Diggers' Diaries: On site at Bradford Kaims
A team of archaeologists from the Bamburgh Research Project are working on a mind-blowing prehistoric site in Northumberland this summer. And on Sunday 2nd July they were joined by two brand-new diggers!
Teddy Potter and Sophie Johnston were two of the three winners of the Dig It! with YAC competition to spend a day as part of the archaeological team.
(Unfortunately the third winner, Joseph Kirkland, had to pull out of the dig day due to unforeseen circumstances; he will be having his day on site at a later date.)
A tour of the site
The Bradford Kaims site, near the village of Lucker in north Northumberland, sits on the edge of a hill where the clay meets a peat fen. It was a perfect place for prehistoric people to live because there was a good source of water and a habitat where wildlife flourished. Teddy and Sophie began their day with a tour of the site. They learnt about the Mesolithic (middle Stone Age), Neolithic (new Stone Age) and Bronze Age people who lived there.
The main evidence for these prehistoric peoples is from burnt mounds, which are large dumps of fire-cracked stones used to heat water in an age before pottery was widely used. The stones were heated in a fire, and were then added to water placed in wooden containers. The heat from the stones heated the water. Both the hot water and the steam were used for a variety of things: cooking, washing, saunas etc. The size of the burnt mounds, some over 10m in diameter, suggests that there could have been many people living in the area, and for a long period of time. The burnt mounds are also associated with wooden platforms, made from huge piles of brushwood, staked into the peat, which were placed alongside the mounds. Their use is still being debated and investigated by the archaeologists, but they explained that the preservation in the wetland is amazing and that artefacts and features that usually decay on an archaeological site do survive, due to the wet conditions.
The archaeologists explained to Teddy and Sophie that their dating evidence for the site comes from flint and pottery, but that they also have radiocarbon dates, which place the site around 3000 to 4500 BC (up to 6,500 years ago!).
Time to get working!
Sophie and Teddy were both given amazing haversacks packed with archaeological tools including their own trowels. The haversacks were kindly provided by YAC's friends at archaeological tool suppliers, Past Horizons. Armed with their new tools, it was time to get to work!
Teddy and Sophie spent some time digging in the trenches, and were also involved in taking soil samples to find out more about the layers of soil on the site.
Our winning young archaeologists were a fabulous addition to the dig team... they even found a new burnt mound for the archaeologists to investigate!!
The best thing about the day was doing the digging in the trench. My best find of the day was a piece of flint that hadn't been worked on. I also found a lot of charcoal and sandstone. If I had to describe my day in five words I would say fun, exciting, new, interesting and satisfying!
You can read more about what Sophie enjoyed about her day on site at Bradford Kaims in her blog post.
The most interesting thing that I learnt was that they use geophysics, and my best find was definitely the burnt mound! I'd describe my day as exciting, fun, educational, muddy and dirty!
Huge thanks to all the team from the Bamburgh Research Project for making our winning young archaeologists so welcome on site, and for helping them to get their hands dirty doing real archaeology.
And thanks too to the fabulous Past Horizons for donating the winners' tools; they have already been put to good use and will be a great memento of a superb day on site. Who knows what Teddy and Sophie will find next with their Past Horizons tools?!
There's still time to enter one of our 2017 Dig It! with YAC competitions. We're looking for three budding archaeologists aged between 8 and 16 to join the We Dig the Castle team from Trent & Peak Archaeology on site at Nottingham Castle on Saturday 5th August. Find out how to enter NOW!