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:

Trench 3 – Week 3 Update

In this video trench Supervisor, Graham Dixon, discusses the progress thus far and the plans for the weeks to come.

 

And a bonus video – a closer look at the small pit feature which yielded the decorated piece of Samian ware.

Samian Ware tweet photo

 

 

Stay tuned for our next video updates – coming soon!

Experimental Beer Brewing

We began last week’s experimental day by gathering ingredients, trying to use as many prehistoric resources as possible. Though some tools were still modern (the trough, matches to start the fire, chainsaw to cut firewood, a mesh sieve, and a pot) we used a variety of other resources during the day including:

-Un-malted Barley (already acquired from a local source)

-Rocks for the fire (from the T6 spoil heap)

 

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Student Julie gathering stones for firing,

 

-Water & a trough (modern trough, sourced from local farmer, James Brown)

-Elderflowers (gathered from site), and

 

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Assistant Supervisor Charlie, gathering elderflowers.

 

-Firewood (fallen deadwood gathered on site)

 

And after talking through the process, we began the beer brewing!

 

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Super visor Becky, teaching students and volunteers.

 

We started the fire, and heated the rocks for about one hour.

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Fire Starting

 

During that time, we broke the husks of the barley to release the yeast. There was an added level of experimentation in that our barley was un-malted. We’ve had some success with this in the past, and were attempting to replicate those successes in order to test several hypotheses we had developed.

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Students Ian and Julie breaking the barley husks.

 

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Close-up of the grinding process.

 

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The barley after the husks were broken.

 

When the rocks were hot enough (we didn’t verify an exact temperature, just made sure they sat in the fire for an hour), we added water to the trough, added the barley to the water, then added the rocks to the water to heat it up.

 

 

We needed about 7-8 rocks to get a warm temperature. We did not measure the exact temperature, rather we made sure it didn’t get too hot to the touch.

We stirred the mash, and rotated hot rocks in and out of the trough to keep the temperature up.

 

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Supervisor Becky stirring the mash tun.

 

We had lots of down time while we kept the fire going, kept the rocks hot and the mash tun up to temperature, so we gathered local sedge (tusset grass) & began weaving platters & baskets – a skill we recently learned from a local community member, Paula Constantine who teaches basket weaving.

 

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Assistant Supervisors Rachel, Sophie and Charlie weaving sedge.

 

We also took some malted barley (leftover on site from previous beer brewing attempts) and sedge oil (created from pounding sedge root into a pulp and adding water), and created a paste which we then put on the fire to bake. We experimented with an different cooking technique than our earth oven from last year.

 

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Unleavened bread baking above a fire.

 

After the mash tun brewed for two hours, we began to sieve the mixture into our pot:

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Students Julie and Zac sieving the mash into a pot.

 

And then we added the elderflowers to the mixture.

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Students Zach, Ian and Julie adding elderflowers to the mix.

 

We’ll let the mixture brew while we continually monitor the progress throughout the week.

Next Sunday, we’ll check the ABV level with a hydrometer & let it brew for longer if need be (two weeks or so should be sufficient).

We usually can get an ABV level of 5%, so that’s our goal. If we’ve reached it by next Sunday, we’ll sample it, if not, it’ll brew longer.

Stay tuned for next week’s experimental instalment!

 

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.

Season Intro and Week 1 Diary – The Bradford Kaims

A slightly belated blog which is intended to be read in conjunction with yesterday’s post regarding the promontory area.

Written by Tom Gardner, Tom Lally, and Becky Brummet.

 

And so we are back to work at the Bradford Kaims, and thought it would be a good idea to outline our plans for this seasons excavation. We are nearing the end of our evaluation phase on site, and have some areas which we need to finish and wrap up. Our investigations are divided into three areas, the north of the site in Trench 6, the south of the site in Trench 9, and the promontory area with small excavations in Trench 12, Trench 13, and Trench 42.

 

Trench 6

Trench 6 finished last year with a focus upon our wooden platform and a complex pit sequence below the burnt mound deposits. We kicked off this season with a trench clean and photograph, before re-opening an area from 2014 over a series of Neolithic wooden troughs associated with our earlier burnt mound deposits. These troughs pose an interesting sequence of site use, abandonment, and re-use, and are impressive pieces of architecture in themselves. The latest in the sequence is a large and intact oak trunk, which has been hollowed out vertically all the way through, and set in the ground as a trough or well. This is cut into an earlier plank lined trough, and the whole sequences is surrounded by a series of post-holes and pits, with capping burnt mound deposits slumping over the lot.

 

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Trench 6 oak trough.

 

Beyond finishing this sequence, the plans for Trench 6 involve expanding to the north to excavate a later burnt mound identified last year in the section, removing the earlier mounds onto the subsoil, and working out the interface between our burnt mound sequences and the wooden platform from 2015. With this, and the other areas of work, we have a busy summer ahead!

 

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Trench 6 at the end of the 2015 season.

 

Trench 9

Trench 9 finished with a flurry at the end of the 2015 season, and we aim to pick up right where we left off. The trench edges have been redefined, the backfill emptied out, and the flurry of features found last season are visible once again. It’s time to get things started for 2016.

With 2016 likely being the final season that we have Trench 9 open, we have a lot of work to do. Last season ended with the discovery of a possible sweat lodge, Mesolithic hearth and a possible man-made water channel, all of which will need to be investigated this season. As a result of time constraints and having more precise areas to excavate, the dimensions of Trench 9 have been slightly altered to accommodate for this. We will now focus heavily on the middle of the trench where the main features lie, as well as extending the trench out into the fen, in order to determine the purposes of the wooden features and timbers that were cutting into the section in 2015.

 

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Trench 9 at the end of the 2015 season.

 

The specific aims this season are to investigate the heavily wooded area in the North-West corner, excavate our Neolithic post-hole and post further to determine its function, determine the age and function of the wooden ‘plank’ which has been visible since T9 was first opened in 2014, and then focus most of our efforts into the central areas where the hearth, channel and sweat lodge are located. We need to determine the functions of these features individually and then whether they are contemporary with one another. Despite a burnt mound being the reason why this trench was opened to begin with, there is every chance that these features could be the whole reason why prehistoric people were drawn to this location in the landscape in the first place.

 

Trench 9 start of 2016

Trench 9 at the start of the 2016 season.

 

 

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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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!

Another week in the Finds Department

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The Windmill during a brief respite from the rain.

Good morning from the post-excavation department! We have had a busy few weeks processing some intriguing finds including a possible iron stylus, a worked stone bead, several bits of unidentified burnt clay discs, and a potential lead pendant, to name a few.

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Finds Illustration

Environmental supervisor Thomas Fox has kept our students engaged at the flot tank processing environmental samples from last year while Post-ex supervisor Jeff Aldrich has been taking advantage of the poor weather to give students the a chance to illustrate and process our finds.

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Students Katie and Kelly sorting environmental flotation samples.

The students have also had the opportunity to learn a bit of post-excavation from Bradford Kaims processing finds, including a plethora of worked wooden stakes and the resultant paperwork led by trench supervisor Becky Brummet. Because of its distance from civilisation, it is a separate process at each site: the Castle and the Kaims.

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Students Joe and Rachel filling out timber recording sheets.

With the sun shining and the winds calmer, the students and staff will have ample time in the trenches to find us some new artefacts, hopefully further fleshing out the story of Bamburgh Castle.

Bamburgh Castle, Trench Three – Week 2

Week two was in stark contrast to the week before in terms of weather. Where previously we had beautiful sun, week two featured persistent cloud, broken by drizzle and rain. However, contrary to what you might, think it’s been great weather for doing archaeology! The weather has allowed us to identify context boundaries features in trench 3 which were not previously visible.

 

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Graham and Izzy (Trench 3 Supervisor and Assistant Supervisor) taking advantage of the rain to study exposed contexts.

 

Work has started on re-excavating Brian Hope Taylor’s Trench 1. This excavation lies partially underneath our access ramp. This was done to see if there was evidence of a pebble surface which appears elsewhere on site. No pebbles were seen, however in their place the section revealed a medieval pit which had previously been obscured. It turns out that both Brian Hope Taylor and excavations in 2009 had missed this feature, and it only came to light this year. A reminder of how changeable the soil can be across different conditions!

 

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The section showing the medieval pit, the edge is marked by the stone inclusions.

 

Over in the north-west area of the trench work has continued on the stone feature laying on a burnt deposit just on the bedrock. This has now been half-sectioned and revealed a further sandy band directly underneath the stones. Our initial interpretation of this is that it may be a supporting post pad for a structural timber, sat on top of a consolidating layer.

 

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Half-sectioned stone feature.

 

This week has also seen us finish the high medieval pit in the north-east area of Trench 3. This feature was spotted at the end of last year, and appears to have been cut from higher up in the stratigraphic sequence. Previously found in the pit was High Medieval green-glazed pottery. While completing the pit this year, and interesting lead object was discovered. Ideas about its use are varied. While it looks somewhat like a pendant with its curled loops, this piece may also be a medieval treasury tag, or a rough out for casting. Investigation and research of the artefact will continue this week.