Exciting news from Lyminge Project HQ

As promised, the blog does not sleep after the excavation is completed! We are extremely pleased to be able to share with you all a film commissioned by the Arts and Humanities Research Council who have been funding our excavations in Lyminge since 2012. Many of you may have already seen this on social media, but we couldn’t leave it out of the blog! The short film examines what we have been doing on Tayne Field since 2012 and if you volunteered with us this summer you might even be able to spot yourself in the background.

 

The AHRC Website have featured this film and the project prominently on their own news site, which we’re incredibly pleased about. It’s fantasic to have the significance of the excavations at Lyminge recognised through funding and dissemination such as this. We’ve also made the video available here on our project website where you can find other videos and media that have been made about the project.

Lyminge featured on the front page of the Arts and Humanties Research Council website - with the incredible Saxon glass assemblage at the forefront

Lyminge featured on the front page of the Arts and Humanties Research Council website – with the incredible Saxon glass assemblage at the forefront

We’re also incredibly pleased to have found a new home for the Lyminge Project exhibition that has been travelling around important Kentish Anglo-Saxon sites since November 2012. We updated the exhibition with finds and a new exhibition panel in May 2014 while it was at Maidstone Museum and the whole exhibit has now found a new home for the next six months. If you were unable to get to any of the venues in Kent over the past two years, the Lyminge travelling exhibition is now being housed at the CSI: Sittingbourne exhibition space in the Forum Shopping centre, Sittingbourne, Kent, and a grand opening is being held on 28th October 2014 at 6.15pm. CSI: Sittingbourne is an important community training scheme, training volunteers in artefact conservation techniques, which can only stay open with adequate funding. Please do go along to the Lyminge exhibition and have a look at what CSI: Sittingbourne engages in and support the project if you can.

Some of the Lyminge objects on display at CSI: Sittingbourne.

Some of the Lyminge objects on display at CSI: Sittingbourne.

Finally, I want to let you all know that the Lyminge Archaeological Project will be featured in the new series of ‘Digging For Britain’, in the episode about the east of England, presented by Professor Alice Roberts and Matt Williams. The date and channel hasn’t yet been confirmed, but it’s likely to be on BBC4 some time in November. I will of course update all social media and the blog when we have a confirmed airing date. We hope you’re all enjoying seeing the project on film this autumn!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The end of a fantastic three years on Tayne Field

The dig has ended, the cabins are gone, and backfilling will start soon. It has been a truly epic excavation this season, with unprecedented finds and a whole host of new friends made!

A view of the excavation after digging ended, looking back towards the village. Photo by

A wonderful view of the excavation after digging ended, looking back towards the village. Photo by AD Photographics.

The sheer amount of archaeology in the two trenches we opened, and the fact that we accomplished so much this year, is testament to our extremely hardworking volunteers and students. Thank you all for volunteering your time and efforts this summer!

Grace completes the excavation of a post hole in the Timber Hall

Grace completes the excavation of a post hole in the Timber Hall in Trench 2

In the final week we marched on with excavation so that we could leave the dig with as much completed as possible. Post holes in the post-built structures in trench 1 (you can spot these phased buildings in the photo above) were targeted and volunteers and student steamed ahead getting these done in the last days.

Getting all the paperwork finished up was a huge priority for staff in the last weeks and even days – once you are back in the ‘real world’ you can’t measure, photograph, describe and check the composition of a feature when you’re in the office, and any problems with cross-referencing have to be sorted out in the field.

Celia and Jack go through mountains of context sheets, checking stratigraphy and cross-references

Celia and Jack go through mountains of context sheets, checking stratigraphy and cross-references and making sure that every archaeological feature has a written, drawn and photographic record

All this paperwork and recording doesn’t mean we didn’t make any new discoveries, though! The main area that continued ‘going down’ was the large midden pit. In previous blog posts I have described layers of burning, broken up hearth material, kiln or furnace lining, and huge dumps of iron smelting slag, testifying to significant metalworking taking place at Lyminge.

Alex continues excavating the slot through the midden pit

Alex continues excavating the slot through the midden pit

Finds from these layers have shown 6th century dates, proving that we have some of the earliest iron working evidence in Anglo-Saxon England. These large and heavy chunks of iron slag will not have been moved far – iron working is absolutely taking place on Tayne Field in this early period, and the in situ hearth discovered a couple of weeks ago around 60cm into the midden deposits proves this.

Clay moulds and crucible fragments from the midden

Clay moulds and crucible fragments from the midden

 

 

 

 

In fact, the sheer quantity of metalworking evidence recovered from this area leaves the significance of Lyminge as a metalworking site unquestioned. Not only is ironworking happening at an early period at Lyminge, but the quantity of scrap metal in the form of copper alloy sheeting, fragments, blobs of bronze and indeed mould and crucible fragments is indicative of fine metalworking. Just a sample of the copper alloy recovered from those areas of the midden that were excavated (not even a quarter of the full size of the midden pit) is pictured below.

A selection of fragments from the midden attesting to 6th-century bronze working (both sheet metal and casting).    In addition to fabricated  strips, collars, tubes and wire fragments,  the selection includes globules of raw metal and melt.

A selection of fragments from the midden attesting to 6th-century bronze working (both sheet metal and casting). In addition to fabricated strips, collars, tubes and wire fragments, the selection includes globules of raw metal and melt.

We hoped that as we dug through the midden layers, we would begin to find clear evidence for the reason the pit was dug to begin with – perhaps in situ furnaces or iron/metalworking debris. Interestingly, what was discovered was a dump of quite clean clay material, with very few finds at all, overlying a most unusual laid surface of huge unworked flint nodules.

The laid flint nodules in the bottom of the slot dug across the huge midden pit in the south-east corner of Trench 1

The laid flint nodules in the bottom of the slot dug across the huge midden pit in the south-east corner of Trench 1. The wonderful colours of burnt daub, furnace lining and carbon are visible in the section.

Some of the flints removed to reveal more clay below

Some of the flint surface removed to reveal more clay below.

It is clear, particularly from the photo above with a few of the flints removed, that there is another layer of clay below the flints. At this stage it is not entirely clear what the flints were laid for – it doesn’t appear to be a metalled surface such as the one that is present on the north edge of the midden, as the flints are very large and do not appear trampled or laid particularly flat. Perhaps an organic surface was laid over the flints? Or perhaps some kind of superstructure needed the stability of the flints beneath it? There is no obvious burning associated with the flints, and at the moment we are considering several options. The flint surface is also evident in the north-south transect dug through the midden, so it is not just confined to the area photographed above.

This radiate brooch was excavated from the north-south slot through the midden in the final week of the dig

This bronze radiate brooch, here fresh out of the ground, was excavated from the north-south slot through the midden in the final week of the dig

At this stage the depth was around 2m, and it was clear that we had not reached the bottom of the pit. We had hoped that going deeper would resolve our questions about what the pit was dug for! We even considered the possibility that the pit might have been dug in prehistory and reused by the Saxons. What we do know is that it seems likely that the flints were placed in the Saxon period, because a deposit of early Saxon pottery immediately overlay the flints, and one would expect much more silting between the flints and the pottery layer if several hundred years had passed between their deposition. We were lucky enough to recover some significantly sized animal bone which has been sent for Radiocarbon dating to, we hope, confirm our suspicions.

All in all, the midden pit has been one of the most intriguing and productive areas of site this year, and an early Saxon feature that is unprecedented on Saxon settlement sites. Already plans are being hatched to see if we can return for a test dig to answer some of the hundreds of new questions we now have.

As well as further discoveries, the final week held some other moments of fun too! As is now a Lyminge excavations tradition, several of our volunteers, particularly those who help with finds washing, produced a fantastic afternoon tea for all the volunteers and staff.

Gabor thanks the team of staff, volunteers and students, as well as those generous individuals who baked for the traditional end-of-dig 'Cake Friday'

Gabor thanks the team of staff, volunteers and students, as well as those generous individuals who baked for the traditional end-of-dig ‘Cake Friday’

Gabor thanks those fantastic people who baked for 'Cake Friday', nearly all of whom are sitting right behind him and who worked valiantly all summer washing and sorting finds (click to enlarge)

Gabor thanks those fantastic people who baked for ‘Cake Friday’, nearly all of whom are sitting right behind him and who worked valiantly all summer washing and sorting finds (click to enlarge)

After Gabor thanked everyone and said particular thanks to individual volunteers who had been incredibly generous with their time and energy on the project, we all tucked in to some wonderful sweet and savory treats!

The last Friday of the dig, however, would not be complete without Gabor’s annual end-of-dig lecture to the Lyminge Historical Society in the Methodist Church opposite the dig. It was amazingly well attended, as has become usual!

Gabor explained what we had hoped to find when we started the dig season back on July 21st, and showed some of the wonderful discoveries we have made this season, many of which you’ll see if you go back through the blog over the past few weeks.

A full house for the end-of-dig public lecture on the last Friday of the dig

A full house for the end-of-dig public lecture on the last Friday of the dig

Gabor explains how significant the midden area is at his end-of-dig lecture

Gabor explains how significant the midden area is at his end-of-dig lecture

Of  course, if you are local to Lyminge and walk past the dig on your way through the village, you’ll have seen that although the dig officially came to an end on the 31st August, there were still a few people on site for a further week after that – albeit a bit of a quiet sort of week!

Those who attended the lecture in the Methodist Church got a very up-to-date overview of the dig, but a few small things continued (mostly drawing and paperwork, as usual!) after the volunteers and students left. One of the most exciting events was the taking of the aerial photos, which never fail to excite the team.

All our hard work through the 6-7 weeks of the dig is shown up beautifully with the use of helicopter drones (this year manned by Alan from AD Photographics), which really helps us understand the layout and relationships between features that just can’t be seen from the ground.

Aerial shot of Trench 1 post-excavation (Photo by AD Photographics)

Aerial shot of Trench 1 post-excavation (Photo by AD Photographics)

In the aerial photo above you can see the slots that were put across the Bronze Age barrow ditch, as well as the overlapping footprints of several 6th century post-built halls in the bottom right (south-west) corner of the trench. In the top right (south-east) corner, you can see the methodical way in which we excavated the midden area, moving to longer transects as we became aware of the depth of the feature.

A close up of the overlapping post-built timber halls in trench 1, positioned over the Bronze Age barrow and the clay at the edge of the midden

A close up of the overlapping post-built timber halls in trench 1, positioned over the Bronze Age barrow and the clay at the edge of the midden (click on the photo to enlarge, photo by AD Photographics)

From the above image you can also see a ‘halo’ of orange clay surrounding the midden. This is in fact the full extent of the midden pit, (which we were unable to bottom in the time we had) and which overlaps the barrow on the western side of the midden. This overlap was proven in the most easterly slot through the barrow, showing that the pit cut the barrow ditch and therefore is definitely later than the barrow.

The trench 2 photos are no less fascinating! It’s been very difficult trying to show you the ephemeral wall trenches of potentially one of the largest 7th century timber halls found in the south of Anglo-Saxon England from the ground, as the archaeology is very complicated with the three phases of reconstruction in different forms.

Aerial view of Trench 2 showing the rectangular wall trenches for the large Timber Hall dating to the 7th century

Aerial view of Trench 2 showing the rectangular wall trenches for the large Timber Hall dating to the 7th century (Photo by AD Photographics)

You should be able to make out the end wall and two either partition walls or end walls of different phases in the footprint of the hall pictured above. The raking posts on the outside

A closer view of the Timber Hall in Trench 2, dating to the 7th century and rebuilt in at least 3 separate phases

A closer view of the Timber Hall in Trench 2, dating to the 7th century and rebuilt in at least 3 separate phases (click to enlarge photo, photo by AD Photographics)

of the long walls of the hall are visible here too, as well as further postholes within the footprint that relate to different phases. This hall is a substantial size and we clearly haven’t been able to excavate it all – it is likely that it could be up to 30m long.

The sheer amount of archaeology that was achieved this summer is clear from these fantastic aerial photographs. It could not have been done without such a dedicated team of volunteers, staff and students, and Gabor and I thank everyone who took part, in however small a way, for their contribution to a season that will put Lyminge on the map as a nationally significant and unique Anglo-Saxon site, if indeed it wasn’t on there from our previous seasons!

As many of the team as we could gather on the last official day of the dig.

As many of the team as we could gather on the last official day of the dig.

The director Gabor Thomas and the assistant director and blogger Alexandra Knox, tired but pleased at the end of a long but amazing excavation

The director Gabor Thomas and the assistant director and blogger Alexandra Knox, tired but pleased at the end of a long but amazing excavation

The project continues until June 2015, with as much post-excavation, outreach and desk-based research as we can manage!

I will of course keep you updated with all the exciting finds we make during the year, as there are sure to be several, particularly with the radiocarbon date for the midden that we are expecting soon. Don’t forget keep your eyes peeled in November as the dig will be featured in ‘Digging for Britain’ on BBC4. I’ll bring you dates and times when I have them. For the moment, though, we’re all still recovering from an intensely busy, exhausting but spectacular season on Tayne Field. Thank you for sharing in it with us!

A view of the fully excavated trenches from the north-west

A view of the fully excavated trenches from the north-west

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Heading towards the end of the 2014 dig

Sunshine on site as work progresses

Sunshine on site as work progresses

We’re well into the final week of the dig now, and it’s been a bit of an odd week! For the first time in our six years digging in Lyminge we were rained off for two consecutive days on Monday and Tuesday as it was far too wet and dangerous to walk on site and the archaeology would have been damaged. We’ve been incredibly lucky in previous seasons only to lose the odd day. Instead of digging, we redeployed students onto finds washing in the campsite marquee which was large enough for the whole team, and everyone got stuck in!

Finds washing in full swing on Tuesday

Finds washing in full swing on Tuesday

Gabor proves he's a hands-on director!

Gabor proves he’s a hands-on director!

Even our esteemed director was to be found finds processing, toothbrush in hand!

We were also able to carry on flotation of environmental samples in the rain until the team ran out of samples to float altogether (no excavation means no samples coming up) and we also took the opportunity to backfill the hand dug trench down by the

James, Tom, Heather, Alex and Jess shelter after working on environmental samples in the pouring rain

James, Tom, Heather, Alex & Jess shelter after working on environmental samples in the rain

Nailbourne which was so productive with waterlogged finds at the beginning of the dig. This was going to be a wet and muddy task whether rain or shine, so while digging couldn’t continue, the hole was backfilled.

Backfilling the test pit down by the Nailbourne

Backfilling the test pit down by the Nailbourne

Of course, it hasn’t all been wet and miserable, as the first photo in this post attests! Digging has still continued apace in the rest of the week, with quite a depth being reached in the major north-south slot through the midden, and a great many more post holes excavated in the post-built structure that is just west of the midden.

We’re excited to be able to start to disentangle the post holes that form several phases of a timber hall in this western area of trench 1. While this area is still incredible complicated, you should be able to see rectangular arrangements of post holes in the photo below.

Overlapping phases of post built timber halls, with rectangular alignments of post holes, provisionally dated to the 6th century AD

Overlapping phases of post built timber halls, with rectangular alignments of post holes, provisionally dated to the 6th century AD

It looks like we have several phases, with timber post-built structures replacing each other. At this stage we can’t be sure how many phases are here, but there may be as many as 3 or even 4, particularly as we have evidence for 3 pairs of substantial post-pits at the doorway on the northen side of the structure. One of the phases is made up of paired post holes, a form seen elsewhere in Anglo-Saxon England. We are also thrilled to have artefact evidence in the post holes themselves, with pottery suggesting a date of the 6th century (we can’t be any more specific at the moment) and even copper alloy objects associated with the structure.

Gabor explains the post-built structures to our visitors

Gabor explains the post-built structures to our visitors

What is extremely interesting is that we have at last got evidence for the buildings that might have been lived and worked in by those who used the sunken-featured buildings excavated in previous seasons. The feasting halls excavated since 2012 are on a grand scale, and post-date the sunken-featured buildings, being 7th century AD in date. One was even cut right through by three different Timber Hall phases, excavated in 2013. SFBs are unlikely to have been used as dwellings, rather for craft working or as storage buildings, and it seems that we have last discovered one of these more modest (if only compared with our feasting halls!) 6th century post-built halls.

Helen Geake and Pip Patrick examine the delicate bronze pin that was found in a post hole

Helen Geake and Pip Patrick examine the delicate bronze pin that was found in a post hole

Something particularly curious this season is the proliferation of pins from the 6th century areas including the post-built halls. Last week we were pleased host a visit from the Sutton Hoo Society, along with Dr Helen Geake, one of their members and an expert in Early Medieval artefacts.  Helen was present as one of our volunteers, Pip Patrick, unearthed a very delicate bronze pin from a post hole in one of the post-built halls. It seems from excavation that the pin might have been placed in the post hole after demolition.

Along with this lovely find, three further long, thin bronze pins have also been excavated from the midden/metalworking area, extremely interesting as they are all long and rather delicate.

The bronze pin after excavation

The bronze pin after excavation. Photograph by John Piddock

The midden area where the three bronze pins above are from is revealing it’s secrets to us slowly but surely. Some of the finds coming from this area are truly exceptional, even if they might not be decorative or especially beautiful.

Two of the three bronze pins excavated from the midden area, prior to cleaning and conservation

Two of the three bronze pins excavated from the midden area, prior to cleaning and conservation

Since we excavated the hearth, slag and furnace material has been coming up in ever increasing quantities, so much so that we invited Jeremy Hodgkinson of the Wealdon Iron Research Group to have a look and give us his opinion on whether he thought we had an iron working area.

Jeremy has confirmed what we suspected – that both smelting and smithing slag is present within the layers through the midden, and that the large areas of burning, fired clay, charcoal and furnace material are highly likely to be dumps from used iron smelthing and smithing. He suggested that assuming our slot through the ‘blob’ area is in the right place, we may come across in situ furnaces. Certainly the broken up furnace lining that we have won’t have been transported very far.

These possibilities are exciting as we head towards the bottom of the hollow or pit that is filled with the metalworking material. Much progress has been made since I showed you the hearth in the last post.

The slot through the midden area in progress - still not bottomed in this photo!

The slot through the midden area in progress – still not bottomed in this photo!

These pieces of clay mould and crucible attest to fine metalworking as well as iron smelting and smithing

These pieces of clay mould and crucible attest to fine metalworking as well as iron smelting and smithing

In the photo above you should be able to make out thick black lines of charcoal and orange layers which are made up of almost pure fired clay raked out from furnaces or hearths and tipped in to the hollow. In the very centre of the section is a small area of orange and black horizontal stripes, which is the hearth I wrote about in the previous post.

The hearth in the midden being sampled

The hearth in the midden being sampled

We’re coming on to the very bottom layers at the moment and it looks like the earliest layers of the pit might be prehistoric – I hope to bring you confirmation of that soon. We’re quite glad we’re nearly there!

While we are getting closer to understanding the purpose of this highly unusual early Saxon midden pit, we certainly haven’t stopped finding things unrelated to metalworking. Animal bone and pottery are the most abundant, but overall the finds from the midden are exceptional, even though there are some notable exceptions such as the lack of any textile working objects.

Some of the beautiful Saxon beads that have been excavated this season

Some of the beautiful Saxon beads that have been excavated this season. Photograph  by John Piddock

The glass beads above are a wonderful insight into a world full of colour at Lyminge – it’s very easy to forget about colour when you spend all season describing different shades of brown!

The glass is also still incredibly abundant, with over 300 fragments collected this season alone at Lyminge. We are also starting to see lots of early pottery from the lower layers of the midden, and it’s looking extremely early, possibly even 5th Century in date.

Early Saxon decorated pottery  from the bottom layers of the midden

Early Saxon decorated pottery from the bottom layers of the midden

Considering these early finds, we were delighted to recieve a visit from Dr Audrey Meaney and Dr Catherine Hills, both distinguished lecturers and scholars in Anglo-Saxon archaeology. Audrey’s contribution to Anglo-Saxon archaeology is the foundation for many current studies of Anglo-Saxon paganism and worldviews.

Dr Catherine Hills (University of Cambridge) and Dr Audrey Meaney (Macquarie University, New South Wales) in front of the mushroom shed, the building of which uncovered the Lyminge Saxon cemetery

Dr Catherine Hills and Dr Audrey Meaney in front of the mushroom shed, the building of which uncovered the Lyminge Saxon cemetery

Audrey took part in the 1955 season of excavations of the Lyminge cemetery just before she started her PhD. The wonderful finds from the Lyminge cemetery are held at Maidstone Museum and are on permanent display. I took Catherine and Audrey up just north of Lyminge to find the spot where the excavations had taken place.

Those buried in the Lyminge cemetery are likely to be those who once lived in the early parts of the settlement we are excavating, so it was wonderful to share

Some of the objects excavated from  graves at the Lyminge cemetery in 1954, now held in Maidstone Museum

Some of the spectacular objects excavated from graves at the Lyminge cemetery in 1954, now held in Maidstone Museum

excavation experiences and get a bit more information on the season of excavations at the cemetery that sadly remains unpublished.

The publication of the 1954 season is available online here, with photos of the artefacts if you are unable to get to Maidstone Museum.

Audrey Meaney looks out to where the cemetery excavations took place in 1955

Audrey Meaney looks out to where the cemetery excavations took place in 1955

We have only a few days left before the dig comes to an end, although as per usual several of us will stay on to get the last jobs done in the coming week. You will have seen from this blog post that there is still quite a lot to finish up!

The very last site tour is on Saturday at 2pm, and Gabor will be giving an end of dig lecture tomorrow at 7pm in the Methodist Church to the Lyminge Historical Society which all are welcome to attend (unless it’s full!). I will of course be posting at least once more to wrap up the season, and don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten trench 2 and the major 7th century Timber Hall! I will continue to post throughout the last year of this phase of the project so you can see what we uncover when everything is back in the lab.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A fantastic open day and uncovering the mysteries of the midden

After a few miserably rainy days, we were thrilled that Saturday dawned bright and sunny for our final open day on Tayne Field.

The first site tour of the open day, packed with visitors!

The first site tour of the open day, packed with visitors!

A busy day with our extremely popular stalls

A busy day with our extremely popular stalls

Niall mans the visitors desk

Niall mans the visitors desk

There was lots going on, with stalls and displays of finds, zooarchaeology, environmental archaeology, and explanations of scientific techniques amongst the replica costumes and weapons, Saxon re-enactments and children’s activities!

We tried to represent and explain most of what goes on on the dig, and these technical stalls of information and objects proved to be really popular with our visitors. This season has been

Helen shows off our wonderful finds from the excavations so far, with images and replicas to help put fragments in context

Helen shows off our wonderful finds from the excavations so far, with images and replicas to help put fragments in context

Zoe and Pip on hand to explain the kinds of animals we find at Lyminge, and what their bones can tell us

Zoe and Pip on hand to explain the kinds of animals we find at Lyminge, and what their bones can tell us

incredibly productive so far, so we had a whole range of artefacts, animal bone and botanical remains to present, even with a couple of weeks of the dig left.

The childrens activities were as popular as ever, with the chance for kids to try their hand at digging and identifying finds in the ‘Little Dig’ pits, as well as being able to design their own Saxon brooch, with refreshments on hand!

Alex and Tom ready to greet visitors and tell them all about environmental archaeology

Alex and Tom ready to greet visitors and tell them all about environmental archaeology

Roxanne helps a junior visitor on his first dig

Roxanne helps a junior visitor on his first dig

Colouring and squash, both important components in a dig open day!

Colouring and squash, both important components in a dig open day!

Geoff Halliwell returned this year to talk about flint knapping, and as I toured the open day I heard many people saying how interesting they found his explanations. We have collected thousands of struck and worked flints from our trenches on Tayne Field, so it was great to have this element of the dig represented on the open day.

Geoff Halliwell explains how flints are turned into tools, and how to recognise them

Geoff Halliwell explains how flints are turned into tools, and how to recognise them

Site tours went on all day, with the crowds getting bigger and bigger with each one. We estimated that at the end of the day, over 400 people had come through our gates, matching last year’s attendance.

Ever popular were the Saxon re-enactments by the Centingas early Saxon group, with the clashing of swords on wooden shields heard across site all afternoon – but also on show were the quieter but just as significant explanations of daily life shown through dress and displays of craft and Saxon foods. Family life was represented by an extremely good Saxon baby all snuggly in her basket!

One-on-one combat displays showed how early Saxon weapons would have been used

One-on-one combat displays showed how early Saxon weapons would have been used

A baby in a basket - looking after the smallest Saxon at the Lyminge Dig open day

A baby in a basket – looking after the smallest Saxon at the Lyminge Dig open day

We were really pleased to have Jennifer Jackson on hand for the open day. Jennifer is the Finds Liason Officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme in Kent. If you find something in your garden or while out and about, you can take your finds to to be recorded and identified by your local FLO, and usually you won’t have to give up your find unless it qualifies under the Treasure Act.

Jennifer Jackson, Finds Liaison Officer for Kent, at the open day

Jennifer Jackson, Finds Liaison Officer for Kent, at the open day

This gives us a national record of artefacts that are found by individuals, often metal-detected, and helps archaeologists to collect data about our heritage that might otherwise go unknown. Whenever an assessment is done for planning permission, the PAS database is checked for local finds, and this influences whether an archaeological survey is required before construction.

Jennifer brought along a few finds that were reported to her locally, found in Lyminge, but not excavated by us. They are in poor condition, but are interesting items

A fragmented shield boss made of iron, discovered in Lyminge by a local resident

A fragmented shield boss made of iron, discovered in Lyminge by a local resident

nonetheless, and items that we do not have in our settlement excavation being commonly found in Saxon cemeteries. The pieces of a shield boss, a knife and an iron fitting for a shield were found locally, reported to Jennifer and left with her by the finder.

But what of the archaeology in our trenches? Digging continued on the open day, as it has since the last blog post! We have started to excavate a series of post holes in Trench 1 to the west of the midden area that also cut across the western edge of the Bronze Age ring ditch.

The end wall alignment in a series of post holes that form part of a timber building

The end wall alignment in a series of post holes that form part of a timber building

Doorway post holes, significantly deeper than the other post holes associated with this timber structure

Doorway post holes, significantly deeper than the other post holes associated with this timber structure

The post holes are aligned east-west and clearly form part of a rectangular timber structure. Only a portion of these have been excavated so far, so it is difficult to make out the rectangular arrangement of the postholes from photographs, but we have already identified the door posts to the building, interestingly containing metalworking slag.

It’s really exciting to see a whole post-hole built structure in our trenches. While we have fabulous wall trench architecture in the form of several timber halls, these structures are very much ceremonial, for feasting and entertaining, while we have much less evidence for ancilliary buildings and domestic dwellings. We don’t yet know the exact function of this smaller building, but it is great to see a range of building types at Lyminge, to go with our feasting halls and sunken-featured buildings – even if this post-built structure isn’t of the same phase as the halls.

Examples of the slag, pottery and other finds from the midden layers

Examples of the slag, pottery and other finds from the midden layers

Intrepreting a function for this post built building might be easier now that we have started to get a handle on the function of the midden area, known to us as the ‘blob’. For several weeks we have been digging into layers of rubbish that date to the early Saxon period in a very large area in the south-east portion of Trench 1. While we have been clear that the area was filled with midden material and lots of metal working debris, what we didn’t know is why there was a hollowed out area that became filled with rubbish to begin with – digging out large areas simply to fill them with rubbish isn’t something known in Anglo-Saxon settlements.

In the last couple of days we have come down onto a feature that is certainly a hearth (perhaps in two phases), and we have been finding lots of smelting and smithing slag as well as pieces of furnace and hearth lining throughout the midden material.

An in situ hearth probably associated with metal working, discovered in the east-west slot excavated through the midden area

An in situ hearth probably associated with metal working, discovered in the east-west slot excavated through the midden area

It seems more and more clear that we have a very early example of an industrial area dug out for metalworking. There is a parallel for a metalworking hollow from the excavations undertaken in the 1970s at Ramsbury, in Wiltshire, although the Ramsbury example dates to the 8th and 9th centuries AD, and the evidence at Lyminge points to a much earlier date with the rubbish layers above the hearth containing material dating to the 6th century.

Swing sieves in action! Much less hard work on the back than sieving over a wheelbarrow

Swing sieves in action! Much less hard work on the back than sieving over a wheelbarrow

This potential early date is incredibly exciting, especially as nothing like this area is known from the Kent region. We are stepping up the excavation process using swing sieves to help speed everything up in order to gain as much information as possible in the time we have left.

Further confirmation of this site as a metalworking area came yesterday with a fragment of a clay mould found by Keith Parfitt. It looks like molten metal (perhaps copper alloy) would have been poured in and moulded into something with a round shape to it – still visible here. Scientific analysis of the mould will tell us what metal was poured in.

A fragment of a fired clay mould for casting a metal object

A fragment of a fired clay mould for casting a metal object

The focus now in the last couple of weeks is to firmly establish what lies at the bottom of the metalworking hollow, to complete the timber hall areas that I’ve talked about in previous blog posts, and to excavate all the post holes that form the footprint of the post built structure in Trench 1. Trench 2 is coming on extremely well, with internal partitions, large post holes and possible end walls being revealed within the footprint of the feasting hall and its multiple phases.

The partition walls, post holes and possible end walls under excavation in Trench 2

The partition walls, post holes and possible end walls under excavation in Trench 2

We have lots and lots of exciting work to do in the next two weeks with all of these highly significant features. I’m sure I’ll be bringing more news very soon, particularly as we reach the lower layers within the metal working area below the midden, and start to work out how this area functioned in the early Anglo-Saxon period.

I’ll leave you with some images from the past few days that I wasn’t able to put into this weeks blog post – so much to show you and so little room!

Aiji and Alex plan the level at which the hearth appeared

Aiji and Alex plan the level at which the hearth appeared

Zoe chats with our visitors on the open day

Zoe chats with our visitors on the open day

Keith puts a north-south transect through the midden area

Keith puts a north-south transect through the midden area

Telling our visitors about Saxon food

Telling our visitors about Saxon food

One of our students, Claire, dressed as a Saxon on holiday - not typical Kentish dress!

One of our students, Claire, dressed as a Saxon on holiday – not typical Kentish dress!

 

A shot of the last packed site tour of the open day, spot the Saxons if you can!

A shot of the last packed site tour of the open day, spot the Saxons if you can!

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Lots more exciting finds and features at Lyminge

Another week, another blog post! We are over halfway through the dig now, and the archaeology just gets more and more exciting. We have lots to show people at the Open Day this Saturday, 16th August, so if you see something that catches your eye in this blog, come along and see if you can spot it here at the dig site.

All hands on deck to remove the last of the overburden remaining within the Bronze Age Barrow

All hands on deck to remove the last of the subsoil remaining over the Bronze Age Barrow

Progress on the Bronze Age Barrow ditch has been going very well, with several slots over it completed and several more begun. It is filled with clay which may have originally formed the mound and filled up the ditch as it was ploughed away in later centuries, although potentially it might have come from elsewhere. While we don’t get many finds from the ditch backfill, there are plenty of worked flints, and some prehistoric pottery, but most excitingly we have a Bronze find to go with the Bronze Age date!

Small dirk or knife found in the uppermost layers of the Bronze Age ring ditch

Small dirk or knife found in the uppermost layers of the Bronze Age ring ditch

In opening a new slot over the ditch, Tom (assistant enviro supervisor) and students Niall and Tom discovered a beautifully preserved copper alloy dirk (a small stabbing weapon), or possibly a knife, with only a very small amount of damage. The hilt would have been made of organic material such as bone, ivory or horn, and generally they don’t survive well. Ours is broken in antiquity at both ends so the full length remains unknown. Depending on type, dirks date to between 1550 and 1150 BC, but our blade looks a little smaller and may be a type of Bronze Age knife.

Niall and Tom excavate a slot over the ring ditch - this is where the possible dirk came from

Niall and Tom excavate a slot over the ring ditch – this is where the dirk or knife came from

Finds such as these are really exciting as they give us a glimpse into the rituals of the Bronze Age – dirks and rapiers (slightly longer than a dirk) are quite fragile and do not seem like they would have made very good weapons. This, coupled with their frequent discovery in bogs and wetland areas, suggests they might have been specifically made for votive deposition. Lots more information and examples can be found on the Portable Antiquities Scheme website.

We have been forging ahead in Trench 2, with the wall trenches that form our timber hall finally disentangled. Last blog post I wrote that we had two phases of building, but it now seems very clear that we have three. You can see in the photo below that we have labelled up pairs of ‘plank ghosts’ where rectangular timber planks have rotted away or been removed from the wall trench on demolition. This is the first phase of construction, similar to the construction of the hall excavated at Lyminge in 2012.

The north long-wall of the timber hall, showing three phases of building

The north long-wall of the timber hall, showing three phases of building

The second phase involved a replacement of this wall trench with a single plank construction, and slightly larger planks. A series of large raking timbers packed with large flints were placed along the edge of the building to provide extra support for the roof. The last phase of construction involved the complete abandonment of the plank-in-trench system and the structure rebuilt with extremely large post holes, one of which can easily be seen just  below the photoboard in the photo above.

David and Andy record one of the partition walls in the timber hall

David and Andy record one of the partition walls in the timber hall

We have also begun to excavate into the internal partition walls and the end wall. The southern wall so far doesn’t show the same kind of rebuilding as the northern wall, but this is something that will be investigated in the coming days and weeks. The internal partitions are likely to belong to the different phases identified in the excavation of the northern wall.

It has been a while since an update from the test pit down by the spring of the River Nailbourne. This is in part  because the excavations have been completed, but it is still open for visitors this Saturday and part of the Open Day site tours. This small 2 x 4m trench was extremely productive and we can confirm that early Anglo-Saxon levels were reached, producing pottery and waterlogged wood in a sequence that matches the Anglo-Saxon chronology at Lyminge, from the 5th through to the 9th centuries AD (and beyond).

Heather, Tom and Alex excavate in very tricky conditions below the water table, using a pump to keep the trench from filling with water

Heather, Tom and Alex excavate in very tricky conditions below the water table, using a pump to keep the trench from filling with water

Waterlogged wood preserved down by the stream on Tayne Field, with a trowel for scale!

Waterlogged wood preserved down by the stream on Tayne Field, with a trowel for scale!

Apart from discovering a sequence of palaeochannels for the stream, and pits, lots of evidence for industry and activity down on the water’s edge has been revealed. Animal bone, shell, pottery have been found, and of course preserved wood and plant remains such as cherry stones add a dimension to the excavations at Lyminge that we have not had before. Small stakes, wattles and clippings from wood working allow us to glimpse the timbers and wood that we can only guess at in our dry-land excavations.

Other exciting finds have been coming up from the Anglo-Saxon midden area that is affectionately known as ‘the blob’. While we are certain that the material contained within this hollow or sunken area is early Saxon waste material, we are still uncertain as to the reason why this area exists at all! Surface middens (rubbish dumps left to build up) are known from only a very few Anglo-Saxon settlement sites because they are usually ploughed away. Our midden is unusual because it fills a hollow or other dug out feature, and this is the very reason it has survived rather than been ploughed out.

Making progress on the slot through the midden or 'blob' earlier this week

Making progress on the slot through the midden or ‘blob’ earlier this week

We have been working hard to get down to the lower layers to establish what the hollow was excavated for, but we still aren’t quite there yet all the way across the slot. What we have got down to in our central slot across the midden is a level full of very interesting material, including huge amounts of charcoal, burnt material such as daub, and slag and fired clay.

Areas of charcoal and burnt daub in the centre of the midden

Areas of charcoal and burnt daub in the centre of the midden

It is highly likely that some of this material has come from areas of metal working. The midden material overlies a very interesting area of flint metalling that I introduced in the previous blog post, so it is possible that the hollow’s original use might relate to this area of metalling at its northern edge, and even more speculatively, the waste material from metal working is suggestive of a potential area of industry underlying the midden or in the viscinity.

We are not just recovering metalworking evidence, however! Along with daub, pottery, oyster shell, and many worked and struck flints, we have a very large amount of glass, something I mentioned last week. We have now been able to work out that we have the largest assemblage of vessel glass from any rural site in Anglo-Saxon England. Saxon towns known as Emporia or ‘wic’ towns (such as Southampton, ‘Hamwic’) produce more glass, but it is not common in rural settlements. We have collected over 300 fragments of vessel glass since 2010, while the next highest producing rural settlement site is at Brandon, Suffolk, and produced fewer than 200 fragments.

Progress on the midden area reveals a gradual slope through the natural clay indicating a shallow hollow - further excavation in the coming days will reveal the true depth.

Progress on the midden area reveals a gradual slope through the natural clay indicating a shallow hollow – further excavation in the coming days will reveal the true depth.

This afternoon’s digging added to this wonderful assemblage! I have previously written about cone beakers, and Alex Miller was lucky enough to find a beautiful example of the base of a cone beaker while excavating a 1 x 1m square through the midden, just before she packed up at 5.25pm today! Some of our glass fragments are extremely small, but this one certainly the opposite.

The base of a cone beaker discovered today in the midden area. Although it has a flat base, it would have been quite tall and unable to stand upright as it is in this photo

The base of a cone beaker discovered today in the midden area. Although it has a flat base, it would have been quite tall and unable to stand upright as it is in this photo

Finally, as well as the lovely cone beaker base, I want to show you a something else a little special. From a stratified Anglo-Saxon context we found this little copper alloy mount. We have taken it to be conserved straight away but you can see in this ‘before’ photo that it is both decorated and gilded.

The tiny mount (1.5cm) found in an Anglo-Saxon context decorated with Style II animal art

The tiny mount (c.1.5cm) found in an Anglo-Saxon context decorated with Style II animal art. You can just see the interlace design and gilding.

The decoration is typical ‘Style II’ Animal art, with an interlace design that dates provisionally (before conservation) to the mid-late 6th century AD. This small object is likely to have been attached or mounted on to a piece of leather. I will be able to bring you the ‘after’ photo when it has been conserved, but patience is required!

The finds this week have been exceptional, and I know that I’ll be able to update you with just as exciting a blog post next time too! If you are in the area then many of our finds will be on show this Saturday at our Open Day and you may even witnesss something new coming up as our excavations continue during the whole open day.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Open Day on Saturday 16th August, 10am – 4.30pm

open day posters_001With site tours by the director of excavations, Dr Gabor Thomas, at 11am, 1pm and 3pm.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

From the Bronze Age to the First World War, via the Anglo-Saxons

It’s been nearly a week since the last blog post and I have taken the opportunity to hide from the rain again to write another post and bring you up to date with our discoveries.

Rebecca widens the April ring ditch slot to 2 metres

Rebecca widens the April ring ditch slot to 2 metres

If you have been following our Twitter feed or Facebook page you will have seen that it is quite prehistory-heavy this week! Not only have we started to excavate into the barrow ditch, but the five cremations discovered in the centre of  the barrow in April have at last been lifted.

Niall and Andrew prepare a cremation urn for block-lifting

Niall and Andrew prepare a cremation urn for block-lifting

In order to preserve the cremation urns as carefully as possible, we block-lift them to excavate later in a more controlled environment. Although it might not look terribly

A wrapped and supported block-lifted cremation

A wrapped and supported block-lifted cremation

clear, you should be able to see the darker charcoal-like patch in the middle of the square that Niall and Andrew are cutting in the photo above. When cleaned up, small fragments of white and black burnt bone and the edges of very degraded pottery are visible, indicating that a cremation has been placed in a pot.

The block-lifting takes some time and they are extremely heavy – as this next photo testifies! Carefully wrapped up, it needs several students and a wheelbarrow to transport it to the Finds Hut.

Barrowing a block-lifted cremation for careful storage

Barrowing a block-lifted cremation for careful storage

While we have lifted five cremations and expect it likely that we might find more in the centre of the ring ditch, this week revealed more evidence that Tayne Field was a focus of mortuary activity in prehistory.

Tom and Helen very carefully reveal our first inhumation at Lyminge

Tom and Helen very carefully reveal our first inhumation at Lyminge

One of our students, Tom, is digging at Lyminge on his very first excavation. He was tasked with excavating what appeared to be a post hole in Trench 2. Almost immediately he began to see that the cut of the possible post hole was larger than expected, and that there were bones within the deposit.

It was quickly established that these were not the usual animal bone waste found across the settlement at Lyminge, but clearly human remains. As you can see from the photo below, we are dealing with a crounched inhumation with the individual lying on their side, knees curled towards their chest. Unfortunately the skull and some lower long bones are completely missing, most likely because the grave is truncated by later ploughing. The shape of the skull is such that it usually lies at the highest point in a grave, and so is often lost in this way.

Gabor examines the burial. The round object in front of the remains is a pot placed in the grave at the time of burial

Gabor examines the burial. The round object in front of the remains is a pot placed in the grave at the time of burial

We are lucky that this crouched inhumation contained grave goods, in particular a fragile but reasonably complete pot or beaker. This allows us to suggest that this is a ‘Beaker’ burial, dating from just before the beginning of the Bronze Age. Beaker Burials  are found across Europe and understood to represent one facet of a European-wide culture named

The richly furnished beaker burial the 'Amesbury Archer' from near Stonehenge, on display in Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum.

The richly furnished beaker burial the ‘Amesbury Archer’ from near Stonehenge, on display in Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum. (Image used under Creative Commons Licence)


‘Beaker people’ or ‘Beaker culture’
after the pots within the burials. Such culture dates from c. 2500 BC in Britain, up to around 1700 BC. A very famous and well furnished example is the Beaker Burial at Stonehenge, the ‘Amesbury Archer‘.

It is unusual to find richly furnished Beaker Burials in Kent, and the burial at Lyminge has been disturbed through later farming, however we are lucky to have found one small bone object on the skeleton that was probably worn by the individual buried. In the image below is a small bone toggle. Bone fastenings or toggles are known, but this one is a very interesting shape and potentially fastened a strap or perhaps a belt.

The bone toggle or fastening, c. 6cm in length, found with the burial in three pieces

The bone toggle or fastening, c. 6cm in length, found with the burial, in three pieces and as yet uncleaned

We must emphasise that we are being careful to treat all human remains with respect, and we are covering the grave until it is recorded and the remains lifted. Our licence to exhume human burials for research stipulates how long we keep them and how we treat them, and the same goes for the cremations.

Toni and Alex excavated 1 x 1m squares at the edge of the surface midden

Toni and Alex excavated 1 x 1m squares at the edge of the surface midden to establish its size

Of course, the main reason we are in Lyminge is to explore the Anglo-Saxon settlement! We certainly haven’t neglected the Anglo-Saxons this week, even with the excitement surrounding our prehistoric archaeology on site. Much progress has been made on the area known as the ‘blob’ or our possible surface midden just south-east of the barrow. We have at last identified some clear edges to the size of this feature, as you can see in the image below.

Here you can see the fruits of Toni and Alex's labours, locating the area where the midden stops and natural orange clay begins

Here you can see the fruits of everyone’s labours, locating the area where the midden stops and natural orange clay begins

Taking this large area down in a grid pattern, 100mm at a time, allows us to keep a detailed record of where all the finds are coming from, which will be particularly important if we begin to see different features beneath this large spread of material.

Jacoline and Gabija clear the edge of the flint area by hand to reveal a metalled surface

Jacoline and Gabija clear the edge of the flint area by hand to reveal a metalled surface

Already we have found a particularly interesting area at the edge of the possible midden. In taking down some of the 1 x 1m squares, we began to see a great deal of flint. Cleaning this back carefully has show us that the flint appears to have been laid down for a specific purpose, with some very large pieces selected. It appears to form a metalled surface that might have formed part of a yard area or perhaps an area for a specific activvity. Because it is on the edge of the midden spread, overlain by some of the midden material, it is quite possible that it relates to pre-existing features beneath the rubbish, or that perhaps it is contemporary and later ploughing has pulled the midden material over the flint metalling.

Certainly there are Anglo-Saxon features cut through the metalling – you can see one of these in the image below, where a large dark pit containing datable Anglo-Saxon material has been cut right through the flinty area (to the right of the 1 x 1m squares).

Flints laid down to create a metalled surface perhaps as a yard area or particular industry

Flints laid down to create a metalled surface perhaps as a yard area or particular industry

Excavating inside the ‘blob’ has also been extremely productive. In the last post I showed you a beautiful brooch that came up quite early on, and since then one of the most frequent finds has been an amazing quantity of glass fragments.

Evidence for glass manufacture (c. 3cm) found in a pit in Trench 2.

Evidence for glass manufacture (c. 3cm) found in a pit in Trench 2.

Glass is not a common find on settlements, although a great many complete vessels have been found in Saxon graves in Kent. What is really interesting is that we have a very large assemblage of glass from Lyminge now, and so far we have counted over forty fragments from this season alone, many of them from this midden area. We also have a small piece of glass that has not been formed into a vessel and is possible waste from glass manufacture, although the date is uncertain.

Just four of the fragments of glass excavated from the surface midden or 'blob' in the past two weeks

Just four of the fragments of glass excavated from the surface midden or ‘blob’ in the past two weeks

Cone beaker, Anglo-Saxon, 5th-6th century AD From Grave 32A, Kempston, Bedfordshire, England. This beaker as been placed on a stand but would not have been able to stand up on its own originally (C) Trustees of the British Museum.

Cone beaker, Anglo-Saxon, 5th-6th century AD, From Grave 32A, Kempston, Bedfordshire, England. This beaker has been placed on a stand for display (C) Trustees of the British Museum.

The glass that is from vessels is all fragmentary, but they comprise pieces from some very fine Anglo-Saxon vessels indeed. The fragment in the top left of the above photgraph has come from a vessel just like the one in this photo of a cone beaker held in the British Museum’s collections.

The large timber hall first discovered last season has not been neglected either! We have made quite an advancement here with the discovery that there are two phases of building associated with the hall that helps to explain the sequence discovered last year and shows how hard it is to interpret complex archaeology in a narrow evaluation trench.

Gabor records a dig video diary explaining the two phases of the timber hall

Gabor records a dig video diary explaining the two phases of the timber hall as Richard and Peter record the wall trench

The photo above shows the continuation of the wall trench we discovered last year, with the ‘ghosts’ of rotten or removed planks clearly visible in the backfill of the wall (marked by labels). It seems now that it was rebuilt at a later date, using large round post holes at intervals. One of these posts is visible as a black ‘splodge’ just below Peter’s hat as he bends over to draw a plan of the wall trench. This is a very exciting discovery as it helps us to understand which buildings might have been the most important, or at least important enough to merit rebuilding at least once.

The fascinating table display at the launch of the Lyminge Family History Group's new publication on the First World War

The fascinating table display at the launch of the Lyminge Family History Group’s new publication on the First World War

I will finish this blog post with the very small part we have played in the memorials of the beginning of the First World War this week. Our 20th century discoveries on Tayne Field have included Second World War temporary structures for soldiers posted in Lyminge, and  artefacts associated with that short but dramatic period of Lyminge’s history. Although this week commemorated a different, earlier war, it was a war that shaped the last 100 years and influenced what happened across Europe and at home in quiet English villages such as Lyminge, including the outbreak of the Second World War.

In the library, the Lyminge Historical Society have put together a small display of items gathered from local people from the First World War, and artefacts that we have excavated on Tayne Field from the Second World War.

A display of World War 1 and World War 2 artefacts from Lyminge in Lyminge Library

A display of World War 1 and World War 2 artefacts from Lyminge in Lyminge Library

A new publication in the 'Lyminge: A History' series available in local shops

A new publication in the ‘Lyminge: A History’ series available in local shops

I was invited on Monday to the Lyminge Family History Group’s launch of their book on the Lyminge men who fought in the First World War, published by the Lyminge Historical Society. Extracts and poems were read, and reminicences of those whose parents fought in the First World War were heard. It was an opportunity to examine personal histories that I don’t often get working on such a distant past as that of the Anglo-Saxons and the Bronze Age.

A candlelight vigil was held in the parish church on Monday evening and many of our staff and students attended, being away from home and unable to attend their own local services.

As archaeologists, the commemorations bring home to us that the story of Lyminge begins with the very first people flint knapping on the edge of the Nailbourne and continues right through to the present day where our presence at the book launch was individually recorded to form part of the historical archive. Our excavations try to people the past through objects, buildings and burials, just as we try to people the more recent past with reminisences, photographs and stories before it slips away from living memory.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Cleaning, photographing, planning…DIGGING!

An enormous amount has happened since the last blog post, even though we only really started excavating into features yesterday! I have lots of really fabulous pictures to show you all that I hope will show you really clearly what kind of archaeology we are dealing with.

The rain comes down rather dramatically

The rain comes down rather dramatically

We are now halfway through week two and have completed the first phase, cleaning back the trench by hand so that we can see the features properly.

This was a long, hot phase topped off by some extremely welcome but rather over-dramatic rain that brought out the different colours of the features really well. We all ran for cover as the clouds rolled over the excavation and it began to really pelt it down!

Supervisors and site director hide from the rain

Supervisors and site director take cover and watch the storm

Although the rain was welcome, work had to come to a stop for a short time to make sure we didn’t give ourselves more work by churning up site by walking on it.

The rain did a fantastic job of clarifying the archaeology for us. Tayne Field is on a geology of chalk and an orange clay, which bakes hard in the hot sun to a grey colour, so it is important to have rain so that we can see the different colours of the archaeological features. If we don’t have a bit of rain now and again we have to water the site with a hose, and cover it up to keep the moisture in.

A final trowel over Trench 2 after quite a lot of rain on the weekend, ready for pre-excavation photography

A final trowel over Trench 2 after quite a lot of rain on the weekend, ready for pre-excavation photography

You should be able to spot all sorts of dark lines and circles against the whiter natural chalk bedrock in the photo above – these are post holes, ditches and wall trenches. The sharp black rectangular outline of the Second World War mess hut is particularly clear. After the rain, a quick trowel over to clear up silty patches and any loose spoil meant that we could move on quickly to the next phase – getting pre-excavation aerial and raised shots of the site prior to planning and excavation.

Alan sets up the drone for aerial photographs on the Jubilee plinth on Tayne Field

Alan sets up the drone for aerial photographs on the Jubilee plinth on Tayne Field

For this we set up a scaffold photo-tower (from which the above photo was taken), but we were also lucky enough to be able to bring in two helicopter drones to take really excellent views of the site. Here you can see the set up Alan from AD Photographics uses, quite a large drone with six blades but really great for getting fantastic vertical, steady images of the site.

The second drone was much smaller and manned by Andy Wood, who was able to get really excellent oblique shots showing the site in context with the rest of the village, incredibly helpful as it helps us understand the settlement within the wider landscape.

The vertical shots taken by Alan show up the Saxon archaeology incredibly well. This first image is taken of Trench 1, with the large circular ring ditch of the Bronze Age Barrow very clear. The spread of material currently understood to be a surface midden (otherwise known as ‘the blob’) is also really clear as the very dark area at the top of the photograph.

Aerial view of Trench 1 showing the ring ditch of the barrow, and a large midden in the top right (south-eastern) corner

Aerial view of Trench 1 showing the ring ditch of the barrow, and a large midden in the top right (south-eastern) corner

You might also be able to spot smaller dots and patches that are likely to be associated post holes and other structural features that are part of the Saxon settlement.

The second trench is more complicated because of our previous excavations, but we have, as a result of the rain and some very careful troweling, identified the opposing wall of the timber hall discovered last year, as well as internal partitions and a possible doorway.

Aerial view of trench 2 taking by helicopter drone

Aerial view of trench 2 taking by helicopter drone

This might look a bit mysterious, so I have edited the photo (see below) to show you where the large timber hall is. It runs underneather the end of our trench and a small brick built outbuilding that seems to be associated with the WW2 structures, and we won’t be able to excavate the full extent of the hall, but it is possible that the building was up to 30m long, if we have correctly identified the entranceway at this stage.

A quick sketch over the Timber Hall wall trenches and raking posts which can be hard to make out with everything that is going on in this trench.

A quick sketch over the Timber Hall wall trenches and raking posts which can be hard to make out with everything that is going on in this trench.

Certainly we can tell that the width of the building was almost 10m, which promises the biggest hall that we have discovered thus far at Lyminge, even bigger than the feasting hall discovered in 2012 which was 21 m x 8.5 m!

The oblique photos taken by Andy show really well where we are in the landscape, so I can’t move on to other things without showing one of these photos too!

Putting out trenches into the landscape at Lyminge

Putting our trenches into the landscape at Lyminge

The barrow is particularly clear in this image and you can spot the church to the left of the photo, behind which we excavated part of the monastic phase of the settlement at Lyminge in 2008 and 2009.

Opening the Environmental Test Pit down by the Nailbourne

Opening the Environmental Test Pit down by the Nailbourne on Monday

If you’ve been following twitter or facebook you’ll know that in the last few days we started to properly excavate features, but we have also opened a small 2 m x 4 m test pit down by the stream. Simon, our environmental supervisor, is running this area as part of his PhD research investigating the landscape and environment of Lyminge throughout its occupation history.

Completely hand-dug by a team of delightfully muddy students and volunteers led by Simon and our new Assistant Environmental Supervisor Tom Gardner, this trench is giving us information we have never had before, as it goes below the water table.

A distinctly muddy test pit, below the water table next to the Nailbourne

A distinctly muddy test pit, below the water table next to the Nailbourne – we’re having to pump the water out as it creeps in to the trench!

So far the datable evidence suggests Saxo-Norman waterlogged features (several centuries later than our Anglo-Saxon settlement), with preserved wood, structural features such as stake holes and other evidence that we just don’t get in our dry, open area trenches on the plateau of Tayne Field – whole hazelnuts and other plant matter that will be invaluable when carefully analysed back in the lab.

Some lovely pieces of preserved wood have come up, and will be really useful for dating the different layers. The photo below shows a piece of oak in situ which associated pottery currently dates to  c. 11th-12th centuries AD.

Heather and Toni examine the waterlogged oak

Heather and Toni examine the waterlogged oak, located just above the scale bar

A close-up of the piece of waterlogged oak found in the environmental test pit

A close-up of the piece of waterlogged oak found in the environmental test pit – click on the photo to enlarge

The pit is still under excavation so we do expect more news as they move into earlier layers and of course I’ll be keeping you all posted!

The photography done, pre-excavation planning and drawing of the trenches began in earnest, and excavation in our main trenches began yesterday with slots placed over the medieval ditch in Trench 2, and the beginning of excavation on the ‘Blob’, our possible surface midden spread in Trench 1. This stage of the excavation is always exciting as there are usually immediate finds and discoveries to cope with from the first scrape of the trowel into archaeological features.

Excavation has begun in earnest - Richard records a slot over a medieval ditch cut through by a 20th century brick building

Excavation has begun in earnest – Richard records a slot over a medieval ditch cut through by a 20th century brick building

We’re taking a slightly different approach to the excavation of the ‘blob’ in Trench 1 – it’s far too large to do as we usually dig and remove half of the feature to reveal the sequence of stratigraphy. This time we have divided up the area into 1m squares, and we are removing alternate squares to get a view through as much of this area as possible. We are taking each square down in 10cm ‘spits’ to make sure that we can record where all the artefacts come from as accurately as possible.

The 'blob' has been divided in 1m squares so we can record the distribution of finds over a large area

The ‘blob’ has been divided in 1m squares so we can record the distribution of finds over a large area

Ideally we will be able to verify whether we definitely have a surface midden (an area where rubbish and waste material has been collected), and whether the midden covers over other structures or features of an earlier date. Such middens are reasonably rare on Anglo-Saxon sites because they usually get ploughed away in the centuries following Saxon occupation. Tayne Field has been mostly pasture rather than ploughed land, which is why this area might have been preserved. Examples of surface middens exist at similarly dated sites like Bloodmoor Hill, Carlton Colville, in Suffolk.

A very well preserved iron hook from the 'blob'

A very well preserved iron hook from the ‘blob’

Already we have had some lovely finds from this area, with pieces of glass, pottery and metalwork coming up. This lovely complete iron hook was found by Andrew yesterday, and today he clearly has kept his magic touch with the discovery of a complete square-headed Small Long Brooch just as I was wrapping up this blog post! It has ring and dot decoration and a beautifully preserved catch-plate on the back for it’s iron fastening pin.

A beautifully preserved square-headed small long brooch excavated from the 'blob' or Anglo-Saxon surface midden

A beautifully preserved square-headed small long brooch excavated from the ‘blob’ or Anglo-Saxon surface midden

We’re really thrilled that this area of Anglo-Saxon material culture is throwing up such interesting and complete objects already. LYM14 is promising to be a very rewarding season both for buildings in the settlement and for artefacts!

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

The final dig begins!

It is Thursday of week 1 in the final season of digging on Tayne Field, Lyminge, and it’s time for the first round up! We’ve already got quite a bit to show you. As I explained in the previous blog post, we’re opening two trenches this year in order to try to answer some of the remaining questions we have about the Saxon settlement before we backfill for the last time.

On Thursday last week we brought in the plant and Neil broke ground on Trench 1, with Gabor carefully watching for anything sensitive and for the archaeological features recognisable from the geophysics.

In the distance the first sods are removed by Neil Mullins, our machine driver and campsite owner

In the distance the first sods are removed by Neil Mullins, our machine driver and campsite owner

Gabor watches the first strip of trench 1, keeping a look out for finds and features

Gabor watches the first strip of trench 1, keeping a look out for finds and features

Plenty of familiar faces are back for this year’s dig – Gabor of course, and Zoe and I all took part in the two days of intense machine watching in the blistering heat, that we had last week just before some intense thunderstorms.

Simon, Emily and Helen have begun organising their Environmental and Finds operations, with Helen and Emily having plenty of last year’s unwashed finds to get on with!

Simon, Helen and Emily get started

Simon, Helen and Emily get started

We can’t always get everything washed on site as it needs to dry before being bagged, so there are always a few crates from the previous season left over at the end of the dig. The finds team are whizzing through them though!

As well as Roo, Rosie and the usual suspects, we have one or two new faces on the team too, and I’ll introduce you to them as they arrive over the next few weeks.

LYM13 finds drying in the fabulous sunshine - better for finds drying than for the diggers!

LYM13 finds drying in the fabulous sunshine – better for finds drying than for the diggers!

First is our new Trainee assistant Field Supervisor Jack Smith, recently graduated with a degree in archaeology from the University of Reading. He took part in the dig last year and we’re really pleased to have him back to join the team.

Jack Smith, Trainee Assistant Field Supervisor

Jack Smith, Trainee Assistant Field Supervisor

We also have a brand new logistics manager, Niki Hunnisett, who is doing a fantastic job organising things that are very important for a dig to run smoothly, such as water, site cabins, loos, tools and all those bits that lots of us take for granted just ‘happen’ on site!

Niki Hunnisett

Niki Hunnisett on pot washing duty in a previous season before taking up the post of logistics manager

Things have been going very speedily so far this season – despite the incredibly hot weather that is quite tiring to dig in. After the trenches were opened by machine, the hand cleaning in began in earnest in Trench 1. This is the trench which has been positioned over a Bronze Age ring ditch containing several cremations, and which had several Saxon post holes cutting into it. We established this in our April Test Pit dig and we’ll be more fully excavating it this season. There is also a very interesting large dark patch with animal bone and pottery visible on the surface, in the south-eastern corner of this trench. This promises many Saxon finds – you’ll be hearing much more about this as the season progresses.

Here are our students and local volunteers in the photo below troweling over the whole trench to remove loose spoil and to clearly reveal the archaeology before we beging to dig into it. Because it is so dry we are also watering areas and covering them with black plastic, or the natural clay bakes solid in this hot weather and it is impossible to dig.

Cleaning on trench 1 begins

Cleaning on Trench 1 began on Monday

Progress made on Trench 1 by Wednesday - steaming ahead!

Progress made on Trench 1 by Wednesday – steaming ahead in the sweltering heat!

Trench 2, closer to Church Road, was a slightly different affair to begin with – we opened this trench over an area that included some of the previous season’s trench. The 15m extension of the main trench in 2013 was covered in black plastic and backfilled so that we could remove it this year – and that is exactly what we did! This was the trench in which we found part of a very large timber hall, so our excavations in this area will attempt to find more of it and any associated structures.

Removing the backfill covering part of a Saxon timber hall in last year's trench

Removing the backfill covering part of a Saxon timber hall in last year’s trench

Here you can see the protective plastic sheeting

Here you can see the protective plastic sheeting over the wall trenches that were excavated last year

Removing the backfill was extremely hard work, even though we had put plastic sheeting down to protect the archaeology. The team set with this task did a fantastic job and got it done in just over a day.

You can see in this next picture the sheer amount of soil that was shifted! While removing backfill isn’t archaeology as we all know it, having this area open means we can really accurately look for the continuing lines of wall trenches and other associated features.

Removing the backfill is completed and trench cleaning can begin

Removing the backfill is completed and trench cleaning can begin

We have already established that the World War II structures on Tayne Field – barracks and dining huts for soldiers training locally – were built on levelled terraces cutting into the natural chalk, but haven’t disturbed the earlier archaeology too much. These areas were first revealed in last year’s trench, and have produced finds from the war years including glass, broken crockery and pieces of tins of food and the like, showing us that these buildings were certainly used for eating in! The photo below is taken from Google Earth’s historic aerial photographs, and was taken just after the war. You can see where the buildings were in relation to Church Road, exactly matching the foundations we have found so far.

World War II buildings on Tayne Field, a photo from Google Earth's historical aerial photo archive

World War II buildings on Tayne Field, a photo from Google Earth’s historical aerial photo archive. The road runing from top to bottom is Church Road.

Cleaning back the footprint of one of the World War II mess huts

Cleaning back the footprint of one of the World War II mess huts

All that is left is the cinder block foundations of the structures, but they seem much more visible than much of our Saxon archaeology at first because of the construction materials used, although finds and features of Angl0-Saxon date and earlier are already being revealed in both trenches!

One early find was made at the very beginning of the week when hand troweling began in Trench 1. Roo has had a great start to his season almost immediately finding this lovely little copper alloy bird with ring and dot decoration. It’s an unusual object it would usually have a fixture or fitting on it somewhere to attach as a brooch or pendant perhaps. It doesn’t seem to have any obvious fitting for attachment to something, so perhaps is a decorative pin head or similar.

This lovely copper alloy bird was found in cleaning back Trench 1 - it only measures a few centimetres across

This lovely copper alloy bird was found in cleaning back Trench 1 – it only measures a few centimetres across

Another much earlier fascinating find was made this week, and suprisingly also by Roo! He seems to have the magic touch this week. This little object below came up when he was cleaning over the Bronze Age barrow, and although it needs a little clean-up, it’s very clearly a tanged chisel from the Late Bronze Age (perhaps around 1200-800 BC with the research we are able to do in the field).

A Bronze Age tanged chisel found in Trench 1

A Bronze Age tanged chisel found in Trench 1

These two artefacts are wonderful examples of what we hope will be the sort of objects we will find more of once we begin to excavate into the features we have been revealing all week long. So far things are looking positive and we will have lots to show those visitors who come to our first site tour of the dig at 2pm this Saturday. If you aren’t able to come, I’ll be updating the blog with all our exciting news as much as I can, so check back for more news!

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

LYM14 is just around the corner!

We’re really excited that the final dig of our three season campaign begins next week on Monday 21st July! As it’s the last time we’ll get to dig on any scale on Tayne Field, we’re quite ambitious this year – we really want to complete the picture of the royal vill on Tayne Field as far as possible.

Last summer we completed the geophysics that I have shown you before, and of course you’ll know from the previous blog post that in April we targeted a large circular feature visible on the geophysical survey, hand-digging a trench over what proved to be a Bronze Age Barrow, complete with cremation urns and lots of Saxon post-holes cut into the ploughed-out mound. It is well known that Anglo-Saxon settlements and cemeteries often seem to have focused on or targeted prehistoric monuments, so the plan for the 2014 season is to fully excavate the barrow and establish how the Saxon settlement on Tayne Field interacted with prehistoric features that would have been visible in the Early Medieval period.

Projected layout of the site for the 2014 season

Projected layout of the site for the 2014 season

As you can see from the plan above, we are opening a second trench on Tayne Field this year! Trench 1 covers the whole of the barrow, and a very interesting ‘anomaly’ in the south-east corner that has the potential to be Anglo-Saxon sunken-featured buildings (SFBs). Test pits dug in 2012 showed Anglo-Saxon pottery and a deposit remarkably like that of the SFBs excavated in 2012 and 2013. The second trench should also be quite exciting. Last year’s excavations discovered two walls of an extremely substantial building in the extension of the main trench, underneath World War II archaeology, and we’re hoping to find as much as possible of the rest of this building this season. It has unique architectural features, with an unusual triple plank-in-trench construction, and investigating this building will, we hope, add to the list of ‘firsts’ for Saxon archaeology at Lyminge! Some of the infrastructure plans above may change a little once we are in the field, but we hope to keep approximately to the layout above for our trenches and site huts this year.

We are also pleased to announce the online publication of the 2013 Interim Report. We have summarised the main discoveries from last year and included lots of pictures so you can see how significant the excavations on Tayne Field have been over the past two years. You can download it from the website, under the ‘publications’ tab, or equally click on the front image below to save it to your computer. We really hope you enjoy the round-up of last year’s dig, and please do come and visit or volunteer for the final season to see how it all concludes!

Click on the image to download the Interim Report 2013

Click on the image to download the Interim Report 2013

As per usual, I’ll be blogging from the field as much as I can so do keep following our progress here. Comments and questions are most welcome! We hope you are all as excited about the final dig as we are!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment