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