Geophysical Survey at the Bradford Kaims Uncovers a Possible Prehistoric Settlement

On the 17th and 18th of June, Graeme Attwood*, from Magnitude Surveys came to the Bradford Kaims to conduct a geophysical survey of the landscape surrounding the site. The survey produced some intriguing results which provided exciting information for future excavations of the wider archaeological landscape.

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Graeme Atwood from Magnitude Surveys performing a geophyiscal survey at the Bradford Kaims using a fluxgate gradiometer.

The geophysical survey conducted at the Kaims used a hand-pulled fluxgate gradiometer, a type of magnetometer, which measures magnetism. Magnetic survey is used in archaeology as it can detect magnetic anomalies in the ground, which may indicate the presence of subsurface archaeological features. The magnetic geophysical survey investigated a total area of approximately 2.3 hectares in order to assess the below ground archaeological potential of the Bradford Kaims, conducted as part of our wider investigation of the landscape. Our investigations integrate excavation, field walking, survey and paleoenvironmental coring to evaluate the extent and nature of human exploitation of this wetland environment.

The magnetometer survey was conducted in five areas across the landscape of the Bradford Kaims, both in the wetland areas that are the focus of our current excavations and of the hills surrounding them. The survey produced a number of magnetic anomalies, suggesting that a wide variety of archaeological features are sitting below the surface.

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Map showing the five areas in which geophysical survey was conducted at the Bradford Kaims

The fifth area investigated in the survey covered our excavations on the South-Side of the wetland. The results indicated an archaeological feature which is thought to be another large burnt mound, one of the features found across this site. We are confident of this interpretation as a small portion of the mound has been excavated in previously seasons. Part of our remit is to test the accuracy and scope of the geophysics by excavating the anomalies. This is working extremely well, giving huge scope for future work.

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Results from the fifth area of survey showing magnetic anomaly 5a which has been interpreted as a burnt mound

The most exciting results, however come from the investigations of the wider landscape. The third area of magnetometry survey on Hoppenwood Bank near our area of excavation revealed positive magnetic anomalies with a strong archaeological character. Two large circular features; one measuring 13m in diameter, the other 14.5m in diameter, were identified. These circular features are similar to the magnetic anomalies produced by round houses. This suggests we may have identified a prehistoric, possibly Iron-Age settlement, at the Kaims! Within the large outer ring of what we think may be round houses, a series of smaller sub-circular anomalies were also identified. These features are between 0.75m and 2m in diameter, possibly produced by pits and post-holes which may indicate an internal structure to the large circular features which strengthens are interpretation that these may be roundhouses. The evidence that we may have discovered a settlement becomes more convincing when we consider the series of positive anomalies that have been found across the south-eastern portion of the third area. These anomalies are thought to be produced by the presence of pits and similar cut features, suggesting human activity in this area, strengthening the argument for the presence of a settlement. Settlement activity of this type is very rare in Northumberland and very exciting.

Results from the third area of survey showing the circular magnetic anomalies; 3a and 3b that have been interpreted as possible Iron-Age round houses.

This enthralling discovery has put all of the Kaims team in high spirits and we are planning to excavate the area of the settlement, next season. The geophysical anomalies identified in this survey have opened up the possibility of an exciting future for excavation of the Bradford Kaims!

*Afterword from Paul Gething: Graeme Attwood was a regular at the BRP for almost a decade. He came as a young student, became a staff member and eventually went on to run T1 in the Castle. He left the BRP to do postgrad work in Geophysics. He has returned often to visit and occasionally to do small scale work in Bamburgh and at the Kaims. He recently started his own geophysics company in Bradford, which is thriving. He went far above and beyond what we reasonably expected of him on a furiously hot few days. I have always admired his work ethic, but he surprised me with just how much he can do. It was a great pleasure to welcome Graeme back to the BRP and fantastic to work with him again and I look forward to working with him again in the future. I also look forward to seeing his business go from strength to strength.

New Dates for Volunteering

We continue to conduct excavation and coring out at Hoppen Hall, near the Bradford Kaims. This work explores a prehistoric lake edge with archaeological features dated to at least 4500 BC. We welcome volunteers on this project. If you would like to learn more about this project click here. To see the blog reports to date click on the bradford kaims in the tag cloud to the right of the screen.

The next fieldworking days will be Tuesday 10th (with possible further days this week depending on demand)Wednesday 18th, Saturday 21st (a possible seminar day TBC), Monday 23rd and Friday 27th of April. There will also be a specialist weekend – 17th to 20th of May – with Palaeo-environmentalist Richard Tipping and Geophysics team GSB.

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 undertaking a number of activities including, excavation, recording and coring. If you would like to volunteer please send an email to Graeme Young at graemeyoung@bamburghresearchproject.co.uk 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!

Getting 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.

Below are a number of photographs taken recently by one of our volunteers, Ruth Brewis.

Coring in the trench extension

New test trenches

Planning features for the site record

Gerry filming volunteers cleaning the trench

Cleaning the trench