Questionnaire for residents of Lyminge and the surrounding area

A quick post to let everyone know that the feedback questionnaire that was placed in the Library is now available online, to enable those that could not get to the feedback meeting or the library to respond easily. Please use this link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/2MXMK9Z

If you have already filled in a paper survey, please do not take the survey again, we have your responses! The survey will be open for another 2 weeks, closing on 11th March 2015.

Thanks to all that attended the feedback meeting on 22nd February, we were so pleased to have such a great turn out and overwhelmed by the village’s support for the work undertaken in the village since 2007. We are working hard to turn your responses into a tangiable legacy for the village.

The very well attended feedback meeting held on 22nd February 2015

A great turnout at short notice to the feedback meeting held on 22nd February 2015.

 

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Have a Happy New Year with our find of the month!

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

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

Happy New Year to all the Lyminge Archaeological Project supporters, volunteers, students and all of you that follow our work and our blog! We hope you all had a wonderful holiday and are looking forward to what 2015 will bring for you and for archaeology!

Our seasonal gift to you all is this wonderful find from the 2014 dig. I wrote about the excavation of a miniature radiate-headed brooch from one of the transects we dug through the ‘blob’ in this post earlier this summer.

When it came up it was clearly well-preserved and in one piece, with decoration, but it wasn’t possible to tell exactly what the decorative elements involved, as you can see in this image to the right (which can be enlarged if you click on the photo).

It has now been cleaned and conserved by Dana Goodburn-Brown from CSI: Sittingbourne and looks absolutely fantastic, as you can see below!

A miniature radiate headed brooch excavated from the midden featured known as 'the blob' and conserved by Dana Goodburn-Brown.

A miniature radiate headed brooch excavated from the midden featured known as ‘the blob’ and conserved by Dana Goodburn-Brown.

The detail has preserved beautifully well, and the brooch itself, barring its iron pin, is in near mint condition now that it has been cleaned up. We now clearly have a miniature radiate-headed brooch decorated with Style 1 animal art. Looking at the head of the brooch you can see a stylised animal with a large eye squashed into the available space.

This brooch dates from between AD 510/20-560/70, putting it firmly in the 6th century and fitting in very nicely with our glass and other finds from the midden area. There are parallels for this brooch quite near by, at the Buckland, Dover (Kent) cemetery and the cemetery at Bifrons, Patrixbourne (Kent). Finding a brooch like this in a settlement and even potentially industrial context is extremely exciting indeed.

A very Happy New Year from all at the Lyminge Archaeological Project!

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Art and Archaeology at Lyminge: Julia Groves

We were thrilled to have an artist in residence this summer at the Lyminge excavations. Julia Groves, an artist local to South-East Kent, was able to come to the dig several times over the course of the excavations to gather information and research from the staff, volunteers and surroundings.

'Response' at Maidstone Museum

‘Response’ at Maidstone Museum

The result of this residency was displayed in a short exhibition at Maidstone Museum this November entitled ‘Response’, which gathers together artists’ responses to the collections at Maidstone and the museum itself. Julia chose to combine her response to the Saxon collections within the museum with the results of her residency at the Lyminge dig. Gaining a good understanding of how the dig worked, what we were looking for and how we interpret what is in the ground through the written, photographic and drawn record, as well as scientific analysis, has enabled Julia to produce a graphite and coloured pencil drawing that is multi-layered in meaning and composition.

'Streams' by Julia Groves, inspired by the Anglo-Saxon collections at Maidstone Museum and the excavations at Lyminge.

‘Streams’ by Julia Groves, inspired by the Anglo-Saxon collections at Maidstone Museum and the excavations at Lyminge. Watermarked to protect copyright. (c) Julia Groves

In describing her work, Julia explains:

‘Streams’, the drawing, shows the intermittent course of the Nailbourne from its beginnings at Lyminge down to the sea. The circles were inspired by the glass trails found on the cone beakers.  There are 43 circles each one representing a generation so the drawing reflects the time between now back to the 5th century AD.  I have become interested formally in the Anglo-Saxon glass but am also interested in how the fragments seem to represent the lost narratives of the Anglo – Saxons…The pattern of the reflected watercourse in the drawing also hints at the patterns used in some brooch designs and of course the cross referencing the monastic settlement…

Much of Julia’s work is inspired by nature, and the natural forms and colours in the objects such as the glass have clearly inspired this piece. Julia has kindly let me reproduce the image here, and you can also view it on her website at www.juliagroves.co.uk, along with some of her other work.

'Streams' by Julia Groves on display at Maidstone Museum

‘Streams’ by Julia Groves on display at Maidstone Museum

The interest Julia has in the natural world and archaeology is reflected in another piece, created in 2012. ‘Grain’, below, reflects Julia’s interest in the scientific process on site, with charred grain and other archaeobotanical remains revealed through the flotation and sorting process.

'Grain'  quern stone with spelt, graphite pencil and coloured pencil. (c) Julia Groves

‘Grain’ quern stone with spelt, graphite pencil and coloured pencil. (c) Julia Groves

We’re really pleased that art inspired directly by the excavations is on display in the local area and hope to continue our links with the artistic community in Kent in the future.

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A slightly different sort of post…

I was recently asked to contribute to the University of Reading School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science’s (SAGES) blog about Gender and Careers. Of course, Lyminge was a bit of theme as it has dominated my fieldwork experiences since 2008. Please do have a look at the post if you are interested in a personal perspective on gender and fieldwork in archaeology – a different sort of post to the usual updates on the Lyminge Project here!

A screen shot from the SAGES Fieldwork, Gender and Careers blog

A screen shot from the SAGES Fieldwork, Gender and Careers blog

You can find my post here: http://blogs.reading.ac.uk/sages-advice-fieldwork-gender-careers/2014/12/12/gender-and-archaeology-my-experiences-in-the-field/

 

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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!

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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

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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.

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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!

 

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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.

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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.

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