A Day in Archaeology: the CBA’s Digital Festival of Archaeology

A Day in Archaeology twitter card people

Have you ever wondered what archaeologists really do?  Do they just dig or are there other aspects to their work? A Day in Archaeology showcases “a day in the life” of archaeologists from all over the UK. It also explores pathways into the profession and, this year, the impact of the C-19 pandemic on individuals and organisations. The day is part of the Council for British Archaeology’s ‘Festival of Archaeology‘ and one of our Director’s, Jo, happens to work for them, so she has put together a blog post focusing on her time with the BRP and the impact C-19 has had on the project.

You can read the blog here: Jo’s ‘A Day in Archaeology’ Blog 

Meet the Staff of the BRP 2012: Trench 3

Today we have our next installment from the blog thread covering the hopes of each staff member for the imminent 2012 dig season. To date we have heard from both onsite directors, Graeme and Gerry, the Bradford Kaims staff and Trench 1. Today we will hear from the Staff of Trench 3. Archaeology Supervisor, Jo Kirton (that’s me by the way!) and the assistant supervisor’s, Stephanie Rushe-Chapman and Maria Buczak.

Trench 3 being cleaned and recorded

Jo

To see the staff profile from last year click here

This year will be short one for me, as I will be leaving before the season ends as I have a small matter of a PhD to finish. Nevertheless, I have grand plans for my shortened stay. Firstly, I want to see the Hammerscale sampling finished so we can get at the SW corner and lift the probable metal-working building. This will allow us to bring that area of the trench down to the 8-9th century layers that proved so interesting in the adjacent areas last year. My other main aim is to figure out whether the large areas of burning are associated with the ‘porch’ feature, which has been evident for some time. They are positioned on the same alignment, so I suspect they form part of a large timber building with a stone entrance, which burnt down leaving only the burnt-out post holes or beams for us to find.

The stone entrance and area of burning to the south

My other main interest this year is making sure we continue to keep everyone updated through the blog, plus the Twitter and Facebook accounts. I will be handing this over at the end of June and I hope to be able to follow the dig when I am in the office or out in the field. Long live the blog!!!

However, my primary aim for this season is to make sure Joseph Tong does not win the quiz. If I (I say, I but I mean Graeme) can do this then I will leave a happy lady.

Steph

Steph came to the BRP  from the States last year and soon made it into the ranks of BRP staff.

Stephanie holding a large cauldron fragment

I am really excited to be returning for my second year with the BRP! I am especially curious to see what new developments will be found in Trench 3. There seems to be so much going on, and I’d like to get a better understanding and a better ‘mental image’ of how the various features within Trench 3 relate to one another. I spent most of last summer taking down the baulk and searching for Brian Hope-Taylor’s large burning area, so I am particularly interested in what new discoveries will be unearthed in this area of Trench 3 and how they will match up with Hope-Taylor’s excavation notes.

On a more personal note, I am looking forward to spending another summer with such a great group of people—to be reuniting with friends and making new ones! I am finally officially finished with my PhD coursework at Missouri (yea!), so I also have a personal goal of doing a little academic reading each day in preparation for my comprehensive exams that will take place this autumn (yuck). But, there will still be plenty of time for fun!

See you all soon!
Stephanie

Maria

Maria is a new member of staff this year, having proved her metal at both the Kaims and the castle digs.

Maria sieving for finds at the Kaims

Like everyone else, I can’t wait to get back out to the castle and start digging again this year! I’m really looking forward to seeing what else will come out of Trench 3 – especially after the great results from previous seasons’ hammerscale sampling and, of course, Constance’s amazing gold find! It would also be great to try and test some of the theories people have come up with for this complicated, but very exciting, trench!

The social side of the project also promises to be just as fun as the last two years I have been at Bamburgh! Really can’t wait for the weekly BBQs, multi-weekly pub visits, impromptu football matches and, of course, to see what our amazingly creative forging team will be able to come up with this year!

The dig starts on Monday 4th, so expect a steady stream of blog entries and live tweeting from the trench edge. Hopefully we will have plenty of archaeology and antics to please everyone.

Excavation Season 2012: Project Director’s Overview

Here at the BRP we are beginning to gear up for our annual training excavation at Bamburgh Castle and its environs, commencing June 3rd. Over the next few weeks we will hearing from staff about their hopes for the season. To kick start the blog thread Project Director, Gerry Twomey, tells us about his plans for the Media output this year.

Gerry’s Thoughts: Media 2012

Over the course of the year we have been looking into ways the project can develop it’s education potential. We have recently been accepted as one of the few independent non university providers of content to Apple’s iTunes U store, so we will be spending time over the season developing that site and creating content for future courses that we hope to make available to students as part of the BRP experience.

The popularity of Jo’s blog has led us to take a new approach to the project videography, with a view to producing more regular short on site video updates in addition to our long term project video record.

Gerry capturing the dig as it happens.

We’re gradually moving away from tape based media to SD and CF card formats which is a big change for us as we will soon no longer be generating a physical video archive.  The advantage is lossless high quality files that are easily labelled during capture, but they take up a great deal of disk space so we’ve decided to cross convert them to our standard HDV file formats. One of the problems BRP faces in the near future is the effective management of its digital data archives, which mainly comes down to the expense of large hard drives and their backups. Ultimately, our archives will need to be ingested into appropriate county archives. This season, we will begin to digitise the remainder of the tape archive that has previously not been digitised, with the aim of creating a master archive of the project video.

We’re hoping that more schools and volunteers will take up the media challenge to edit stills and video from the Kaims, and we will be hosting sessions for volunteers to have a go at crafting narratives from the existing footage, and video they generate themselves (To see an example of previous volunteer work click here). I’m also excited to be going up to the University of Stirling in the next few weeks to film the lab work associated with the coring that Richard Tipping and our volunteers have been doing recently. Click here to see the coring in the field.

The seemingly endless post-production of our feature length documentary about the Hope Taylor excavations is now roughly complete, pending narration and music recording. We hope to make the film available in the near future, at conferences and festivals, with a commercial release as the ultimate aim. This has been a labour of love for a long time and very many people have contributed to it over the years. It is to be hoped we will have a premiere in Newcastle before the 2013 season.

More to follow as the season draws near.

BRP staff and their own projects

The current blog thread, which explores projects set up by BRP staff and students, will today take a look at an imminent survey project exploring a site of early medieval sculpture on the Wirral. This is a joint project run by MA student, Dean Paton, from Oxford University and myself, Jo Kirton.

My current research explores early medieval stone sculpture within its landscape context and as such, I have been exploring Cheshire’s sculptural assemblage in a variety of ways. For example, using topographic and geophysical survey, I have been seeking out any evidence for associated archaeology around these ambiguous monuments.

The Bromborough Project

Tomorrow, Dean, myself and several volunteers will be undertaking geophysical survey around St Barnabas Church in Bromborough, on the Wirral. At this site a large quantity of early medieval sculpture was unearthed in the 19th century, only for it to go missing in the 1930’s.

All that survives of the Bromborough sculpture group.

Furthermore, no structures have yet been unearthed that would explain why such a high concentration of early medieval sculpture was found at the site. We hope, through an exploration of the area in which they were recovered, to identify associated archaeology. An initial investigation of the site, through aerial photography and on site exploration, indicate that we do have earthworks in the area and a potential curving boundary. These will be our targets over the next few days.

Dean Paton demonstrating the geophysical survey equipment we will be using at Bromborough.

On Thursday we will be discussing the technique of survey and the history of Bromborough with the local school and both the Bromborough and Eastham history societies. If you are interested in following our work over the next couple of days we will be tweeting live as the project progresses and creating a short video of our experience as a record of our time at Bromborough. To follow us on twitter search for the #BromArch hashtag. @brparchaeology @projecteliseg and @arch4schools will all be tweeting updates and photographs.

Fingers crossed we find something!

If any past and present students or staff at the project would like to discuss their own research and how the BRP has helped them on their way, please email on 0198449@chester.ac.uk

Update on Gold Assemblage from Trench 3, Bamburgh Castle

Last week the Bamburgh Research Project was lucky enough to have a visit from Early Medieval gold filigree expert, Dr Niamh Whitfield.

Dr Whitfield visited the castle to look at the gold first hand and share her thoughts on the five pieces unearthed to date with Project Directors, Graeme Young and Gerry Twomey, plus myself, Jo Kirton.

Dr Whitfield measuring the dimensions of the various gold pieces in the museum

Gerry and myself taking photographs of the cleaned gold pieces in their museum case

Dr Whitfield was able to demonstrate through comparable archaeological material that the pieces that we have found at Bamburgh are typical of the 7th-8th century. For example, the famous Bamburgh Beast, unearthed by Brian Hope-Taylor in the 1970’s, has strong comparisons with objects from the Staffordshire hoard and images from the Book of Durrow.

The most recent gold find from the West Ward excavations at Bamburgh Castle

Reverse of the gold filigree object

The most recent piece of gold to be discovered at the castle (see above) has decorative techniques that appear on many examples of decorative gold work from this period, particularly the border patterns. However, it was noted that the swirling pattern is less regular than other known pieces including another example of gold filigree decoration unearthed in Trench 3 (see the picture below). However, the shape of the object – a half moon – was harder to place and requires further research to suggest a provenance for the mounting.

Gold filigree decoration found in previous seasons

The piece below appears to be missing its centre mount, which Dr Whitfield believes would have been coloured glass. Again the form was hard to place but it does look comparable to the centre of some brooches.

Gold fitting missing a probable coloured glass centre.

Dr Whitfield intends to return to the project over the summer, so she can examine the gold under a microscope, which may provide further insight into the manufacturing techniques and the decorative design. It will also give us the opportunity to show her the trench in which these objects were discovered and who knows, we may have more to show her!

Staff Profile

Today you get to hear from me, the voice of the blog.

Me

Name: Joanne Kirton

Position: Trench 3 supervisor

Responsibilities at the project? My primary responsibilities at the project revolve around the day-to-day running of Trench 3. Trench 3 consists of the areas excavated by Brain Hope-Taylor in the 70’s and the BRP trench opened in 2002, the aim of which was to marry-up the stratigraphy in both trenches thus affording us some insight into the unpublished Hope-Taylor archives. I direct the excavation and recording process within the trench and teach the skills of excavation and recording to the many students who pass through the project every year. My other primary role revolves around communicating the projects progress via the internet, i.e. maintaining the twitter and facebook accounts, writing the blog and cajoling others into contributing.

 How did you get involved with the project? I first came to Bamburgh in 2005 as part of my undergraduate degree at Durham. Since then I seem to have been something of a jack of all trades, working as a finds assistant in 2007, the chapel supervisor in 2008, the Bradford Kaims supervisor in 2010 and now the T3 supervisor. I was also involved in the design and production of the Anglo-Saxon throne simulation that now sits in the grounds of Bamburgh Castle. https://bamburghresearchproject.wordpress.com/2010/07/16/anglo-saxon-stone-chair-in-progress/

What do you do out of the season? Out of season I am currently in the second year of my PhD at Chester, exploring the early medieval monumental landscapes of the North West. This research focuses on the use of biograpy, memory and agency as tools that shape the physical and cognitive landscape. I also work as a visiting lecturer and demonstrator for the universities History and Archaeology department. Finally, I am currently involved in editing a book and writing a number of articles for publication.

Hopes for the rest of the season? By the end of the season I hope to have brought some of the more neglected areas in Trench 3 (Hope-Taylors baulk A, the NW and NE corners) to contemporaneous levels with the rest of the trench. Hopefully we will finish the Hammerscale sampling so this can be sent for analysis in the off-season. One of the major aims is to sure-up some of the section sides which have begun to de-stabilise due to the changeable weather we have had this season.

Anything you would like to add? I have had a fabulous season so far, mainly due to the hard work and banter from staff and students alike. Long may it last.

Anglo-Saxon Stone Chair in Progress!

This week we’ve been working in partnership with Bamburgh Castle and Channel 4’s Time Team to produce a reproduction of an Anglo-Saxon stone chair.  The reconstruction in based on a carved stone fragment that was found in the castle grounds in the nineteenth century, and is currently on display in the castle’s archaeology room. The stone fragment is thought to date from c. 800AD. BRP Archaeology Supervisor Jo Kirton, currently studying towards a PhD based on Anglo-Saxon stone sculpture, researched likely decoration and composed a design for the chair based on this rough 9th century date. You’ll be able to find out more about this design process, and about what we’ve learned from undertaking this project in an article that will be available later in the year – we’ll let you know when a publication date has been set! We’d also like to thank Professor Rosemary Cramp for her invaluable input in the last few weeks.

Kevin Lawson cuts the stone slabs into shape - this piece now forms one of the arm pieces of the chair.

The original stone fragment is a medium-grained yellow sandstone; the stone used in the reconstruction has been sourced locally and matched closely to the original. Our sincere thanks go out to Hutton Stone for their time and help in acquiring the stone in time for this project to take place!