Week 4 in Trench 3, Bamburgh Castle

Last week’s main focus was on the north-east corner of Trench 3, as we were investigating the possibility that the area is in fact a Romano-British occupation layer. Questions have been raised recently about whether our previous identification of the area, as currently dating to around the 9th Century (believed so due to the beam-slot cut of our 9th Century Anglo-Saxon timber building) no longer holds, due to a large number of Roman finds appearing both this season and ones previously. This is not typically a cause for reinterpretation as artefacts from earlier periods do appear from time to time in negative features, such as pits and post-holes, but these were also appearing in normal stratigraphic layers. These finds include a section of a Roman glass bracelet, both Roman greyware and Samian pottery and, from a previous season, a Roman fibulae brooch.

 

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Part of the collection of Roman finds from the NE area of the trench.

 

To add to our current mystery, this area is cut by a number of negative features, which is making this puzzle all the more exciting to figure out. We have discovered a 9th century timber beam slot, an anglo-saxon post-hole, a high medieval pit and another possible anglo-saxon pit all in this corner. It is also difficult to see a relationship between the dated areas of the trench and this corner because there is a large WW1 test latrine pit isolating it on one side, it goes into our trench edges on two more, and finally it backs onto a higher portion of bedrock on the last. Finally towards the end of the week a stone linear feature was seen in the section of the beamslot and so work began to investigate it, which led to us reaching bedrock around 0.35m below our current level. This could give an explanation for why this area was occupied before the areas with lower bedrock levels, however more investigation is needed before we rule out any other theories.

 

 

Pre-Season Excavation Round-Up

Jo Kirton gives us a round up of the pre-season excavation at the Castle site:

Over the past week the BRP welcomed 10 students and 2 of their lecturers from the Catholic University of America (CUA), to the project and the excavations within the West Ward of Bamburgh Castle.

Some of the CUA group and BRP staff celebrating Graeme's birthday

Some of the CUA group and BRP staff celebrating Graeme’s birthday

Thanks to the enthusiasm of the students and staff and a little luck with the weather, we had a really productive week.

After the usual site introductions the CUA group quickly removed the tarps that had been protecting Trench 3 and set about cleaning the trench from head to toe. As is normally the case with the initial clean-up, we found a number of finds, such as styca coins, Samian Ware pottery and a fair few Fe blobs.

Cleaning!!!

Cleaning!!!

Abby with her Samian pottery rim

Abby with her Samian pottery rim

Burnt wood and Iron from one of the beam slots and Abby with her Samian Ware find

Burnt wood and Iron from one of the beam slots

Throughout the week students were taught how to plan and section draw, use the Total Station and levelling kit, process small and bulk finds, and use the siraff tank for processing environmental samples.

Casey, Abbey and Michael tackle one of the section drawings for the southern beam slot

Casey, Abbey and Michael tackle one of the section drawings for the southern beam slot

The archaeology was pretty exciting this week and the students needed all their newly acquired skills to excavate and record what we found.

The elusive southern beam slot for the probable tenth century building was picked up in three sections, which gave us a pretty good idea of the size of the building. This also meant lots of section drawings and planning!

The southern beam slot became apparent in the sections of the southern latrine pit

The southern beam slot became apparent in the sections of the southern latrine pit

On the final day we were able to excavate what we think are parts of the western and eastern beam slots in the NW and NE corners respectively. The excavation of the eastern beam slot went as expected and we found the next surface, which is beginning to appear in various areas of the trench. The western beam slot whilst quite clear, raised questions about its association with the mortared surface, which it abuts – this needs further investigation but should prove pivotal for understanding the NW corner of the trench.

Chris and Alexandra excavating the western beam slot.....or is it????

Chris and Alexandra excavating the western beam slot…..or is it????

Dr Kopar, Marielle and Casey excavating the eastern beam slot with Ass Sup, Joe Tong.

Dr Kopar, Marielle and Casey excavating the eastern beam slot with Ass Sup, Joe Tong.

We also took the opportunity to remove several features from the SE corner of the trench around the ninth century metalworking building, which has been evident for several seasons. We were able to remove several external features, such as the flagged surface just outside one of the entrances, packing stones around the ‘doughnut’ shaped stone, which may have served as a drain and the hearth packing stones that sit between the metalworking building and the southern latrine pit.

Goodbye flagstones!

A hive of activity!

As part of the excavation of all these features the CUA group were able to complete cut and deposit sheets and learn how to take and record environmental samples.

As well as working in the trench, our visitors were able to tour the interior of the Castle, visit the locations of the Chapel and Bowl Hole excavations, make a trip to St Aidans in the village and head out to Lindisfarne. They are now touring significant Northumbrian sites in the North East, such as Hexham, York, Durham and Jarrow. We hope they have fun and learn a little along the way!

Hexham Abbey from the seventh century cript steps

Hexham Abbey from the seventh century cript steps

The main dig season starts Monday 2nd of June. We will have all the latest on the excavations at the Castle and the prehistoric wetlands site out at the Bradford Kaims.