Induction Bookings for volunteers are now open!

If you are interested in volunteering on the Lyminge Archaeological Project, you will need to book an induction session if you haven’t attended one in previous seasons. After having attended an induction you can come back as often or as little as you like! Click here for all the details or type the link in the poster below into your browser.

Student bursary applications are also now open with a deadline of 4th April 2014 and you can find all the information you need here.

We look forward to seeing new students and volunteers in the summer! The dig starts on the 21st July and runs until 31st August 2014.

We are now taking induction bookings!

We are now taking induction bookings!

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Professor Nicholas Brooks

Professor Nicholas Brooks at Lyminge in 2013

Professor Nicholas Brooks at Lyminge in 2013

We are extremely sad to convey the news that Professor Nicholas Brooks, a key member of the Lyminge Archaeological Project steering committee, passed away after an operation on the 2nd February 2014.

Nicholas was Emeritus Professor at the University of Birmingham, having joined the university as Professor of Medieval History in 1985. He was the Dean of the Faculty of Arts from 1992-5, Associate Dean from 1996-7, and was a Fellow of the British Academy and continued to research into Anglo-Saxon history well into his retirement. His publications are extremely numerous and much of his work from the 1960s onwards is considered debate-changing and key texts in Anglo-Saxon studies. His recent publication of the Christ Church Canterbury charters (2013) with Susan Kelly is a vitally important contribution to charter studies and the history and archaeology of Anglo-Saxon Kent.

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Nicholas speaks to the Lyminge volunteers on his visit to the dig in 2013

Nicholas was extremely supportive of our project, and visited almost every single year of its life, from the earliest digs in 2008. His detailed knowledge of the history of the Anglo-Saxon Monastery at Lyminge was invaluable, and he always delighted in giving

Nicholas joined us for the day in 2013 and helped excavate SFB 7 with student Adrianna from the University of Kent.

Nicholas joined us for the day in 2013 and helped excavate SFB 7 with student Adrianna from the University of Kent.

impromptu lectures to our students and volunteers on site which were universally enjoyed. He always joined in with the digging when he visited, and was on site at some very significant moments, in particular the discovery of the Lyminge plough coulter. He even got stuck in on one of the hottest days that we experienced in 2013, and was particularly thrilled to find Saxon vessel glass in a sunken-featured building.

His contributions to our steering committee meetings were always incredibly valuable, with pertinent questions and points that we hadn’t considered, and it was clear from our correspondance that he really looked forward to coming all the way to Reading from Birmingham to hear about the progress the project was making.

He will be sorely missed by the Lyminge team both for his incredible knowledge of the period and for his genial friendship and unwavering support of our endeavours.

 

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A Lyminge project winter round-up: Post-ex, publications, press, education and website additions!

Two-page news spread in British Archaeology magazine announcing our initial results from the 2013 season

Two-page news spread in British Archaeology magazine announcing our initial results from the 2013 season

Our work carries on while we aren’t digging, and indeed there’s lots to talk about! Some of you will have seen bits and pieces in the press, or heard about things through the grapevine, but as we approach Christmas I thought it would be a good idea to do a bit of a round up of what has been happening since we backfilled the trench and put away the tools for another year. Tayne Field looks rather quiet now! This is what the dig looked like after all the infrastructure was removed and the backfilling was completed:

One week after we packed up after the dig, the backfilling was finished and reseeding begun

One week after we packed up at the end of the dig, the backfilling was finished and reseeding begun (photo by William Laing)

The grass is now growing back well, and the fencing is still up to make sure that it doesn’t get too damaged before its first mow.

The fencing is still up to make sure the new grass gets a good chance to thrive

The fencing is still up to make sure the new grass gets a good chance to thrive (photo by William Laing)

It’s important to look after the new grass so that we don’t have to do too much damage control later on. Here we are (see right) with the new grass looking a little overgrown, but this is all so that it looks like it’s been there forever when it’s finally mown.

During the rest of the year we don’t rest on our laurels! On top of thinking about organising the next dig, writing articles, and giving lectures and talks, there is lots of post-excavation work to do, making doubly sure that all the records made in the summer’s digging season are accurate, filed in the right place, and that nothing is missing from the plans. Simon then gets going with inputting our records into the IADB.

Julia is volunteering on the project for three months and we are so impressed with her hard work and dedication!

Julia is volunteering on the project for three months and we are so impressed with her hard work and dedication!

This year we are thrilled to have an extra volunteer on the project! Julia Ippendorf is a Masters student in archaeology at the University of Freiburg, Germany, who is volunteering with us for three months as part of her degree. This is wonderful, as it means that we can do all those extra things with our database that we haven’t yet found the time for in our busy schedules – things such as inputting all the finds data right back from our first open area excavations in 2008. Julia is also getting lots of experience archiving and all the post-excavation processes involved in digitising archaeological records. We’re extremely grateful to Julia for all her hardwork.

Don’t forget that even though uploading and digitising all our records to the IADB is still very much ongoing, anyone can access and look at the records that are in the database. Just go to the main page of the project website, have a look at the PDF for instructions, and log in as a guest using ‘guest’ as both username and password! You can then bring up plans and records from 2008-2012, and we will soon have 2013 up there too.

Some of you will have noticed that Lyminge was in the press in the past few weeks! We always try to have a press release to get news out about the dig, and this year we were able to focus in on the wonderful bone gaming piece found by metal-detectorist and volunteer David Holman in a wall trench towards the end of the excavation.

BBC news article showcasing the gaming piece discovered this summer 2013

BBC news article showcasing the gaming piece discovered this summer 2013

Of course, if you are a regular reader of the blog or volunteer on the project, you get to find out this sort of news right away. Yours truly blogged about our exciting find just after the dig ended! We were thrilled that both the BBC and the Guardian newspaper took up the story, as this encourages other sites and papers to get involved, as well as proving our own excitement about the dig.  Gabor was invited to speak on BBC Berkshire Radio and you can listen to him talk about the gaming piece and the excavations in a podcast for the ‘Voice of Russia‘ website. You can find links to all our press on the press page of the website, as long as it is online and it stays up in perpetuity.

Those who follow the project on Facebook or Twitter will have seen the video made for us by Steve Thomas, Lyminge resident and professional documentary maker. Steve was filming us all summer so that we can add video and audio to the excavation archive and he was kind enough to produce the short film below as a taste of what went on at Lyminge this summer (with thanks to Sarah Lucas at the University of Reading for adding the branding). It’s great to have yet another medium with which to record what goes on at Lyminge, as well as a fantastic look into what we do for those who can’t get to the dig.

 

The LYM13 photo gallery is now up!

The LYM13 photo gallery is now up!

As if all that wasn’t enough, we’ve also updated the website to include information on the 2013 season! You can now find a photo gallery entry for 2013 with a selection of photos from the excavations as well as some of the finds. If these just aren’t enough for your Lyminge dig fix, you can find many more photos of the dig as it unfolded if you make your way back through the blog.

The 2013 digging season is now up on the excavations page

The 2013 digging season is now up on the excavations page

There is also now an entry on the excavations page  about the LYM13 season, rounding up what we found and how we are interpreting it at this initial stage. Of course as more information comes through from post-ex and through ongoing analysis we will certainly keep it updated and keep you posted!

Andy shows the Lyminge primary school children the skull of a deer

Andy shows the Lyminge primary school children the skull of a deer (Photo (c) Andy Macintosh with permission from Lyminge Primary School)

In October Andy Macintosh, one of the site supervisors at Lyminge who come to us from Canterbury Archaeological Trust, visited Lyminge Primary Schol as part of their themed day about Royalty. This was, of course, the perfect theme to incorporate what has been going on in their very own village! Lyminge historically has direct links to the Kings of Kent in the Anglo-Saxon period, and our excavations support this through the very high-status nature of our finds. Many of the children visited the dig in the school holidays, so they were able to learn even more about the history of their own village and incorporate it with the fun of dressing up and getting to see exciting objects close up.

The children had the chance to see brooches held at Maidstone museum but excavated in the 1950s in Lyminge

The children had the chance to see brooches held at Maidstone museum but excavated in the 1950s in Lyminge (Photo (c) Andy Macintosh with permission from Lyminge Primary School)

The square-headed brooch that Andy is holding in the photo above is a very significant find, but actually not a find made by the project! In the 1950s, an Anglo-Saxon cemetery was excavated just north of the village, and among other things garnet-inlaid brooches were discovered. More information on the cemetery excavation, including photographs of a range of objects and the burials themselves, can be found here.

It is very likely that the people buried in the Lyminge Saxon cemetery were those that lived in the settlement we have been excavating on Tayne Field. These very high-status finds are held at Maidstone Museum, and belong to the Kent Archaeological Society. Our links with KAS and CAT mean that they could be brought to the school, which is a fantastic thing to be able to do, and something the children really enjoyed.

There is lots more I could tell you but that’s probably enough for now! We do certainly hope you’ll keep following the blog and have a look around the website for lots more information. Our travelling exhibition is in fact still in Dover, but has been moved to Dover Library over Christmas and into the New Year, so you should be able to catch if you haven’t already. Don’t forget that in the New Year we’ll start letting you know about how to get involved in 2014 and keep you posted of about what’s happening with the project.

A very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from everyone at the Lyminge Archaeological Project!

 

 

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New project publications!

The Lyminge project team are happy to announce the arrival of two key publications – one academic and the other aimed at a public audience – off the back of another highly successful excavation season in summer 2013. The first, by Project Director, Dr Gabor Thomas, published in the current volume of the Antiquaries Journal, provides a detailed synthesis of excavations between 2008 to 2012. The paper assesses and contextualises the results in a chronological framework emphasising Lyminge’s capacity to provide new insights into how the founding of monasteries in Anglo-Saxon England redefined a pre-existing stratum of central places embedded in the power structures of the pagan past.

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The second article, by Project Post-Doctoral Research Assistant, Dr Alexandra Knox, has just appeared in the latest edition of Current Archaeology magazine. While revealing more details concerning the remarkable Anglo-Saxon feasting hall discovered in 2012, the article also takes the opportunity to highlight the community dimension of the Lyminge project and key discoveries dating from the prehistoric and medieval periods.

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An end of dig round up

It has been a few weeks since the end of the dig and lots has happened, indeed we’ve been so busy I haven’t had time to blog! At last things have settled down and I am able to give you a round up of the final discoveries of the Lyminge excavations 2013. Gabor stayed an extra week with Andy Macintosh and a couple of volunteers to get the trench completely finished while I returned to the department to deal with the more mundane administrative things required to run an excavation that had been stacking up! We had more archaeology in this trench than we’ve ever encountered before at Lyminge, so it really was down to the wire. We had an absolute deadline, too, as Gabor and I were off to Germany to a conference on the Saturday following the official end of the dig.

Gabor thanks students and volunteers for their amazing help this season

Gabor thanks students and volunteers for their amazing help this season

Everyone piles in to the wonderful spread - huge thanks to all the amazing people who baked for the hungry diggers!

Everyone piles in to the wonderful spread – huge thanks to all the amazing people who baked for the hungry diggers!

But first, to more important things! On the last Friday of the dig it is now traditional to thank our volunteers, particularly those who have gone the extra mile, and to eat rather a lot of cake. Our wonderful volunteers rustle up some amazing goodies and we certainly all piled in!

This last little ‘hurrah’ on the dig is especially to thank people like Keith Parfitt and Andy Macintosh, who come to us from Canterbury Archaeological Trust, but who both give up lots of their free time for the dig too. We have some volunteers who spend nearly every single digging day with us, so we took the opportunity to thank them too, people like Les, Peter and Richard, John and Frances Locke, and volunteers who help with very specific and important things, like Rosemary and John Piddock who took fantastsic photographs of our small finds, and Bill Laing who came with his helicopter drone to take aerial shots as often as he could – it was suprisingly windy this summer! There are so many people to thank that it’s hard to keep up! Our finds washing team were fantastic, as ever, with so many that we know well from five seasons of digging.

Some of our dedicated finds washing volunteers - many of whom also brought cake on the last Friday of the dig!

Some of our dedicated finds washing volunteers – many of whom also brought cake on the last Friday of the dig!

But what of the archaeology? By the end of the extra 7th week of the dig, we had the ‘camera on a pole’ man, Peter, come from Hawkeye Elevated Photography to take photos. He has an extremely tall telescopic pole that extends from his Land Rover to take wonderful photos from above, and we end up with fantastic pictures like this:

A view of the 2013 trench facing south-west.

A view of the 2013 trench facing south-west.

As you can see from the photo, not only did the weather hold out, but a huge amount of archaeology was completed this year. Three timber hall buildings were 100% excavated, as well two sunken-featured buildings, three very large and unsual early Saxon pits and the corner of a fourth timber hall in the extension trench. This doesn’t include dealing with the archaeology from a range of other periods that we had to record and draw just as carefully.

Unusual features popped up too in the last week – the partition wall that we discovered in the largest timber hall that had the enormous doorway pits turned out also to have a huge pit across the threshold. We’re still working out why this might be, as usually partition walls would not need to so structurally dramatic. You can see in this fantastic photo that we have another huge doorway pit actually inside the final timber hall – the shadow gives away the depth.

An aerial shot of the whole trench, taken from the East using a telescopic rig on a land rover, visible in shadow (Hawkeye Elevated Photography)

An aerial shot of the whole trench, taken from the East using a telescopic rig on a land rover, visible in shadow. The large partition wall doorway pit is visible in the easternmost building in the foreground. (Photo by Hawkeye Elevated Photography)

Helicopter drone photogrpah of the site on the 1st September 2013. Click to enlarge. (photo by William Laing)

Helicopter drone photogrpah of the site on the 1st September 2013. Click to enlarge. (photo by William Laing)

If you compare to the aerial shot (right) that local resident William Laing took using a helicopter drone on the final ‘official’ day of the dig, you can see how much progress was made by Gabor and Andy in the last, very necessary, extra week of the dig.

If you’ve been following the blog you’ll remember that we discovered the corner of a particularly large timber hall in our ‘extension’ of the main trench, on the left (west) of the photo above right. Careful excavation of this area revealed something that we believe is unprecedented in the excavation of Anglo-Saxon hall buildings. In cleaning back a portion of the wall trench we revealed more of rows of wall planks that were placed within the wall trenches on construction of the buldings.

A section of wall trench excavated to reveal the settings of the rotted timber planks that formed the walls.

A section of wall trench excavated to reveal the settings of the rotted timber planks that formed the walls.

The next photo below shows the planks excavated, and you can see really well what an interesting and significant find this is.

The planks 'ghosts' have been excavated and here you can see three rows of planks

The planks ‘ghosts’ have been excavated and here you can see three rows of planks

The photo above shows three rows of planks – one double paired row and a third row of slightly larger and offset planks, all set in to the same wall trench. Further on (to the east) are two large round post holes. This is a really exciting find as so far we are not aware of any Anglo-Saxon buildings with this construction method. Additionally, you can see on the left up against the baulk, that there are very large external raking post settings packed with flints and other stones. We may be talking about a very substantial building here, and something to continue investigating next year!

There were also some really fascinating finds in the days of the dig. One of the most exciting was the discovery by David Holman, who helps us metal detect the site and who knows everything there is to know about coinage in Britain. He was in fact excavating, (rather than detecting!) a portion of wall trench in the complicated area where all the buildings intersect, and he discovered this wonderful bone and copper alloy gaming piece.

A composite bone and copper alloy gaming piece found in a wall trench.

A composite bone and copper alloy gaming piece found in a wall trench.

This little object is of great significance. While gaming pieces are known from the Anglo-Saxon period, this particular form is unusual. It is made of several pieces of bone held together by a central copper alloy rivet or pin, a ‘composite’ type.  The only other parallels for this style of gaming piece in the British Isles are found in the princely burial at Taplow, Buckinghamshire. The Taplow burial contained such items as beautiful metal fittings from drinking horns, glass claw beakers and a gold and garnet buckle, artefacts on a similar level of richness to those at Sutton Hoo. Taplow has been dated to the very early 7th century (click the links to see images and descriptions on the British Museum website).

All of this detail shows us how Lyminge fits in with this incredibly high status suite of sites. Surprisingly, it is Italian Langobardic contexts that provide the best parallels to this gaming piece, and it has been suggested that these gaming pieces are coming via similar trade routes to those of the Byzantine bronze bowls that are found in wealthy elite graves of 7th century.

A selection of the high quality glass we found this season at Lyminge

A selection of the high quality glass we found this season at Lyminge

Our collection of glass certainly supports our understanding of Lyminge as a high status settlement! We ended the season with well over 100 fragments of glass, of a whole selection of types. Here above are just a few, proving that the vessels that are found in graves were not just for show and were certainly being used in every day feasting situations.

Finally, some of you may have heard about us moving the travelling exhibition that accompanies the digs to Dover Museum! Gabor and I set up the exhibition panels in the museum on Monday, and we were lucky enough to be featured on BBC South East Today last night (1st October 2013, 22 minutes in), as well as on the BBC News website. Have a click on the links to see the reports.

Part of the web slide show on the BBC news website

Part of the web gallery on the BBC news website – click the picture to go to the slideshow.

We have been able to install objects to go with the panels, and the exhibit is right next to the Anglo-Saxon galleries so you can see a range of Anglo-Saxon finds local to Lyminge and Dover.

Part of our display at Dover Museum - you'll have to visit to see the rest!

Part of our display at Dover Museum – you’ll have to visit to see the rest!

There is lots more to digest from this summer, and once we have begun that process in earnest I can bring you more news. As usual I will be updating the blog throughout the year whenever we have something exciting to tell you about the project, so keep checking back to find out more about the exciting finds on Tayne Field!

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The final few days

Massive progress made in the trench this week

Massive progress made in the trench this week

The last week of the dig has seen some exciting archaeology emerge and yet more re-interpretations of building phasing as we try to get to the bottom of the sequence of timber halls and SFBs in the trench. This update is certainly necessary before the end of the dig this weekend!

The photo above shows a beautiful, almost cloudless sunny day – and that is certainly what we have this week. Last weekend was another story! Those of you living in Kent, or indeed in the South East, will have experienced the torrential downpours that washed us all out on Saturday. While we’ve been hankering after a spot of rain to make digging easier, we didn’t anticipate quite the monsoon that we got. In places, we had two feet of water in our features, and four days later there is still a small puddle in the bottom of the western door pit of Building 1!

Torrential rain on site - you can see the water rising in the Saxo-Norman ditches in the foreground

Torrential rain on site – you can see the water rising in the Saxo-Norman ditches in the foreground

Features full of rain water - and this was only after about an hour!

Features full of rain water – and this was only after about an hour of rain!

We knew it would rain, so changed the day off to the Saturday. Staff went up to sort things out on site and see if any work could be done. For a couple of hours it drizzled and all was well, but the rain struck and there was nothing else for it but to run for cover! We de-camped to the pub as soon as we could get all the equipment in and make sure the site was ok.

Gabor enjoys the wet weather

Gabor enjoys the wet weather

Gabor’s boots were so muddy he caved and went for the professorial staple of socks and sandals for the first time!

In fact, we didn’t lose a day at all and in the end the rain really helped to bring out the differences in colour on site. As a result we can now say that there are three timber halls in the main part of the trench, two of which share a south end wall and cut through SFB 6, providing us with a nice sequence. Only one of these halls would have been standing at a time. The third hall, the largest with the rectangular door post pits, appears to be the last in the sequence, but we need to disentangle corner to the east of SFB 6 where all the halls are cutting one another to confirm this.

Peter excavates the north east corner of Timber Building 1, which has the largest door post pits.

Peter excavates the north east corner of Timber Building 1, which has the largest door post pits. To the left of the foreground is SFB 7.

You can see from the photo below how complicated the sequence is! SFB 6 is cut here by three walls, one of which is a partition wall. For the uninitiated this will look rather complicated, particularly as the SFB was excavated in quadrants. The areas of red daub are SFB backfill, while the longer wall trenches have been fully excavated in two quadrants, but are still visible as lighter ‘stripes’ in the unexavated quadrants.

Three wall trenches cutting SFB 6

Three wall trenches cutting SFB 6 – taken from the west

Two east-west walls and a north-south wall trench cutting through SFB 6

Zoe plans the two east-west walls and a north-south wall trench cutting through SFB 6. The chalky area in the middle is the natural chalk bedrock bottom of the SFB.

The dark rectangular stain on the left of the wall trench is the 'ghost' of a timber plank that was once placed in the trench to form part of the end wall to a timber hall

The dark rectangular stain on the left of the wall trench is the ‘ghost’ of a timber plank that was once placed in the trench to form part of the end wall to a timber hall

The photo on the right here shows the ‘ghost’ of a timber plank – where the wooden upright plank used to be before it was removed on the abandonment of the hall. We are seeing examples of these in all the wall trenches, and when they are excavated strategraphically, like the photograph below, show clearly how the wall trenches were dug out, the planks were placed in upright, and the wall trenches were then backfilled to support the planks properly.

We also have evidence for more substantial post holes as raking posts cut into the wall trenches to provide extra support to the roof and walls in several of the building phases.

I’ve written about our very large cess pit (with smelting slag in the top) before, but much more of it has been excavated now. It is particularly interesting because it appears to be early Saxon, and pits are notable by their absence in this period. It is almost square, again an unusual shape. In this corner of the site there are in fact three large pits, with this square cess pit being the largest and deepest. All three look early in date and we’re excited that we seem to have yet again found evidence that is rare or indeed unique to Lyminge.

Alex excavates the last of the cess-like fills in his large square pit.

Alex excavates the last of the cess-like fills in his large square pit.

It’s become a running joke that when a supervisor gets in a feature to help out a student, they find something really great, while the student has found nothing for hours.

Here I am 'snaffling' a find out of SFB 7 - I was only helping out, honest!

Here I am ‘snaffling’ a find out of SFB 7 – I was only helping out, honest!

This certainly happened to me yesterday! I was helping out in SFB 7 when I found our first knife of the whole season, and it appears to be complete! Luckily for the students I am usually bogged down with paperwork, supervision, and of course writing this blog, so I don’t get too many of the finds to myself!

There is lots to do in the last couple of days here, so there will be at least one more blog post to catch everyone up with the removal of the final wall trenches and the disentangling of the overlapping buildings. The large door pits for the biggest timber hall are nearly fully excavated and we’re sorting out what they were actually for – door pits of this size are entirely unnecessary, so why were they built on this scale? I might be able to say something next time, fingers crossed! In this last photo you can see Westy has bottomed the door pit and there is a further post hole at the far end, cutting through the wall trench – perhaps evidence for different phases in the construction of these doorways.

Westy indicate the bottom of the door pit on the eastern long wall of the largest timber hall. A post hole in the end of the wall trench is visible in section.

Westy indicates the bottom of the door pit on the eastern long wall of the largest timber hall. A post hole in the end of the wall trench is visible in section, with the wall trench continuing on behind.

I’ll get another post up as soon as I can to wrap up the dig, which has sped by. None of us can quite believe we’re nearly at the end! We’re hopeful for some lovely aerial shots of the trench this weekend or early next week, so I will try to get those up too – watch this space!

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A whirlwind of open days and exciting archaeology!

A warrior in Lyminge

A warrior in Lyminge

Playing Saxon board games

Jennifer, Steph and Emily (l-r) play a Saxon board game

What an amazing few days we’ve had here in Lyminge! We’ve been incredibly busy so this time I have turned two blog posts into one to get you caught up on the whirlwind of activity that has been the Lyminge dig over last week or so!

We were thrilled to have an amazing turn out for our open day on Saturday, even though the weather was a little changeable.

We’re incredibly grateful to Bethany, our visitor liaison, who ran such a fantastically smooth and stress free day. We got around 500 visitors over the course of the day, 200 more than last year’s event! It seems word has got around and we’re thrilled to be able to share our findings with such a large number of people. Don’t forget we are still running Saturday site tours at 2pm until the end of the dig. The last will be on the 31st August.

A Saxon battle unfolds on Tayne Field!

A Saxon battle unfolds on Tayne Field!

We were visited by Centingas, a local group of Saxon re-enactors who helped to bring to life the people who  lived in the settlement we are excavating at Lyminge during the 5th-7th centuries AD. Here Emily (Aelfwynn), who is also our assistant Finds Supervisor, learns to weave with Deorwynn (left).

Learning to weave

Learning to weave

A huge amount of help from villagers, volunteers, students and staff made for a fantastic day, and we heard so many saying they had enjoyed themselves which makes it all worth it. The site tours were extremely well attended, even with Gabor having to battle against the noise of the wind and church bells!

Gabor gives a site tour on the open day

Gabor gives a site tour on the open day

Enjoying the children's dig - finding a few more Roman finds than we are in the trench!

Enjoying the children’s dig – finding a few more Roman finds than we are!

The children had lots to do too, with a chance to try out digging themselves on the ‘little dig’, and lots of worksheets and colouring to do – our university students helped our smaller visitors design a Saxon brooch.

One of our popular attractions was the Saxo-Norman horse! Our zooarchaeology expert Zoe Knapp was on hand to answer questions about animal bones, and with

Zoe shows our visitors what a horse's skeleton looks like. This horse was found in a Saxo-Norman ditch and dates to around the 12th Century

Zoe shows our visitors what a horse’s skeleton looks like. This horse was found in a Saxo-Norman ditch and dates to around the 12th Century

the help of recent archaeology graduate Cordelia Laycock, fielded all of these and many more regarding the animal bone at Lyminge and what people were eating and farming.

Our finds tables were well attended too! Helen and her team of volunteers, (both local and part of our student contingent) manned the desks and showed everyone the fascinating things we have found so far – and not just Anglo-Saxon finds that I have been showing you in the blog, but lots from the World War II structures and the Late Medieval period too. Some of these were identified by members of the public too!

Manning the finds desk on the open day - we had some great suggestions as to what some of our pieces of machinery might be!

Manning the finds desk on the open day – we had some great suggestions as to what some of our metalwork might be. The large piece in the foreground is a WWII frying pan from the cook house!

Simon and his Environmental team helped to explain the sampling strategies we employ on site to search for charred grains, charcoal and other archaeobotanical remains, as well as things like snails and fish bone.

Sorting residues for snails, seeds and small animal bones

Luke, Alex, Simon and Pip sorting residues for snails, seeds and small animal bones – Alex seems to be enjoying himself!

Geoff Halliwell demonstrates flint knapping

Geoff Halliwell demonstrates flint knapping

Geoff Halliwell returned this year to show us how flint was knapped into tools in the past – despite our Anglo-Saxon site we do actually have an extremely large assemblage of mesolithic tools and other worked and struck flints in Lyminge, which show us that we have occupation in the area for more than 10,000 years.

But what of the digging?! Excavation continued all day on the open day, albeit with a slightly reduced team.

Significant progress has been made since the last blog post. The timber buildings are now under intensive excavation and structural details are being revealed.

Aerial shot captured by Steve Thomas using a camera on a very long arm

Aerial shot of the doorway area in the larger timber hall captured by Steve Thomas using a camera on a very long telescopic arm

Slots have been placed over various significant areas in the timber halls. We are now certain, as many of you will have heard on the open day tours, that the less elaborate hall

Aiji excavates a slot over a raking post and a wall trench in the eastern long wall of the later timber hall

Aiji excavates a slot over a raking post and a wall trench in the eastern long wall of the later timber hall

with narrower wall trenches is earlier in date than the hall that has the elaborate entrances and extremely deep rectangular post pits. The later hall is a replacement for something slightly less ‘fancy’.

The later hall had timber raking posts that were put in slightly after the wall trenches were dug. These would be for extra support for the roof and show we have a different method of construction to the the hall we excavated last year which didn’t have any evidence for raking posts at all. The door pit on the western side of the later timber hall is now fully bottomed, and you can see from the photograph below that it is a considerable depth.

A section through the door pit on the western long wall of the later timber hall

A section through the door pit on the western long wall of the later timber hall

Thus far we only have evidence for one timber, which you can see in the section (if you look very carefully!) as the narrow dark line with a piece of Roman tile right underneath it at the bottom. We need to complete excavation of this rectangular pit (more than 2m long!) before we can say what kind of doorway or entrance construction there might have been. What we can suggest is that, considering that we have lost the original ground surface due to erosion, the original height of the door posts above ground might have been as much as four metres! Could this building have been of two storeys? Further excavation will add to the picture.

Plank ghosts excavated in the wall trench of the earlier timber building

Plank ghosts excavated in the wall trench of the earlier timber building

Excavation of the earlier hall's wall trenches is moving ahead.

Excavation of the earlier hall’s wall trenches is moving ahead.

Rachel excavates timber plank 'ghosts' in a wall trench - the remains of rotted timbers.

Rachel excavates timber plank ‘ghosts’ in a wall trench – the remains of rotted timbers.

The photos above show some of the wall trenches of the two timber buildings under excavation, but you can see in these photographs that the timber ‘ghosts’ of the posts that were once in place in the wall trenches survive remarkably well.

Rachel is excavating the ghosts in the north end wall trench of the earlier timber building, and you can see how clearly the construction methods come up in the subsequent photo below. This part of the wall trench cuts right across SFB 6, so we can tell that the

The 'ghosts' of timber planks in the wall trench of building 2.

The ‘ghosts’ of timber planks in the wall trench of building 2, cutting right through SFB 6.

building is later than this sunken-featured building. Unlike last year’s ‘Great Hall’, the wall trenches here only have a single line of planks. The Great Hall had paired planks all the way along its walls, which goes along with the fact that it was a much larger building.

The buildings themselves are particularly fascinating as we now have several different types of construction, as well as some phasing on site for the first time – we can track the development of the settlement from SFBs to relatively simple timber buildings, through to more elaborate constructions such as the Great Hall and this year’s 15m x 8m timber hall that may have had more than one storey.

The story doesn’t end with the structures, however. A recent find gives us an insight into the type of community living in Lyminge, as if amethyst beads, brooches and horse harness mounts aren’t enough! Just a few days ago this rather unusual animal bone turned up in SFB 7. We all scratched our heads, as none of us recognised it and Zoe was particularly keen to get to the bottom of it!

This unusual bone is the 'scute' or bony scale of a Sturgeon

This unusual bone is the ‘scute’ or bony scale of a Sturgeon

After a bit of research we discovered that we had a scute from a sturgeon, an enormous fish that is today endangered and famous for being the source of caviar. The ‘scute’ is part of the sturgeons bony protection, a little bit like armour plating, as it doesn’t have scales.

A sturgeon in Oregon Zoo

Sturgeon (Acipenser) at the Oregon Zoo (here used under a Creative Commons License)

Sturgeon have been known to grow as large as 5 metres long, but more commonly reach around 2m-3m, depending on the species. They are coastal and riverine bottom feeders. Sturgeon were highly prized in the late Saxon period and even now are part of the group known as ‘Royal Fish’ along with whales and porpoises, establishing that these fish are the property of the monarch when found or fished in the United Kingdom. Sturgeons in early Anglo-Saxon contexts are extremely rare, and this evidence suggests a settlement of great wealth and status at Lyminge in the pagan period – which entirely matches the archaeological evidence we have so far!

Alex and Andy record in plan the pit containing extensive iron smelting material

Alex and Andy record the pit full of flints and iron smelting slag

Finally, if you have been following the blog this season you will remember that I introduced you all to the very interesting pit full of large flint nodules and iron smelting evidence in the north east corner of our trench. This pit has been under excavation for some days now, and Alex had considered that he was nearly done!

We had always been intrigued by a dark clay ring around the edge of the pit. It turns out that what we had thought was the natural chalk bedrock was in fact a capping layer of chalk dumped in to the pit.

A section through the pit full of smelting slag - a chalk capping layer covers layers of clay and highly organic material. The sunshine makes photography at depth difficult!

A section through the pit full of smelting slag – a chalk capping layer covers layers of clay and highly organic material. The sunshine makes photography at depth difficult! The ranging pole is 1m long.

Underneath this chalk was a very thick layer of clay and then an incredibly organic deposit that is full of animal bone and other organic waste. At the very bottom the articulated skeleton of a piglet was discovered, part of which you can see here. Further rib bones and other parts have been found since this photo was taken.

The bones of a piglet which would have been whole when it went in the ground come out of the very bottom of a large early Saxon pit that was full of iron smelting slag and flint nodules.

The bones of a piglet which would have been whole when it went in the ground come out of the very bottom of a large early Saxon pit that was full of iron smelting slag and flint nodules.

This sort of deposition is something we’re going to examine closely – it seems that the piglet has not been butchered and it is curious for a whole suckling pig to be disposed of in this manner. The association with smelting evidence gives us cause to think of ethnographic examples of rituals surrounding the smelting of iron, although it is very early to be thinking along these lines! The rarity of early Saxon pits is also an interesting issue to consider here.

I do hope you have been able to keep going through this mammoth post! We have just over a week of digging to go and a huge amount to do, so I will do my best to keep you all updated on Facebook and twitter as well as the blog with all finds and features as they are uncovered. Watch this space!

A final reminder that we do in fact have a third Timber Hall on site, here under excavation by Matthew, which may be of a similar size to the Great Hall discovered in 2012

A final reminder that we do in fact have a third Timber Hall on site, here under excavation by Matthew, which may be of a similar size to the Great Hall discovered in 2012

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Fascinating features

Our trench on Tayne Field, taken from the spoil heap and facing towards the north

Our trench on Tayne Field, taken from the spoil heap and facing towards the north

Digging has been progressing well here at Lyminge, with some of our hunches being proved through excavation, and others turning out to be quite different although still just as fascinating.

Busy day in the Lym13 trench

Busy day in the Lym13 trench

Ben, our trainee field assistant, ploughs through a mountain of paperwork!

Ben, our trainee field supervisor, ploughs through a mountain of paperwork!

As you can see the trench is filled with volunteers and students. Postholes, SFBs and wall trenches are being carefully excavated and recorded. The paperwork generated seems overwelming at times as every last archaeological context is carefully described, drawn and photographed, but Rosie and Ben go through it carefully to make sure there are no errors and everyone’s training is up to scratch!

It’s very imporant that the records are as accurate as possible because once we have dug into a feature and examined the finds, we can’t put it back, and we need as much detail as possible to be able to reconstruct and write about the archaeology when we come to publish in the future.

The paper, photographic and drawn records form a detailed archive of everything we’ve dug here in Lyminge and can be referred to over and over in discussing and interpreting the archaeology.

Nicola takes levels (heights above sea level) for the tiny stake holes she discovered in the South East quadrant of SFB 7

Nicola takes levels (heights above sea level) for the tiny stake holes she discovered in the South East quadrant of SFB 7

Some very interesting features have come up over the past few days. The first sunken-featured building (SFB 7) that we began to excavated has been fully exavated in two quadrants, and is currently being meticulously recorded. Rosie E. and Nicola discovered very small stake holes in both their quadrants, which almost might have been missed but for us re-cleaning each quadrant carefully to make sure we hadn’t missed anything cut into the base of our SFB pit.

These stake holes may have been part of the internal structure of the building – whether they supported a raised floor or formed part of the support for a piece of furniture like a loom is a subject of great academic debate and our SFB adds to the interesting discussion!

Stake holes found by Rose E. in SFB 7.

Stake holes found by Rose E. in SFB 7.

The stake holes in Nicola’s quadrant aren’t the only interesting feature – we would usually expect one large post to support the roof at either end of the SFB, but you can see from the photo above (click to enlarge it) that behind Nicola there are three large post holes. It seems that extra support was required during the building’s lifetime – perhaps the roof started to sag?

SFB 6, the second sunken-featured building that we opened, is very different in character. It has been fully excavated in one quadrant, and you can see that we have a large pit cut into the bottom of it on one side, and potentially beam slots and a post hole on the other. The pit within the SFB pit itself is rather unusual. It was filled with very large pieces of quern stone, something we haven’t found in great quantities on Tayne Field before, but we

The south east quadrant in SFB 6 has a large pit cut into it, with several other features that could be beam slots and post holes.

The south east quadrant in SFB 6 has a large pit cut into it, with several other features that could be beam slots and post holes.

have found plenty from the later monastic phase of the Anglo-Saxon settlement in our digs behind the church. We’re hopeful that taking down the other two quadrants will help to resolve this unusual pit placement. What’s particularly interesting about our two sunken-featured buildings is that Rose Broadley, our glass expert, has examined the glass and is able to say from preliminary analysis in the field that SFB 7 is 6th century in date, with SFB 6′s glass dating to the 7th century AD.

Zoe and her team on SFB 6 attempt to beat the sun and take a photograph of the fully excavated quadrant

Zoe and her team on SFB 6 attempt to beat the sun and take a photograph of the fully excavated quadrant

Alex and Andy record in plan the pit containing extensive iron smelting material

Alex and Andy record in plan the pit containing extensive iron smelting material

A further area of interest is a very large pit-like feature that appeared after we finished excavating the clinker foundations of the WWII structures. This is a particulary interesting feature because it contains a very large amount of iron smelting slag, with huge pieces in the top of it. You can see the size of the flint nodules too (right). The density of flint is extremely unusual. Initial thoughts were that this might be a collapsed smelting furnace, but the quantity of unburnt flint and unfired daub is perhaps suggestive of more of a large rubbish pit which has been used as a dump for the remains of a furnace. However, yesterday we began to uncover what looked like post holes within the ‘pit’ so there may yet be a structure associated with this unusual feature. We’ll find out more as we go down, you can see that we have a little way to go yet!

Sean uses the computer to start the next section of radar scanning.

Sean uses the computer to start the next section of radar scanning.

It’s not just the digging, of course! This week we are joined by David Thornley, who you may remember from one of the first blog posts that I wrote last year, when Dave and I did  geophysics (using resistivity) on Tayne Field. The wetness of the soil (remember last year’s rain?!) unfortunately meant that we didn’t pick up anything useful using resistivity, but this year Dave is back to try out Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) in the churchyard and inside the church in order to confirm Canon Jenkins’ 19th century excavation plans, and to see if we can pick anything else up in this area. Sean and Simon are helping Dave this time, learning how to use the equipment, and particularly because it is at least a two man job !

(l-r) Dave Thornley, Sean Doherty and Simon Maslin use Ground Penetrating Radar in the churchyard of Lyminge parish church

(l-r) Dave Thornley, Sean Doherty and Simon Maslin use Ground Penetrating Radar in the churchyard of Lyminge parish church

GPR uses radar to reach up to 3m underground and builds up a 3D picture of whatever is underneath the ground surface. As you can see it requires some very bulky but clever equipment! The data has yet to be processed so we’ll keep you posted on any developments.

Excavation of the two hall buildings is underway. Here you can see slots placed over wall trences and post holes along the footprints of the two timber halls

Excavation of the two hall buildings is underway. Here you can see slots placed over wall trenches and post holes along the footprints of the two timber halls

Work proceeds on the wall trenches of the two timber hall structures. They are proving very complicated to disentangle but we are making progress! Some areas have to be continuously wetted down and  covered with tarpauline in order to keep the ground moist enough to see the features and be able to dig it! After a sunny day the ground bakes solid and it is extremely difficult to dig. In the photo on the left a complicated area has been watered and covered so we can give it a closer look later on.

Some of the post holes are shallow but contain a wealth of information. You can see here below the beautifully preserved daub in the post holes for the larger building, and some of the daub extracted has preserved wattle impressions and a whitewashed surface.

A cross-section through one of the post holes in the southern-end wall of the larger timber hall. You can see orange fired daub, suggestive of fire, and whiter unfired daub.

A cross-section through one of the post holes in the southern-end wall of the larger timber hall. You can see orange fired daub, suggestive of fire, and whiter unfired daub.

The larger timber hall appears to have been cut by the slightly narrower and smaller hall, perhaps a later replacement, but this may change as we open more slots over intercutting areas. Interpretations change and progress on a daily basis!

Jack cleans back the base of the post pit - he fits in with room to spare!

Jack cleans back the base of the post pit – he fits in with room to spare!

Perhaps one of the most exciting developments is the discovery of an extremely large post pit in the extension trench. We originally opened this area to establish if the World War II structures had disturbed any Anglo-Saxon archaeology. We found a line of late Medieval post holes and an enormous WWII rubbish pit full of rubbish from the demolition of the mess huts after the war ended, as well as the continuation of the Medieval ditch that crosses the whole site. In giving this area a good hard trowel over and in investigating a couple of what appeared to be smaller Saxon features, we began to see that there were one or two significant Anglo-Saxon features. One of these was given a closer look, and it was discovered that what we had thought was perhaps a smallish post hole or pit, was in fact an absolutely enormous post pit, larger than the post pits for the doorways of the Great Hall that we discovered last year!

This is an astonishing discovery, suggesting that a structure perhaps equalling in size last year’s Great Hall exists in the area towards Church road, on the highest part of the plateau on Tayne Field.

The substantial post-pit half-sectioned, with the flint packing for a very large post clearly visible

The substantial post-pit half-sectioned, with the flint packing for a very large post clearly visible

We have only revealed a very small area over this pit and wall trench, so it may seem rather speculative to talk of further halls of this size, but having a good understanding of last year’s archaeology means that we are in a good position to extrapolate a large structure from the post pit we have so far uncovered. This area will certainly be investigated in future digs, and it certainly once again changes our understanding of the Pre-Monastic settlement in Lyminge.

Jack plans the post pit and wall trench for the potentially extremely substantial building on the plateau of Tayne Field

Jack plans the post pit and wall trench for the potentially extremely substantial building on the plateau of Tayne Field

With that in mind, don’t forget about our Open Day this Saturday 17th August, 10-4.30pm. Dr Gabor Thomas our site director, with support from myself, will be taking site tours at 11am, 1pm and 3pm so you can see the archaeological evidence for yourselves! Hope to see you there!

 

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Join us on our Open Day this Saturday!

OPEN DAY 2013

 

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Finds and other fun

As promised, a blog post about some of the finds that have been coming up over the past two and a bit weeks, but also some of the other things that have been going on! We’ve had a whole range of things, of all sorts of dates but with a great emphasis on some early-mid Saxon items. This post should get you all up to date. Interpretation and excavation is in full swing, with Gabor and the team constantly revising our understanding of what’s going on in our trench.

Gabor and Keith discuss a portion of the site.

Gabor and Keith discuss a portion of the site.

Some of you may have seen a few pictures on Twitter, which we set up for the project

The Lyminge Archaeological Project Twitter page

The Lyminge Archaeological Project Twitter page

about a week ago. It’s been fun to have a new medium through which to share the daily life of the dig. I’ve been able to tweet pictures of what’s happening on site straight away, so do follow @LymingeDig if you are registered with Twitter. Even if you don’t have a Twitter account you can view our posts if you go to https://twitter.com/LymingeDig

Roman tile stamped with the makers name. A parallel exists from Richborough.

Roman tile stamped with the makers name. A parallel exists from Richborough.

I try to put up pictures most days so you’ll get a few ‘action shots’ of what is going on the day, and links to other interesting projects and Saxon-related news. Two interesting finds that came up and were tweeted were this lovely piece of Roman stamped tile, with a parallel from Richborough, and our horse. We do get the odd Roman find but they aren’t particularly common and we have no Roman features on site at Lyminge, so it’s very interesting to see items such as this tile come up.

Many of you will remember that last season we found a horse’s skull and vertebrae at the end of a Saxo-Norman ditch. This season we opened up the continuation of that ditch and were lucky to discover that the whole horse had been placed within the ditch. It was carefully excavated and lifted by Pete and Les, local volunteers who worked on it last year. From the photo you can see that it is in a very awkward position, lying on its back, perhaps just rolled in to the ditch when the horse potentially died of disease, as it seems to have been relatively young when it died.

Peter excavates the horse, lying on its back.

Peter Butcher excavates the horse, which is lying on its back.

Cordelia was tasked with washing the horse skeletion, which was remarkably unfragmented.

Cordelia was tasked with washing the horse skeleton, which was remarkably unfragmented.

It’s already been carefully washed and lifted by Cordelia, and will be examined by Zoe to check for pathologies and sex and any other stories that might be contained within its bones.

I mentioned last time that we had local resident and producer/cameraman Steve Thomas doing some filming on site for our archive and any potential television programmes in the future. We’ve got some great stills from his footage so far which show some of the finds beautifully. In the first week of machining of the topsoil to reveal the archaeology we discovered this lovely miniature radiate brooch, below, which Steve filmed.

A miniature radiate brooch found in the topsoil when machining. It is chip carved and gilded, and although it is broken it is still in great condition.

A miniature radiate brooch found in the topsoil when machining. It is chip carved and gilded, and although it is broken it is still in great condition.

Similar brooches were found in the Lyminge Saxon cemetery a number of years ago, so we have nice comparative evidence from the two different types of sites almost certain to be contemporary to one another.

The high status artefacts have continued, with nearly thirty fragments of glass found this season already. This is a really astonishing number of fragments from a settlement site, especially considering that we are not even half-way through the dig at this stage.
Here you can see the array of colours and types. Most Saxon vessel glass comes from funerary assemblages, so it is great to see that it is used (and broken!) in daily life. Broken glass would usually have been recycled which is why it is quite rare.

Just a few of the high status vessel glass fragments we have been finding this season

Just a few of the high status vessel glass fragments we have been finding this season

The sunken-featured buildings (SFBs) continue to be productive. We opened the second of our three yesterday, and almost immediately began to come up with finds.

A tiny amethyst bead was excavated from SFB 6. It's less than 1cm in length.

A tiny amethyst bead was excavated from SFB 6. It’s less than 1cm in length.

The star find of yesterday was this lovely but absolutely tiny amethyst bead (left), a particularly special find considering Kent’s role in amethyst trade. Amethyst is incredibly rare, although when found it tends to be found in 7th century contexts, so is helpful for dating. Ultimately, amethyst comes from the east, traded from places like India. Kent is at the opposite end of that trade route, and likely the amethyst found in Kent (exceptionally rare) is traded via Frankia’s extensive links.

A lovely piece of raw amber, found in SFB 7 and measuring around 1.5cm long.

A lovely piece of raw amber, found in SFB 7 and measuring around 1.5cm long.

Further examples of this extensive trade across Europe can be seen in this piece of amber also found in an SFB. Amber is reasonably rare, and usually found in the form of beads. This is a raw piece, and would have originally come from the Baltic. These sorts of items help us to understand that the so-called Dark Ages were really full of contacts and activity, with a people full of knowledge about the wider world.

Anglo-Saxon small long brooch from SFB 6, fresh out of the ground.

Anglo-Saxon small long brooch from SFB 6, fresh out of the ground.

 

It’s not just amethyst and amber, we have glass beads and even another Saxon brooch. This brooch (left) came out this morning from SFB 6, and is in near perfect condition although it is missing its pin.

Today we finally started work on the large Timber Hall that I have mentioned in previous posts. Keith and a few volunteers are putting slots over the less complicated areas of the building’s wall trenches to establish what the wall trenches are supposed to look like when not encroached by other features and structures. This will make it easier when we come to disentangle the areas which have very complicated stratigraphy.

In the first half hour of digging Keith found a lovely fragment of double-sided bone comb in his portion of wall trench, so we have high hopes for more finds associated with the building. I’ll put a picture up when it’s looking more photogenic!

Keith and a small team get started on the wall trenches of the c.15m long Timber Hall in this year's trench

Keith and a small team get started on the wall trenches of the c.15m long Timber Hall in this year’s trench

As you can see, finds and features have been coming up thick and fast! We also have some other activities going on on site however, with the visit of Professor Martin Bell (from the University of Reading) to do some coring all the way down to the stream being a highlight for those students interested in environmental sampling.

Professor Martin Bell shows Sofia and Luke how to use an augur

Professor Martin Bell shows Sofia and Luke how to use an auger

Martin examines a core

Martin examines a core

Students and volunteers have gone down with Martin and Simon to the source of the Nailbourne that surrounds Tayne Field to take cores using an auger and learn all about this type of scientific sampling. They’re taking samples all the way from our trench down to the stream to establish the depth of the chalk bedrock and things such as whether stream has moved over time and if any archaeology is present closer to the stream.

David Mudd holding the measuring staff

David Mudd holding the measuring staff

Part of the team are also engaged in working out height above sea level and location of the coring samples so that we can accurately record the samples in relation to this and last year’s trenches.

David Mudd demonstrates excellent staff handling skills and Tom and Richard take readings from the staff using a dumpy level to find height above sea level – the height has been worked out by the Ordnance Survey and recorded on the outside wall of the pub!

Tom and Richard take levels for the auguring

Tom and Richard take levels for the auguring

You can see that there has been an awful lot going on over the last week or so! We still have a huge amount to do but steady progress is being made and everyone is getting stuck in and is well used to our recording system. There are a great many finds (some more below) and I will try to keep you up to date!

A spindle whorl and an unfinished pin beater (for tightening the threads in weaving)

A spindle whorl (left) and an unfinished pin beater (for tightening the threads in weaving)

New students arrive on the weekend and some leave us after a very exciting few weeks. Do remember if you want to volunteer that we only have two more inductions available, as we do not run them in the last two weeks of the dig. This Saturday 10th August and the following Wednesday morning are the remaining dates.

Email comms@lymingearchaeology.org to book an induction or speak to a supervisor on site if you are in the area!

A beautiful copper alloy dress pin from early on in the excavation

A beautiful copper alloy dress pin from early on in the excavation

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