Trench 6 Update – Bradford Kaims

 

Trench 6 remains our largest and longest running trench to date at the Bradford Kaims. Each new context we uncover adds to the complexity and variety of information about prehistoric human activity in the area. Here, we highlight just two of the exciting features currently under excavation.

 

THE TROUGH

Over the past couple of weeks, we have uncovered our wooden trough in the northwest corner of the trench. After two years of sitting under tarp, the trough has now been fully excavated and cleaned, with its contents removed down to a beautiful clay base. The trough is made of a hollowed out oak tree and fills with crystal clear water, so may have been used as a well; however, within its fill, fire cracked stones have been found which means that this water was probably being heated.

 

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The trough being fully excavated after half-sectioning.

 

BUILDING A

Earlier in the season we uncovered a suspiciously rectangular-shaped dark fill in the northern side of Trench 6. Upon beginning excavation last week we found a series of four large postholes down one side as well as postholes in each corner. We believe that the colossal postholes suggest that this structure was a building. Lying within the structure is an oblong patch of burnt material, which could possibly be a fire pit. From this pit, we have removed a large pointed post, which could have been one of the posts supporting the structure.

Bradford Kaims – Trench 14 Update

Trench 14 is actually a combination of two earlier trenches: 8 & 11. 

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Trench 14 and the stone feature within it.

Trench 8

Trench 8 was opened in 2013 and contained an artificial mound comprised of larger stones (30-45 cm in diameter) underneath a layer of smaller stones (4-10 cm in diameter). 

A quarter section was dug out to determine the depth of the mound, and we discovered a thin layer of peat under which lay a brushwood platform. As the season ended, we backfilled the quarter section and left it to future investigations.

Trench 11

Trench 11 was opened in 2015 in an attempt to further understand the stone mound feature by examining the surrounding area, as well as determining if any relationship existed between Trench 8 and the western end of Trench 9 – where a large post was discovered in situ at the end of season 2015. 

A paleochannel with layers of sand and brushwood was discovered at the southern end, which was less than a metre from the north end of Trench 8. One side of the channel edge looked like it may have been cut intentionally though further investigations are required to determine if that was the case. 

Also within the trench, we discovered over 10 pieces of wood around 6 cm wide & ranging from a half metre to one metre in length lying within the peat layer. Two had potential cuts in them, giving us an indication that at least a couple of them were used by early humans. 

So far this season…

We have expanded Trench 14 to include both Trenches 8 and 11, and are in the process of expanding the quarter section to give us a fresh understanding of the stratigraphy of the artificial stone mound and the brushwood platform lying under the peat layer. We also plan to expand the trench into the western edge of Trench 11 to understand if a relationship between 8, 9, 11 and 14 exists. Our plans are to extend into the palaeochannel to determine if it was cut intentionally and to excavate at least partially into the edge of the peat layer to discover if more worked wood exists. 

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.

 

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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.

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.

Kaims: End of 2015 season round up and a few words about 2016 from Paul Gething.

We’re approaching the end of our evaluation phase here at the Kaims. My intention was to assess how much archaeology is here, what condition it is in and how we can best approach excavating, interrogating, recording and protecting it. 2016 will probably be our last season of evaluation, in anticipation of full excavation in the future – funding permitting. An interim report should be out within the next 18 months.

In a nutshell, there is a vast amount of amazing wetland archaeology here and we have a truly world-class site spanning from Bronze Age back to Mesolithic. Surrounding the wetlands are an array of sites from all periods that we haven’t even begun to explore. The preservation is breath-taking and the sheer amount of features and artefacts is almost overwhelming.

Kaims North

This area was run by Tom Gardner. His team consisted of Alex Wood and Sophie Black who were backed up by a small army of students, community volunteers and young archaeologists. New additions to the team for this year are Rachel Brewer, Rachel Moss and Anna Finneran.

Trench 6

The platform interaction with the burnt mounds has opened up nicely. We’re beginning to see relationships and there seems to be many phases to both platform and mound which overlie each other. It’s going to be a complicated problem unpicking the relationships, but it provides us with the opportunity to do the most in-depth analysis of a burnt mound sequence undertaken anywhere. Tom has started his PhD looking into the micro-stratigraphy and I’m looking forward to seeing the results.

We have totally excavated through the burnt mound sequence in places and there are many complex features beneath, showing occupation and industrial activity from the Neolithic.

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Pit feature beneath Burnt Mounds in T6.

Trench 10

Trench 10 sits close to Trench 6 and was positioned to look at the prehistoric platform. We intended to identify how deep it is and what materials it is made up of. This has been achieved via a mix of excavation and coring by Dr Richard Tipping of Stirling University. Richard has been at the Kaims often, working long hours to gather the data to interpret the platform. At over 3m deep, heavily stratified, and over 15m wide, it really is vast and very complex.

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Trench 10 near end of season showing worked wood in abundance.

Kaims South

This area was being run by Graham Dixon. He had Becky Brummet, Tom Lally and Franzi Leja working with him. They too have had students, community volunteers and young archaeologists. Graham has now moved on to the Castle excavations and we welcome Ian Boyd and Charlotte Kerwin to the team.

Trench 9

T9 has yielded some excellent stratigraphy too. I thought we would be able to finish this trench in 2015, but I hadn’t counted on the complexity of the archaeology. The trench runs from a Neolithic land surface down into a lake edge where the organic preservation is fantastic. We’re still getting out well preserved stakes and timbers. There are literally hundreds of stake holes and planning them has been a mission. We only excavate a percentage of them, but it’s still a big task. Hopefully 2016 will provide enough information from Trench 9 for a meaningful report.

We also found a circular structure, approx. 2m in diameter. After a lot of discussion, I’m starting to think it might be a sweat lodge, similar to the ones seen in North American First Nation sites. The nearby hearth and proximity of water edge are very compelling.

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Circular structure associated with a hearth and masses of stake holes.

Trench 11

This trench is a sister trench to T9. The sheer amount of well-preserved wood is quite frightening. Much of it is worked and we have only opened a very small area. There are hints of trackways running back towards the burnt mounds, or possible sweat lodge sites, but it is much too early for any meaningful interpretation. We’re setting up hypotheses and then knocking them down, one by one.

There is also the suggestion of a paleo-channel in there too, almost certainly containing lots of wood, pollen and macrofossils.

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Trench 11 with well-preserved wood and a sand topped paleo-channel.

Experimental Archaeology

In 2015 we did a lot of experimental archaeology. We brewed beer 6 times, baked almost edible bread, worked flint tools and made tools from bone, all using prehistoric technology. Arguably the greatest success came from the woodworking. We used wooden wedges to split logs and were able to make a functioning copy of the paddle found in 2013 using just wooden wedges and a stone axe. We aim to continue this in 2016.

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Barbara and Tom splitting a log with bone and wood tools.

Community

The thing I’m most pleased with from 2015 is the community volunteers. We had 113 community volunteers on site across the season, aided by a grant from the Northumberland County Council Community Chest. We originally intended to run less than 90 person days but we were very oversubscribed, and managed to not turn anyone away. Our team of community volunteers all came from the local area and remain a dedicated and enthusiastic crew. They turn up in all weathers and I didn’t hear a single moan from anyone. They really are a pleasure to have on site and contribute massively to the excavation and general on site atmosphere. A heartfelt thankyou to everyone who volunteered last summer and we look forward to working with you again this year.

Young Archaeologist

As a part of the community engagement we also had young archaeologists on site in 2015; more than 20 in total. Their appetite for archaeology is infectious and we loved having them on site. We will definitely be having community volunteers and young archaeologists this season. They add a huge amount to the Kaims and the wider BRP.

Final thoughts…..

It’s a new season. That came horribly quickly, but we achieved a huge amount in 2015, a good deal more than I thought possible. Largely down to the hard work of a thoroughly dedicated team. Every year archaeologists gather from all over the World to come and live in Belford and dig at the Kaims. We have a truly multicultural staff and they perform miracles with limited resources. 2016 promises to be another fantastic season. The weather is good, the site is dry and we are looking forward to some hard work.

 

My thanks to everyone who helped make 2015 a brilliant season and a welcome to everyone who plans to help out in 2016.

PAG

 

If you are local and want to come and get some hands on experience then contact me at gething1966@gmail.com to book a place on one of our Community days. We are open to Community volunteers on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday throughout June and July.

If you want to come and dig for longer, at either the Castle or the Kaims, places can be booked through the BRP website.

www.bamburghresearchproject.co.uk

Dr. Richard Tipping visits the Bradford Kaims

On Tuesday of this week, Dr. Richard Tipping of Stirling University came to advise us on the site. He’s worked for years with the project upon the paleoenvironment and geomorphology of the landscape surrounding the Bradford Kaims. The intention of his visit was to begin to properly marry the archaeological investigation done by ourselves, with his analysis of the environment and landscape.

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We learned some new things about the site as a result of this, most prominently that the lacustrine system flowing through Embleton’s Bog on site never really had sufficient power to form a river. The water collected in a lake to the south and then percolated through the peat or moved in small streamlets to the north through the area around trench six.

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Panoramic of the landscape

This has implications for the archaeology in terms of the availability of resources, and for our interpretations of features such as the wooden platform in Trench six, which could now be interpreted as an access platform across the peat filled channel.

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Students from the Alnwick Lindisfarne Middle School visit the Kaims

Last Thursday the Bradford Kaims Project received a special visit from the Alnwick Lindisfarne Middle School. The year 8’s from the school were treated to a site visit to see the current excavation and also took the opportunity to get there hands a little dirty themselves. This was all part of a day trip that included a visit to the Grace Darling Museum and Bamburgh Beach for a sandcastle competition.

Tom showing some students the timber platform that Hugh is cleaning.

Tom Gardner showing some students the timber platform that Hugh is cleaning.

On the walk to the site, staff members explained the background to our work and were able to show them how the site fits within its wider landscape. At the excavation they were shown a substantial burnt mound complex (our Trench 6) that lies on the edge of the former lake, now filed with peat. Here in addition to the mounds we have been able to reveal an ancient timber platform, dating back some 6000 years. Later they were invited to get their hands dirty, joining team members Tom Lally and Mathias Jensen in lifting a peat core.

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Students gather around Tom Lally and Tom Gardner to examine the peat core.

The students cored deep into the peat, revealing stratigraphic layers of deposits, while also finding prehistoric preserved wood that may well indicate that our platform is pretty extensive. Deeper still evidence of the prehistoric lake bed emerged, in the form of silty sediment. We very much enjoyed the visit from the Alnwick Lindisfarne Middle School and hope they enjoyed their time here too. If you would like to find out more about the school please check out their website:

http://www.lindisfarne.northumberland.sch.uk/

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Year 8 students core into the trench

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Burnt Offerings: A further article on Bradford Kaims

Tom Gardner, one of our Project Supervisors at the Bradford Kaims site, has written a short article for Past Horizons. You can read the article at the link below:

http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/05/2014/burnt-offerings-the-bradford-kaims-project

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