Sunday, February 27, 2011

Excavating History at Bamburgh

Bamburgh is a small, picturesque village on the Northumberland coast of the United Kingdom, unique in its beauty and its history. The village is overlooked by a stunning medieval fortress that is iconic in the region. The citadel was the royal seat of the kings of Northumbria, who at one time ruled a kingdom that stretched from the River Humber to the Firth of Forth. Three were recognized as overlords of all Britain. The site has been pivotal throughout the history of the British Isles, and is -- remarkably -- still inhabited today.

The Site

The Bamburgh Research Project has been excavating at Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland, UK since 1996. The present castle is one of the most stunning locations in the UK, with an extensive archaeological legacy. The archaeology excavations are set within the castle walls in the West Ward, and we are excavating through 4 metres of stratified deposits that are the result of occupation on the site from as early as the Neolithic (and likely Mesolithic).

The archaeology excavations are now increasingly exciting, as excavators are approaching the 9th Century levels relating to the castle's heyday as a principal Anglo Saxon Palace and fortress of the Kings of Northumbria. The excavations have recently produced a large hoard of Anglo Saxon coins, known as Styccas, a great deal of assorted metalwork including gold mounts and horse harness fittings, spokeshaves, knives, Seaxes, a shield boss, chain-mail and evidence of intense metalworking on site, in addition to other craft activities such as weaving, bone-working and leather. They have even revealed a 'gin gang' mortar mixer, and evidence of stone-built buildings and timber structures. The castle at this period was a very busy place and the archaeology reflects it, with complex deep stratigraphy and large numbers of finds from all periods, including Roman material brought up from lower levels by large medieval pits.

The site has been featured on many TV programs, including a recent episode of 'Time Team'. The project staff also run their own media unit, recording the site through video and editing content during the season.

They also run a new site nearby, which is a wetland excavation - exploring a peat bog that began forming in the post-glacial period. There are many sites in the vicinity that have never been excavated, and they aim to explore some of those this summer. They began excavating the prehistoric lake edge last summer and have revealed an interesting flagstone feature associated with a great deal of charred material and Neolithic Flint Tools. A recent Archaeo-Mag date has placed this feature at 4500BC, which if correct, makes it a rather important and intriguing discovery. They will be stripping the area around this feature during the summer to see if they can uncover associated features or sites.

The Field School

Students who participate in the project will have the opportunity to dig at both the castle and the wetland sites (depending on the length of their stay). This field school is open to all students and volunteers. The professional staff provides training in all aspects of practical fieldwork techniques including excavation, drawing, photography, site recording, survey, post excavation analysis, databasing, sampling and environmental processing, artefact recognition and processing, and site interpretation. The site is run by professional field archaeologists who will work directly with participants in the trenches. The school runs between 6th June to 31st July in 2011. Price £160 per week plus £35 camping fee per week.

Students book using the online booking form on the ‘Get Involved’ section of our website.

The project is open to ANYONE - as full training will be provided. For more details please apply online using our website:

Dig for a Day – this is available to members of the public who want to experience the excavation but don’t have time to spend more than a day or so on site – email for more info or to purchase gift certificates that can be used during the excavation.

For more interesting topics related to archaeology, visit archaeology excavations.

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