The Bradford Kaimes are located in North Northumberland in England, less than forty kilometres from the Scottish Border. It’s surrounded by an extensive wetland that formed in the Late Glacial period and was a large lake system throughout the Holocene. Many sites are known in this region, from Mesolithic and Neolithic scatters, to Bronze Age cairns and votive deposits, Iron Age hillforts and Medieval villages – there’s certainly a lot to this landscape.
The Bradford Kaimes Project, running concurrently with the Bamburgh 2010 season, seeks to survey a fprmer lake area, and to undertake exploratory excavations of sites from different periods. The project has been undertaken in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh, with Postdoctoral Fellow Kristian Pedersen leading the team on site alongside the BRP’s Archaeology Supervisor Jo Kirton. Work started earlier this week and has been progressing steadily.
Yesterday, I visited the site for the first time and was given the tour by the staff and students based there.
As with most of the local area, the walk to the excavation site from the drop-off point by Hoppen Hall Farm offers some fantastic Northumberland scenery:
On the way to the Bradford Kaims.
The Kaims site, with the East Coast Main Line close by.
While very pretty, the heat of the afternoon made the walk a sticky one – I certainly didn’t envy the people who were digging there all day!
Trench 1 at the Bradford Kaims, showing a geological sequence.
The first trench put into the Kaims has offered a geological sequence, but no finds or features. The Kaimes excavation is finds-poor – it’s a big contrast to the Castle site, which is finds wealthy.
Sarah Nichol and Mathias Jensen explain what they've been doing in Trench 2
Trench 2 reaches the natural water table of the area. There are some features in this trench, and after some deliberation, we think it likely that these are related to Victorian pipe work – Sarah uncovered a fragment believed to be piping as she began to dig the feature you can see below:
Sarah Nichol indicating the feature thought to relate to Victorian pipe work.
Again, as work continues, we’ll be revisiting this interpretation.
Scholarship Student Alex Stevens explains the features of Trench 3 to me.
Trench 3 was opened further down the slope from Trench 1, closer to the railway line. There is a feature in the trench, though we’re not certain what it may be yet!
Alex points out the detail of the feature in Trench 3
You can just about make out the feature in the photo above: on the right of the trench above there is a lighter patch of ground. This is a white clay material, which is likely geological. Adjacent to this is a compact area of light brown clay, which is also thought to be geological (the white clay may be intruding upwards through the brown clay layer).
Cut into this light brown clay is a roughly semi-circular feature – this is visible above as the darker patch indicated by Alex’s trowel. The material is dark brown silty clay with charcoal inclusions. Within this feature is a further, secondary cut which has a very different compaction.
The charcoal inclusions in the primary cut lead us to believe that the feature may be man made, given that charcoal very rarely occurs naturally. However, we’re not sure what the feature actually is; suggestions thus far include a sheep burial and a rubbish pit associated with the construction of the nearby railway. The secondary cut may even be a result of bioturbation, by either tree/plant roots or burrowing animals. We’ve had no finds from this trench yet, so we’ll keep working and hope that a clearer picture emerges as we dig down!
I left the staff and students of the Kaimes taking a break in the sunshine just as I returned to site:
Taking a well-deserved break in the afternoon.
There’ll be more news from the Bradford Kaimes over the next few days – if you’d like to make sure you get all the latest news and discoveries, you can subscribe to the BRP blog by clicking on the box to the right of your screen.