Trench One, Week Four Update – Bamburgh Castle


This week in Trench One we starting digging the test pit which we discussed in our last blog post. During excavations we identified a feature running east to west which showed as a dark patch running across the sondage with 4-5 vertically standing stones within it.



Test Pit A.


Also uncovered were at least two areas of burning which may possibly be related to the early timber palisade defence wall of the castle, but the evidence is currently inconclusive.

Excavations have revealed a grey patch, a pit dug on the robber trench, closer to the south edge of the trench, which is filled with rocks. It can be seen in section on the east wall of the test pit.



Test Pit A – facing St Oswalds Gate.


A second sondage was dug (measuring approximately 20x40cm and 60-70cm deep) in order to see if we could reach the bedrock and determine the depth of the natural boulder clay. This extent has not yet been reached.

The plan for the next couple of weeks is to identify 2-3 areas of interest to dig small sondages through to the bedrock. Digging out the whole trench would take far too long and too much effort when targeted depth investigations will suffice.

On a side note, the kiln has very nearly been completed and only one more layer remains within the kiln.


Bamburgh Castle, Trench One Update.

Welcome to this Trench One update!

Test pit A (as mentioned in the week 1 interview video) has now been set up and we’ll keep you posted as progress continues.



Test Pit A extending north-south across the width of Trench One.


We found the construction cut for the 12th/13th Century curtain wall and it contained a number of pottery sherds, mostly green glaze. It was also the source of the ‘mystery’ clay circular objects which we tweeted last week. One possible explanation of them was bungs scored into unfired ceramics which then popped out during the firing process.


Clay obj tweet photo

Unidentified clay objects. Any thoughts?


Underneath the rubble foundation of the curtain wall we have an earlier (possibly 8th/9th Century) masonry block with adhered mortar associated with two others, which may have been used as the  backing corner of the kiln.

Last week in Trench One the kiln was sampled as planned. It looks like it was damaged and/or broken with use quickly discontinued – there is grain still in situ in large quantities, and the upper fill layer appears to be a ‘demolition’ context with extensive CBM fragments from the body of the kiln. In the video below Sam Serrano, Trench 1 Assistant Supervisor discusses the kiln and its excavation in more detail.


Work has also continued excavating half-sections in various small features, post-holes and pits to help add to the stratigraphic sequence and story of Trench One.


Beautiful floor surface in trench one

While half-sectioning what we thought was a large pit feature we uncovered part of a highly organized stone floor surface. It would be extreme to call it mosaic, but the stones are small and arranged carefully. Floor surfaces such as this are not uncommon in the later medieval deposits in trench 1, but we have never run across one associated with an anglo-saxon context.


Since then we have uncovered more of the floor and sampled the soil above for dating evidence, such as seeds and bone. The surface is cut by several small pits and post holes, which although damaging to our floor surface can provide a better understanding of the stratigraphy of the site.


Harry and Chris working in trench one

Saying goodbye to the pivot stone in Trench one

The excitement of the week has been the lifting of the pivot stone (the reused quern stone), as we have removed the last of our occupation layer. The soil around it looks like there are interesting deposits still to excavate.

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In other trench news, we are removing a floor surface that has been untouched for quite a long time. During this, we came across two new features: an ash deposit and a pit feature full of many giant stones, which requires a great amount of patience for our students to dig.

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Also we’re investigating a feature cutting our boulder pit. So far it appears to be rather small but seems to have interesting relationships with our timber slot building.

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Uncovering Trench One and a Giant Post Pit

Constance, Supervisor of Trench 1, and assistant Clare, give us an update:

We’ve had a busy month in Trench 1 investigating a series of possible guard houses. We have finally excavated to a low enough level that we are able to uncover the rest of Trench 1 that has been under tarp for the last three years. Now that the whole trench is revealed we’ve started the major task of cleaning. The first order of business will be cleaning the fill from the old sandbag wall which has eroded into our sections.


Success as we take away the last dirt from our tarp. You can see the eroding sandbags in the background.

We’ve also worked on a post hole that is cutting one side of our stone building. We thought it was going to be fairly simple but instead of normal packing stones we ended up with an enormous dolorite boulder which made the excavation process more difficult than expected!


Isabelle going the distance to find the edges of the post hole in what I like to call Trench-Planking

Since breaking it up with a sledgehammer wasn’t practical we decided that the best solution was to roll it. Now that it is out of our way we can finish excavating this interesting feature. To see more about this post pit watch this short video:

A Prince, An Octocopter, and Many Hands: Wrapping up with “This Week in Photos”

So we’ve finished wrapping up the 2012 season. In order to commemorate the final push, I thought we might have our second ever BRP “This Week in Photos”.

Graeme and Gerry with HRH Prince Charles on the beach below Bamburgh Castle

It was a rather eventful week, with a Tuesday visit from HRH Prince Charles to Bamburgh Village, a spectacular introduction to archaeological aerial photography from an octocopter on Wednesday, and the closing down of the trenches at both the Bradford Kaims and the castle from Thurday to Saturday.

Frantically cleaning Trench 3

Everyone lending a hand

On Thursday, students and staff alike got down on hands and knees (literally) to clean the trenches for our visit from our A.P. Horizons Friends, Paddy and Jack.

A.P. Horizons Boys Paddy and Jack

Even Finds Supervisor Kirstie was (forcibly) lured out of the windmill to make sure Trench 3 was spic-and-span for the octocopter’s aerial photographs.

All our ducks in a row… cleaning S to N in T3. Admire the clean lines in the rather dry trench

While I’m reluctant to admit it, in case I jinx it, the beautiful weather we’ve been having the past week has made the task infinitely more difficult.

Bone dry soil in T1 making cleaning difficult

A view of the E trench wall in T1 (now stone-walled) and the bone-dry soil










T1 in particular was complaining of bone-dry soil, making it both near impossible to clean properly, as well as very difficult to differentiate between contexts. The students were able to take some final levels and complete the end-of-season trench plan.

Planning Trench 1 is a group effort

Taking a few final levels before tarping over Trench 1

Matthew and Amin taking levels at T1











Despite the complaints, both Trenches were clean by the time Paddy and Jack showed up at 5 pm with the illustrious octocopter. As they set up near Trench 1, we all gathered on the castle walls to observe the show.

A view of T1 and the octocopter from the windmill walls

Watching from the wall

I don’t think I’ve seen us all so united in our excitement this entire season. If only we’d had popcorn…

Supervisor Alex and Directors Graeme and Gerry gather round … to get a real-time birds-eye-view of the trenches

After a tour over T1, the boys set up at T3 to repeat the process.  They finished up the evening with a flyover above Bamburgh Castle. I can’t wait to see the shots.

Jack piloting the octocopter

Approaching T3









Friday was the last full day of work at the castle for most of us. Trench 1 was tarped and stone-walled along the E section wall. Trench 3 finished planning the SE corner and tarped over it.

Taking down the N quadrant in the NW corner of T3

While some students continued to excavate the N and S quadrants of the NW corner, others worked on planning the NE section of T3. Supervisors from both T3 and T1 frantically worked on closing contexts and writing up context sheets and end-of-year summary reports.

Short-term T1 Ass-Sup Constance drawing up a final plan of T1

Finds Supervisors Jeff and Kirstie finished box-indexing and cataloguing the day’s finds.

Kirstie and Jeff sorting finds

Once lost finds, re-discovered in a cleaning of the Keep

And only with the wonderful and much needed help of some of the BRP students did I survive the day and manage to accomplish most of what I set out to do for environmental.*

Nat flotting 2010 and 2012 Kaims samples

* A special shout out to Sarah, Liam, Natalie, and Americ who helped sort samples, record heavy discard, clean out the flot tank, and any number of other enviro things I asked them to do. Without their help, my role as environmental supervisor might have finally turned me “mental”. Thanks, guys!

A somewhat-sane me, taking a brief pause from the environmental to peek at T1 and listen in on Lauren’s trench tours

We were all hard-pressed to find a spare moment even for tea between taking down the mess tent, washing dishes and duckboards, and doing post-excavation odds-and-ends. Full-season BRP-er Lauren did manage to squeeze in a final tour of the trenches for the public, however.

Lauren engrosses the public in tales of T1 and the adventures of it’s archaeologists

I tagged along for the first time this year and was surprised and delighted to learn things about the start of the project, Brian Hope Taylor’s hoard of records and finds, and the caslte’s dynamic history that I never knew. Lauren’s interest and wealth of knowledge provided an exciting glimpse into the archaeology of Bamburgh Castle, that even I, a long-time BRP-er enjoyed immensely. Thanks Lauren!

Loyal BRP-ers ensure “The Moose” is preserved for posterity

A very warm shout-out to all this season’s staff, volunteers, and students! We couldn’t have accomplished as much as we did without all your hard work and enthusiasm. So, thank you!

The sun sets over the BRP

Finally, while the trenches have been tarped over or back-filled and the windmill locked up, the archaeology continues (albeit in a somewhat more limited form). We’ve got more posts to come in the following weeks and months. Closing up the Kaims. BRP Bloopers. Bamburgh Beast Body Art. Publications. How-to Archaeology. And so much more.

So, don’t disappear, blog-followers. You might miss something interesting. 😉

Trench One, signing off.

Trench 1 Dictators (pardon me… supervisors) Alex and Jess

Good god, it’s almost at the end of another season in T1. This year has been one of the most challenging I can remember, with the weather not only making the archaeology more difficult, but also turning the campsite into a swamp!I think it’s fair to say that I had hoped to get more done this year than we actually did. BUT (and it’s a but that justifies its capital letters), the work we did manage to do has been pretty important, and answers a number of questions we had about the trench (I think we’ll skip the questions it’s raised for now!).

Constance supervising work in T1

From the beginning of the season, our main objective has been to better understand the timber and stone buildings in the trench, how they interact with other and the rest of the trench. In this respect, I think we’ve succeeded, despite the now notorious ability of T1 to throw in anomalous features at every possible opportunity.

Contemplating the confusing archaeology of Trench 1

For example, to determine which of our main buildings came first, stone or timber, we wanted to excavate in the NE corner of the trench where the two intersect, to see which building was cutting the other. However, after the first trench clean of the season, it became clear that there was a large pit, cut straight through this relationship.Grrrr.

Amy excavating the unfortunately placed pit

Thankfully, there was enough of the two buildings left in the pit edges for us to pretty much say for sure that the timber building comes first.

We’ve also just finished excavating the slot for the SE wall of the timber building. At least until it’s cut by another feature. Which is also cutting the rubble foundations for another building. Of course.

Supervisor Alex and students excavating the slot for the SE wall of the timber building

With the end of the season fast approaching, our work will be focused on the excavation of a sondage along the whole eastern edge of the trench, allowing us to construct a drystone wall to keep the section intact over the winter.

Liam cleaning along the east wall of the trench.

Sue cleaning the ditch(1316) in the middle of T1. (Note the partial stone wall in the background, which we aim to continue)

Finally, a whole trench plan and, weather permitting, an aerial trench photograph from our friends at Horizon AP.

And that’ll  be us done for another season. We’ve had a great bunch of students, some fascinating archaeology and a family of kestrels now calls T1 home. It’s been a good year, let’s face it.  A massive thank you to T1 Ass-sup Jess for doing an amazing job this year, and as always to the students who make T1 the people’s republic that it is.

Trench 1 Uniform. T-shirts are for sale.

All Hail Trench One!

Introducing… JESSICA GARRATT!!!

Another installment in “Staff Profiles”, meeting your favorite BRP people.

Jessica Garratt

Responsibilities at the project: The best way to describe my job is to assist Alex, the Trench 1 supervisor, in running the trench and teaching students about archaeology. Assistant only to a certain degree. (I am not his personal tea lady).

T1 Assistant Supervisor Jess

How did you get involved with the project?

I first came to the project last season, as I was required to complete 10 weeks of fieldwork for one of my university degree courses. I heard about the project from fellow students and thought it would be great to get my mits on medieval archaeology as this area is not taught in depth at my university. It’s great to be learning about a different culture through remains.

What has your experience with the BRP been like?

I have gained fantastic experiences from BRP seasons (both from BRP’11 and BRP’12 so far). Last season, when I was a student, I found the tuition to be of a high level. I learned absolutely loads, from one-on-ones with supervisors to overcoming my blonde moments! This year, returning as an assistant supervisor, I am doing my best to teach students in the trench. Hopefully, I am teaching correctly. It would be nice to see them leave the BRP with new skills, knowledge, and good memories.I am learning a lot from the trench supervisor. In particular, I’m getting a more in-depth idea of a supervisor’s perspective of archaeology , and it’s fab to be seeing things from this new level.

Jess hard at work

Out of the trench and in my spare time, I get the chance to meet and chill with people from here, there, and everywhere. When not at work, I do everythingfromsitting around the mess tent and chatting, to mini adventures like battling the North sea at midnight, to climbing up the quarry or saving a seal puppy with Kirstie, the finds supervisor (long story). This season’s students and staff are a great laugh, and I am glad to be spending my summer with them.

Hopes for the rest of the season?

I hope the rest of the season is all smooth sailing, especially anything I am responsible for!

Smooth sailing! – Rainy day antics with Alex and Jess

Personally, I want to get to grips with my staff position and gain confidence in teaching students and sussing out the archaeology that’s coming up in Trench 1. It’s looking pretty complex at the moment, but it’s a great challenge. I would also like to get myself down to the Kaims at some point. I miss it and want to see what’s occurring!

Anything you would like to add?

If anything goes wrong, it wasn’t me.

Next up… Jeffrey Aldrich, Finds Assistant Supervisor

This Week in Photos

Spending more and more time holed up in the windmill, databasing and doing other environmental odd’s and ends, I’ve come to appreciate the re-introduction to the trenches and interesting finds that Friday Trench Tours provide. In order to stay apprised of the going-on’s (and to appease my archaeological cravings), I’ve taken to accosting my fellow supervisors for updates and explanations of new features, intriguing finds, and general archaeological musings, on a semi-regular basis. Since most of you readers don’t have that option, I thought you might appreciate a taste of what Friday (and the preceeding week) offers our volunteers and staff. On that note, I present our first ever “This Week in Photos”:

ENVIRONMENTAL (an oft-neglected aspect of BRP archaeology, and never a part of trench tours)


Some of the specimens in the Trench 7 flotation residue.

This is very exciting for me, since I’ve been working towards this goal since last season. Thanks to all those people who helped me with the endless flotting, sorting, and discarding of the BC08 Chapel Samples.

Lally and Jani sorting the last Trench 7 sample.

We’ve also been working our way through BC12 and BC11 samples in order to free up sample buckets for use in the trenches. The greedy people keep wanting to do important environmental archaeology, filling up my freshly washed sample buckets faster than I can flot them.Alex, Jess, and Trench 1 kindly filled a wheel barrel FULL of sample bags for me this week.

Lauren and Anne flotting a very clay-ey sample.

The flot tank at work.

Flotting of BC12 T3 (400) and (401) and BC12 T1 (206) and (207) all revealed somewhat unusual samples… stones, bone, and shell galore. Looks like cobbled paths and post-hole fill are the trending contexts this week. It will be interesting to see what the sorts reveal.

Flot and environmental samples drying in the sun.


Greetings from Steph and Maria, the Trench 3 Assistant Supervisors! Despite the loss of our supervisor and beloved leader this week (Jo, we miss you!), we have tried to plough ahead as usual, and have certainly been rewarded with some interesting developments.

Media (“T”) filming progress in T3.

In the South of the trench, we’ve exposed more of our strange ‘doughnut’ stone and the packing stones around it, as well as excavating and sampling a pit nearby.

1387: “Doughnut stone”

The ‘doughnut’ stone may be a drain associated with the nearby metalworking structure. The relationship of the nearby pit and surrounding shell deposit with the structure is as yet unknown, but they may also be related. Shell is indeed a raw material used in some metalworking processes (e.g. cupullation)

Jessica G. and Victoria planning the SE corner of T3.

Danielle and Harry planning the SW quadrant of the SE corner of T3.

After cleaning, photographing and planning the southern half of the trench, we turned our attention to the north which has received less attention so far this season.

What we have affectionately termed the T3 “Sexy Section”.

Originally believed to be earlier in date, lines in section are now suggesting that this higher end may actually still be later than the south, so we started off with a big clean to expose the contexts hidden by the recent heavy rain!

Cleaning in the NW Corner of T3.

Kelly excavating in the NW corner of T3. The appearance of unusual clay and shell deposits suggest a possible floor.

Considering the few contexts visible in the Northern part of Trench 3 at the end of last season, this week has proved surprisingly fruitful! An interesting burning(?) feature apparently associated with a strange triangular spread of rocks and pebbles has already appeared…

Left-centre – Linear scatter of large pebbles; Bottom right corner – Strange triangular spread of rocks and pebbles.

.as has what appears to be a linear of bluish grey soil containing a pebble scatter.

Contexts were proving particularly hard to distinguish in the NW corner, so we have started digging by quadrant in this area.

Tyler excavating the east quadrant of the NW corner.

This involves splitting the area into four quadrants and digging two of the four down. This will expose 4 sections which will hopefully provide greater clarity and aid us in our interpretation as we excavate this complex area down. 


T1 students trying to look busy.

Over in Trench 1, the main effort has been on finding the return of the timber building and the robbed out stone building. After pulling back the tarp in the old trench to reveal where the walls were heading, we popped two sondages into the area of the trench we have been working in. One sondage was placed in the SE corner, revealing a cut cut by another cut.

Sondage in SE corner of T1, and patches of boulder clay coming through.

The other sondage was placed in a possible pit in the NE area.

Sondage in NE corner of T1.

Judging by what we could see in the old part of the trench, the timber and the stone building both cut the pit. We are still in the process of excavating the pit, so we don’t yet know whether our theory holds. We’ll let you know the results soon!

T1 Supervisor Alex tidying the NE corner for a photograph.

Stay classy bloggers 😉  — Jessica


Finds Assistant Supervisor Jeff and Supervisor Kirstie caught on camera in the AsSup’s office.

Finds update to follow later this week…

BRP Trench Update

The BRP has been battling the changeable weather over the past few weeks but we continue to work hard in the trenches and enjoy our free time.

In both Trench 1 and 3 we have finally finished the ‘big clean’ and taken numerous trench shots. Planning is continuing apace and should be finished in both trenches today if the tornado hovering over the trenches decides to leave us alone for long enough.

Cleaning the metal-working building for a photo.

In Trench 3 the hammerscale sampling has been finished after 3 years. To see what this entails please click here. Over the next week or so we will undertake the removal of the metal-working building that has proved so interesting and the environmental sampling of our hearth feature. We expect lots of interesting finds from this area, which we will display here.

Trench 1 will continue to explore the multiple features that cut and re-cut the robber trench in the NE corner of the trench, whilst exploring the new stone building that has emerged in the SE corner. Buildings galore!

Trench 1 hard at work

On an evening we have been quizzing and venturing to the pub, plus a quids in for the football. (Come on Spain!!!!).

Intense quizzing

Jeffers throwing darts at unsuspecting pub goers. Megan loves it!