Fresh ABOVE the Trench

Our trenches in the outworks include a lot of extant masonry, and it has been one of the goals of this season to get a better handle on the different phases of construction by looking at architectural choices, stone type, mortar, and the like. In our effort to do that, we really needed an eye in the sky to help us see the alignments, and more noticeably the lack thereof, of the visible masonry.

The cutest lil drone.

Today we had a special treat, as friends of the project David and Annie brought their drone to the site. We had special permission from the Castle team to fly the drone over the outworks, but in general drones are not allowed over the Castle or the Site of Special Scientific Interest (due to biodiversity) that abuts the Castle. Do NOT bring your drone to the Castle, please and thank you.

A drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) whose use can be recreational, commercial, or military. Over the last few decades, we’ve seen an increase in the use of aerial photography via drone in archaeology. Forward-thinking archaeological teams have been using imagery taken at height to search for, record, and monitor archaeological sites for nearly a century. Aerial archaeology in the UK can be traced back to RAF intelligence-gathering and the enduring legacy of O.G.S. Crawford, who pioneered aerial archaeology methodologies starting with the Stonehenge landscape and founded the journal Antiquity. We last had aerial photography taken all the way back in 2013, and here’s an image of us (Constance, Lauren, and Graeme are somewhere in there) caught by the camera nearly a decade ago:

Drone technology has certainly streamlined since then. Getting the photo above was a very involved process, requiring specialised computer equipment to translate the signal onto a teeny, tiny monitor that the supervisors crowded around. This time around? A small four-rotor box (a “quadcopter”), a controller that looked like it came from a video game console, and an iPad. It was a mind-blowingly simple set-up, but years of aviation, video, and wireless technological innovation were needed to bring us to this moment.

Here is a sneak peek of some of the images we captured today:

Trench 5b from above.
Trench 5d with the postern gate in the bottom left corner.
CAUGHT!

A Prince, An Octocopter, and Many Hands: Wrapping up with “This Week in Photos”

So we’ve finished wrapping up the 2012 season. In order to commemorate the final push, I thought we might have our second ever BRP “This Week in Photos”.

Graeme and Gerry with HRH Prince Charles on the beach below Bamburgh Castle

It was a rather eventful week, with a Tuesday visit from HRH Prince Charles to Bamburgh Village, a spectacular introduction to archaeological aerial photography from an octocopter on Wednesday, and the closing down of the trenches at both the Bradford Kaims and the castle from Thurday to Saturday.

Frantically cleaning Trench 3

Everyone lending a hand

On Thursday, students and staff alike got down on hands and knees (literally) to clean the trenches for our visit from our A.P. Horizons Friends, Paddy and Jack.

A.P. Horizons Boys Paddy and Jack

Even Finds Supervisor Kirstie was (forcibly) lured out of the windmill to make sure Trench 3 was spic-and-span for the octocopter’s aerial photographs.

All our ducks in a row… cleaning S to N in T3. Admire the clean lines in the rather dry trench

While I’m reluctant to admit it, in case I jinx it, the beautiful weather we’ve been having the past week has made the task infinitely more difficult.

Bone dry soil in T1 making cleaning difficult

A view of the E trench wall in T1 (now stone-walled) and the bone-dry soil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

T1 in particular was complaining of bone-dry soil, making it both near impossible to clean properly, as well as very difficult to differentiate between contexts. The students were able to take some final levels and complete the end-of-season trench plan.

Planning Trench 1 is a group effort

Taking a few final levels before tarping over Trench 1

Matthew and Amin taking levels at T1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Despite the complaints, both Trenches were clean by the time Paddy and Jack showed up at 5 pm with the illustrious octocopter. As they set up near Trench 1, we all gathered on the castle walls to observe the show.

A view of T1 and the octocopter from the windmill walls

Watching from the wall

I don’t think I’ve seen us all so united in our excitement this entire season. If only we’d had popcorn…

Supervisor Alex and Directors Graeme and Gerry gather round … to get a real-time birds-eye-view of the trenches

After a tour over T1, the boys set up at T3 to repeat the process.  They finished up the evening with a flyover above Bamburgh Castle. I can’t wait to see the shots.

Jack piloting the octocopter

Approaching T3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday was the last full day of work at the castle for most of us. Trench 1 was tarped and stone-walled along the E section wall. Trench 3 finished planning the SE corner and tarped over it.

Taking down the N quadrant in the NW corner of T3

While some students continued to excavate the N and S quadrants of the NW corner, others worked on planning the NE section of T3. Supervisors from both T3 and T1 frantically worked on closing contexts and writing up context sheets and end-of-year summary reports.

Short-term T1 Ass-Sup Constance drawing up a final plan of T1

Finds Supervisors Jeff and Kirstie finished box-indexing and cataloguing the day’s finds.

Kirstie and Jeff sorting finds

Once lost finds, re-discovered in a cleaning of the Keep

And only with the wonderful and much needed help of some of the BRP students did I survive the day and manage to accomplish most of what I set out to do for environmental.*

Nat flotting 2010 and 2012 Kaims samples

* A special shout out to Sarah, Liam, Natalie, and Americ who helped sort samples, record heavy discard, clean out the flot tank, and any number of other enviro things I asked them to do. Without their help, my role as environmental supervisor might have finally turned me “mental”. Thanks, guys!

A somewhat-sane me, taking a brief pause from the environmental to peek at T1 and listen in on Lauren’s trench tours

We were all hard-pressed to find a spare moment even for tea between taking down the mess tent, washing dishes and duckboards, and doing post-excavation odds-and-ends. Full-season BRP-er Lauren did manage to squeeze in a final tour of the trenches for the public, however.

Lauren engrosses the public in tales of T1 and the adventures of it’s archaeologists

I tagged along for the first time this year and was surprised and delighted to learn things about the start of the project, Brian Hope Taylor’s hoard of records and finds, and the caslte’s dynamic history that I never knew. Lauren’s interest and wealth of knowledge provided an exciting glimpse into the archaeology of Bamburgh Castle, that even I, a long-time BRP-er enjoyed immensely. Thanks Lauren!

Loyal BRP-ers ensure “The Moose” is preserved for posterity

A very warm shout-out to all this season’s staff, volunteers, and students! We couldn’t have accomplished as much as we did without all your hard work and enthusiasm. So, thank you!

The sun sets over the BRP

Finally, while the trenches have been tarped over or back-filled and the windmill locked up, the archaeology continues (albeit in a somewhat more limited form). We’ve got more posts to come in the following weeks and months. Closing up the Kaims. BRP Bloopers. Bamburgh Beast Body Art. Publications. How-to Archaeology. And so much more.

So, don’t disappear, blog-followers. You might miss something interesting. 😉

“Finds Flash!” … and an octocopter!

Our apologies for a short post today. We have a number of blog ideas on the docket, but end-of-season tasks are limiting the amount of time we can spend writing and configuring photos for the blog. 

However, in order to leave you with something to tide you over for the day, Kirstie, our Finds Supervisor, suggested we post a few photos of two of our nicer “shiny” finds from yesterday’s cleaning of Trench 3.

Carved bone comb handle

Carved bone bead (note the small etchings on the side)

And here are a few photos from yesterday’s exciting venture with the octocopter. More to come on this.

  

Have a great evening everyone!

Aerial Photography from the Bradford Kaims

Horizon AP have been back out at Hoppen Hall Farm and the Kaims Wetland site as part of the Bradford Kaims Wetland Heritage Research Project.

Horizon AP have spent time filming the area from an aerial cam. To see the process in action click here.  You can also take a look at the work they have already undertaken by clicking here. The video below comes from their first tester flight.

Link for video http://vimeo.com/31681857

Recent Work

The images below are from the most recent flight above the site and show the wetland topography, the open area excavation of the features dated to 4500-4000 BC and the trenches situation amongst this interesting landscape.

Embleton Bog

View of the target area

Aerial view of the open area trench with the new extension to the left

View of the trench and test pits with Embleton's Bog in the distance. Note the edge of the peat in the trench.

Relationship between archaeological features and the natural topography are made clear in this image.