A Day at the Kaims – Part 1

The following is a report from my day at the Kaims… it’s taken me a while to get it posted.

Last week, I heard Matt Ross was looking for coring volunteers. I’d never done coring before and knew very little about the process or it’s archaeological potential. Keen to try my hand at something new and archaeologically relevant, I decided to take a day off Environmental and escape to the Kaims. After a week of rain, we had a day of sunshine and almost-blue skies. It was amazing. In the morning, they even let me have a go at trowelling in the west extension of Trench 42—it’s been so long since I’ve done actual archaeology. (I may have been a bit overzealous and taken out a few more stones than necessary… sorry, Graham).

Walking down to the trenches at the Kaims

To begin, I was extremely impressed with the archaeology at the Kaims. I, along with the other new students, got a site tour from Jackie, the Kaims Assistant Supervisor, first thing in the morning.

The last time I was at the Kaims, was in June 2011. Trench 6 had been opened and expanded to reveal a large burning area, possible hearth, and post-hole. Victorian era drainage pipes were being found and excavated. And the whole area didn’t look like a bog, though I admit to having to stand in a few inches of water to attempt a section drawing.

This is what it looked like when excavation of the Kaims began in 2010.

What a typical trench at the Kaims used to look like – a 1 m x 2 m rectangle.

First Kaims Supervisor Joanne Kirton teaching students how to test pit

What we once thought was interesting archaeology

This is the Kaims now. That’s progress.

Part of Trench 42, originally 20 m x 2 m. (It continues both to the north and west off the photo).

Community diggers excavating Trench 6 in the off-season

The archaeological features that have appeared this season are enough to satisfy the appetite of all you prehistoric archaeologists–a burnt mound reminiscent of others found across the UK and Ireland and what was originally hoped was a cist burial.

Kaims Supervisor and Director standing at the edge of T42 – note the sharp boundary at the south edge of the burnt mound.

Recent theories as to origins/purpose of the burnt mound and surrounding area: cist burial , beer production site, fish drying site, tanning site, sweat lodge, cooking area.

An extension was made to the east of trench 42 to allow for a pit to be dug to explore the theory that the large worked stone that was uncovered in T42 might be a stone slab/head stone of a Bronze Age cist burial.

West extension of T42 – edge of burnt mound not yet uncovered

The extention has revealed one edge of the burnt-stones area, but as of yet, there is no compelling evidence of a burial in that direction. Could it possibly be under the stones to the west?

Sarah attempting to find the edge and base of the test pit in T42

When I was up there on Friday, Sarah Aguirre was continuing the excavation of the long, thin sondage/test pit in the east quadrant of T42—next to the stone slab. The work revealed a series of stones, but no burial as originally hoped.

Meanwhile, Eva Rankmore was excavating a pit feature in the northern part of the trench. As of yet, it’s unclear whether the pit is natural or man made, though the most recent (and mostly likely) theory is that it’s a tree throw.

Eva in her possible pit feature (the north part of T42)

Nearby, in the area to the SE of T42, students new to the Kaims were taught how to set up and excavate test pits in the hopes of uncovering the cluster of possible burials. As of today (Thurs. July 19), 10 new test pits have been put in, and nothing particularly archaeologically exciting had been uncovered. However, two of the test pits did reveal a continuation of the modern (Victorian era) drainage feature, evident—although the terracotta pipes had been removed at some point—in the south end of T42.

Opening test pits and new trenches at the Kaims

Other than excavating what I feel is some very promising/intriguing archaeological features, a number of interesting finds have also been found this season – A piece of prehistoric (Bronze Age?) ceramic. A beautiful little flint point (likely an arrowhead). A lot of what is believed to be un-worked jet.

BK12 (4209) <92> Prehistoric pottery (Bronze Age?)

Same piece of pottery in profile

BK12 (4202) <054> Flint blade

Same blade in profile

BK12 (4202) <048> Flint arrowhead

Same point in profie

BK12 (6020) <019> Raw jet?

That was somewhat my morning at the Kaims. I hope you enjoyed it. Tomorrow’s blog post will continue my insider’s view of a day at the Kaims, accompanied by a more technical explanation of the coring process provided by Matt Ross. A more detailed summary of this season’s work at the Kaims will also be forthcoming.

If any of you readers have any questions for the Kaim-anites about any of the archaeology or finds coming out, feel free to post to the blog or our facebook page. We’re more than happy to answer your questions to the best of our abilities.

Coming up – Part 2: Coring at the Kaims, with Matt Ross

Bradford Kaims: Week 1 and 2

Assistant supervisor, Jackie Scott, gives us an overview of the work on-going out at the Bradford Kaims, wetland site.

The first two weeks at the Kaims have been fairly slow going. The repeated assaults of the weather have regularly flooded the low lying parts of the T6 open area excavation and turned the rest to mud making excavation impossible at times. We have managed 5 days on site thus far and have started making the extensions to T6 that will allow us to excavate the ancient water channel between two of the former lakes.

Prepping Trench 6 for the first clean back

To date, much of our time at the Kaims has been occupied with test pitting on slightly higher, drier ground. This has been a new experience for most of the students and I am sure they have found it quite a change from the rather less heavy labour the castle excavations usually offer.

Beth’s beautiful test pit

Cattitude got a bit of trench fever!

As an extra treat most of the students have had the opportunity to try some coring in the fields around the site with volunteer Matthew Ross, who has been undertaking a number of new transects across the site.

Neal, Graham and myself have been extremely pleased with the progress that all the students who have ventured to the Kaims are making both in terms of their excavation technique and recording. We are also pleased by the fact that many have been extremely keen to spend extra time on the project. This is extremely gratifying.

Thanks for the photos Beth and Cat.

Field Work Opportunity at the Bradford Kaims Wetland Site

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.

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Volunteers coring for soil samples at the site.

Volunteers test pitting

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 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.

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.