This article was kindly written by volunteer Ruth Brewis, who took part in the video editing of footage from the Bradford Kaims Wetland Heritage Research Project. The Project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and English Heritage.
We’d be delighted if more volunteers expressed an interest in doing some video editing – if you want to have a go at this please get in touch with me, firstname.lastname@example.org
It will be possible to arrange one to one sessions or small groups if anyone wants to participate in this, and you do not have to have been a volunteer previously – this is open to all, and it may be possible to do this in your local area – I am prepared to travel with the footage and equipment!
Stress, Stress, Stress……
Video Editing…terrifying! Thought I was going to lose all the footage and there was so much of it! A somewhat daunting task and not an aspect I was expecting to be involved in when I signed up as a volunteer for the Bradford Kaims Heritage Wetlands Project, but the opportunity presented itself.
Editing a small video can take days of patiently sifting through footage, re-watching the same clips over again and re-editing, playing it through many times, searching for a beginning and an ending, deciding if a picture should be static or not, which looks better??
Not as straight forward as I thought it would be!
Under Gerry’s guidance I was able to select snippets of video and assemble them to form a workable version with a storyline that would make sense to anyone viewing the video, at the same time trying to produce something that would be interesting, showing the process of coring done at the Kaims by Richard Tipping, BRP Staff and the volunteers. Looking back at the footage it was hard to decide how much to include in the video, for me it is all interesting and something that was completely new to me, so I wanted to include everything.
I came to the project expecting to learn about archaeology and was happy with that but I got the chance to try video editing, and really enjoyed the experience and I thought it would be good to see how Gerry puts together video’s for Bamburgh Research Project and as I like taking photographs when I’m on site, it was an extension of my interest in photography.
This is Ruth’s completed video which was first uploaded during the summer.
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.
This post is a continuation of “A Day at the Kaims – Part 1“, and focuses on both the technical and experiential aspects of environmental coring at the Bradford Kaims wetland site.
Archaeological coring: how and why?
The following has been written by Matt Ross, a graduate student currently researching at the Bradford Kaims. He’s also generously been teaching those interested and willing to brave the knee-high muddy bog water how to core and describe sediment samples in the field.
Throughout the season a team of sediment corers have been braving the wet and mud that is the Bradford Kaims, to record the sediment that lies beneath.
Using a 6m long auger, as demonstrated by Richard Tipping in our earlier blog post, it is possible to extract sediment samples and compile a vertical stratigraphy. Repeating this along a transect, a cross-profile of the landscape can be constructed. By examining changes in sediment type, colour, composition and organic content (i.e. wood fragments, plant stems and calcareous shells) both vertically and laterally throughout the profile we can then piece together the history of environmental change across the site.
Such changes occur over time in response to natural and/or anthropogenic forcing: examples include climate change or forest clearance for agriculture. As sediments are composed of material (and organisms) within the catchment, they accumulate vertically and, unless disturbed, will remain in chronological order. The rate of change is also indicated in the sediment profile.
For example, a unit of coarse sand with a sharp upper boundary may mark a rapid flood erosion event, whereas the accumulation of several metres of peat reflects relative climate stability over thousands of years. Sediment coring can therefore provide a rapid assessment of palaeoenvironmental conditions over vast areas. But why does it matter?
Establishing the past climatic conditions and landscape history can provide important context to understand prehistoric settlement at the site. For instance, if we know there was an open body of water during the time of occupation, we can assume that it may have been exploited.
Coring at the Bradford Kaims has focused on the low-lying Embleton’s bog, where we have identified two open bodies of water, either side of the promontory, on which Trench 42 is located. These lakes appear to originate in the lateglacial, or the early Holocene (10,000 years ago) and have experienced fluctuating water levels, as indicated by bands of Marl – a lacustrine deposit of calcium carbonate rich mudstone. The lakes were then quickly succeeded by wetland conditions as the climate ameliorated.
Pollen analysis, currently being carried out at Stirling University, will provide detailed reconstruction of vegetation cover at the time of settlement.
Learning to Core
After first break, Anne (a fellow BRP-er) and I joined Matt for a day of coring. Knee-high grass lined the foot-flattened path to the most recent transect line where we would be coring. After hearing stories of thigh-high muddy water and the need to bring a complete change of clothes, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the bog water only rose halfway up my knee-high wellies (though it did get deeper as we moved further south).
Our first core of the day–Core 4–was marked with a bamboo shaft sticking a few inches above a mud and water filled hole in a circle of flattened grass. It was decided that, to start, I would help Matt with the auger while Anne recorded the sediment changes for each metre core, since she had cored previously. Because we were continuing with a core sample from a previous day’s work, albeit at a greater depth, we had to “clean out” the infill of sediment and water in the hole, by coring to the same depth reached before.
Let me tell you, finding the right hole amongst a half-dozen similar holes filled with muddy water and grass, and trying to fit the auger into it without creating a bigger hole, is no mean feat. I think we gave up on the old hole and made a new one after 3o minutes of struggle. We also never managed to get past the 4 meter depth at that particular spot. While we struggled though, Matt did give me a very nice introduction to the coring process and the geography of the Kaims.
Later in the day, Anne and I switched off and I got an opportunity to record the data. Richard Tipping joined us later in the afternoon and showed us the benefit of years of coring experience–he was almost quicker at setting up and adjusting the auger by himself, than Anne, Matt, and I were together. His equally quick assessment of the core samples was also impressive.
I was surprised to learn how similar the process of coring is to the environmental archaeology and flotation I do here at the castle. It was vindicating that my description of the soil matrices, colours, and inclusions of the BRP environmental samples have been semi-accurate and that I’ve developed a somewhat transferable skill.
By the end of the work day, we had completed an additional 3 cores to a depth of 6m each. The cores themselves showed a variety of sediment layers including peats, peaty clays, sandy clays, sandy silts, silty sands, and marl. The marl was a creamy to light grey very soft clay. Never having heard of it or encountered it before, I looked it up. Apparently, marl is a “calcium carbonate or lime-rich mud containing large amounts of clays or silts”, and is formed under freshwater conditions.
It’s interesting, not only because it was the most markedly different in appearance, but because its presence indicates a period of fairly rapid climate or landscape change–warming or deforestation–and rise in water levels.
Other things we noted in the core samples included the presence and relative quantities–very rare, rare, common, abundant–of wiry and fleshy stems, wood fragments (incl. size), whole shells and shell fragments. I found it interesting that there was significantly more variation in the cores to the north, even at less depth, than there were to the south. For instance, between 3 and 4 metres at Core 4, we encountered maybe 6 or 7 distinct changes in matrices. At the same level in Core 6, the sample was almost entirely a mid-reddish brown silty peat. Despite this, Matt suggested that all the core results were fairly consistent with what they expected (and hoped) to find.
Last, but not least, for your and my enjoyment:
I would love to see a final report of the results, to see how my work was used. I would also like to thank Matt for his wonderful demonstration of coring methods and techniques as well as an illuminating explanation of some of the recent environmental findings.
— Megan Taylor
“I personally thought it was a great (if not slightly wet) and informative experience, and even though I will probably be sore for the next few days, I can definitely recommend splashing around in the wetlands for a day!”
Bradford Kaims Co-ordinator, Neal Lythe, provides an update on the work being undertaken out at the Kaims.
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.
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.
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.
Project Director, Graeme Young, gives us an update on the recent work undertaken at our Mesolithic/Neolithic site out at Hoppen Hall, near the Bradford Kaims.
In our last few visits to the site at Hoppen Hall near the Bradford Kaims, we have continued the work that has been ongoing for the last couple of years around the ‘hearth’ feature. We are hoping to increase our understanding of this enigmatic feature dated to 4000 to 4500 BC by archaeomagnetic dating. Just what it represents, and how it fits into the wider landscape still alludes us. I hope that through widening the area of excavation and sheer persistence that this will work wonders. Click here to read an overview of past work at the site
The Aerial photography undertaken by Horizon has been particularly useful. We always thought that this birds eye perspective would provide us with some great shots for publication, but it is surprising how much this change of perspective helps in seeing the bigger picture and how the individual components fit into a wider story. We know that the site lay close to the edge of a narrow channel, but it is apparent now that even to the south where the channel opens out we have a complicated picture including two separate bays. It must surely in the distant past, when there was still substantial open water, have been a prime area for attracting animals and perhaps for fishing too. Easier to see, therefore, why we have such clear indication of human activity. Albeit activity we are struggling to understand. Click here to see the results of Horizon AP’s most recent work for the project.
Initially we have been cleaning and planning, with the intention of better understanding the stratigraphy (the sequence of layers and features that tell the story of the order of events) so that we can hopefully understand the role that the site played when it was in use. Why for instance is there so much charcoal and burnt material here? Is this material waste material from a process that involved fires set on our burnt stone surface that they overlie. Or is there a substantial distance in time between them, if not a distance in space? We have also uncovered the presence of at least one substantial pit and are perhaps seeing traces of others too. If this is the case we can also ask if we are looking at a structure or further waste disposal.
Over the next few weeks we will be pursuing these inquiries and also opening a new trench down into the peat layers, that lie only metres to the west of the burnt stone surface. Hopefully finding evidence of material disposed of in the lake will add to our understanding of the site’s use.
Watch this space for updates.
If you are interested in getting involved with the project Click here for more information
The Bradford Kaims Wetland Heritage Research Project is pleased to announce new dates for field work.
Recent Results from the Site
After cleaning the site thoroughly we have revealed several discrete features (pits filled with burned material) and the main area of burning has been shown to consist of several different events of dumped burned material surrounding the early stone feature in the centre of the trench. We had a great day on Saturday despite the wind and further test pits have been opened, and there’s even been some metal detecting. We are making good progress and look forward to revealing the detail of the site through our next fieldwork sessions.
The dates for upcoming field work are as follows: Wednesday 21st March, Thursday 29th March, Saturday 31st March and Saturday 7th April.
Please come along if you can, dressed for weather, and wellies are recommended. As usual no experience is necessary, and it should be fun as we will be digging. If you would like to volunteer please send an email to Graeme Young at email@example.com or call him on 07711187651 as we will be limited to around 20 volunteer places per day. We very much hope to see you there!
The site is located at Hoppen Hall Farm – to get there you will need to take the B1341 between the A1 and Bamburgh. Heading towards Bamburgh, you pass over the main rail line level crossing just past Lucker, then take the first right hand turn along a rough track heading up hill towards Hoppen Hall farm and cottages. The site is accessible only by prior arrangement, and there are holiday lets near the area we will be parking as well as the main farm house so we ask that all participants show due care and respect the privacy of the residents and guests. We will park and gather together by the main farm buildings, then walk through the fields for around ten minutes to access the wetland site.
To take a look at the aims of this project click here
To take a look at the field work to date, please have a look at previous posts here on the blog.