of styca hoards containing hundreds, sometimes thousands, of stycas (see: Hexham hoard, Bolton Percy hoard, Bamburgh hoard, etc.).


Bolton Percy Hoard

The Bolton Percy Hoard (Image courtesy of York Museums Trust :: :: CC BY-SA 4.0)


At the Bamburgh Research Project, the ability to date these Stycas is tremendously significant as it can tell us the earliest possible date of an archaeological context. Our ability to determine dates based on the artistry alone is also most cost effective when compared to carbon dating and more accurate than dating based on biostratigraphy. Given a proper identification schema, we hope to give more clarity to our sites and greater insight into the lives of those who came before us.



Frank, S. (1970). Preparatory to Anglo-Saxon England Being the Collected Papers of Frank Merry Stenton. Doris Mary Stenton.

Lyon, C. (1957). A reappraisal of the sceatta and styca coinage of Northumbria. BNJ 28, 227-232.

Roger of Wendover. (c. 13th century). Flores Historiarum.

Symeon of Durham. (c. 13th century). Historia Regum.





Week 3 in the Post-Excavation Department



The Windmill – home to the Post-excavation Department.


Good morning from the Post-excavation Department! We have had a busy few weeks with a steady flow of students coming through eager to learn. Taking into account the better weather and the remarkable finds from the trenches, there is plenty to keep us busy!



Thomas Fox, Environmental Assistant Supervisor, teaching students Katie and Weston.


With the amount of new finds, we are able to guide students through the initial processing stages: identifying, recording, and bagging the find. Archaeology at its core is about understanding the past from physical remains, so it is highly important to encourage diligent record keeping.



Students Eden and Steffi finds washing.


With the new finds processed, the students are then given the opportunity to move to the next tasks: cleaning, sorting, and illustrating the finds. This allows them the chance to walk through the entire post-excavation process and therefore improve their critical thinking skills and encourage thought on the historic use of the artefact.



Finds Supervisor, Jeff Aldrich, examining some of the finds from the Bradford Kaims.


Bradford Kaims has been updating their records to reflect the past several years of work. The finds have all been processed, it’s simply a matter of digitising and correlating the artefacts to their locations in three dimensions. Once the locations are correlated, we can store the finds for future study.

With three weeks down and new students ready to learn about archaeology, we’re getting things moving here at the Project and look forward to the next five weeks!