Lyminge 2014 Interim Report now available!

We still have a week until the beginning of the (very very!) final bonus season of the Lyminge excavations, but we’re thrilled to be able to tide you over until then with the publication of our 2014 Interim Report! It is freely available to download in PDF form here.

The report summarises the discoveries of the 2014 excavation, including up-to-date plans of the Tayne Field excavations (produced by Simon Maslin) and the initial interpretations and perspectives on the exciting archaeology that was uncovered, particularly ‘the Blob’, the unusual Anglo-Saxon midden that we are going back to look at from 3rd – 30th August 2015.

The cover of the 2014 Interim report, now available to download.

The cover of the 2014 Interim report, now available to download.

All our interim reports since 2008 are available under the ‘Publications’ menu at the top of the webpage, so you can follow our discoveries there too, and indeed you can go directly to our archive in the Integrated Archaeological Database to look at individual site records too. You’ll also find links to the many externally published articles by the team there too.

Don’t forget that you’ll be able to volunteer on the dig as usual, or if you aren’t able to volunteer you can visit the site on a Saturday at 2pm for a site tour by our director, Dr Gabor Thomas. On 22nd August we’ll be holding an open day with activities, site tours and Anglo-Saxon re-enactments. Lots more information about the open day will be coming very soon. We hope to see you there – but if you can’t make it we’ll still be blogging and tweeting from the field as per usual!

 

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Exciting Lyminge Project announcements!

I promised that there would be more than one blog post as I couldn’t fit all the exciting news from Lyminge Project HQ into one blog post!

Some of you will already be aware of this news as we have been talking about it, but it’s only now that we’ve had time to put all this into a post to officially announce on the web and social media.

Aiji finishes recording in the last days of Lym14, after the dig  officially ended

Aiji finishes recording in the last days of Lym14, after the dig officially ended. The midden or ‘blob’ is just behind him.

After we finished the last AHRC funded excavations on Tayne Field last year, working madly overtime to get everything done, we were left with a conundrum. A week after the official end of the dig when all students, staff, and volunteers had packed up and gone home, our Site Director Gabor Thomas, myself (Alexandra Knox), and staff members Aiji Castle and Emily Harwood remained on site for a week trying to get every last bit of archaeology recorded (not forgetting our finds supervisor Helen Harrington and those finds volunteers who also gave the project masses of overtime!).

As far as we managed to get with the 'blob' - the clay beneath the flint layer still isn't natural geology and there may be up to another 1m of deposits beneath the flints.

As far as we managed to get with the ‘blob’ – the clay beneath the flint layer still isn’t natural geology and there may be up to another 1m of deposits beneath the flints.

We succeeded, but only because we reluctantly came to a halt on the excavation of the ‘blob’, the enormous midden feature in Trench 1.  During the six week dig we were able to put a major east-west trench across it, as well as two smaller north-south trenches, and to excavate a 1 x 1 m grid across the entirety of the 8 x 15 m midden area. The central trench got down to almost 2 m deep, and coring proved that there was still a way to go. We placed plastic over the archaeology before backfilling, in the hope that we might be able to come back to finish the job at some point in the future.

Aerial shot of Trench 1 post-excavation, with the midden in the top right of the photo. Click to enlarge. (Photo by AD Photography)

Aerial shot of Trench 1 post-excavation, with the midden in the top right of the photo. The orangey clay halo surrounding the excavated area may be the true extent of the feature. Click to enlarge. (Photo by AD Photography)

We shall not be able to fully excavate or even make this central trench deeper, partly due to safety but also because of the sheer quantity of material. We knew, however, that we had to get more answers, particularly to the questions of the origins of this rather peculiar hole in the ground, and its full size and relationship to the Bronze Age ring ditch, all questions necessary to be able to publish our results. We began to think about coming back for a very short dig this summer, but of course even the smallest volunteer focused dig costs. We applied to the Up on the Downs Partnership for a small grant of £10,000 to enable us to do this.

A screen capture from the Up on the Downs website page on the Lyminge Project

A screen capture from the Up on the Downs website page on the Lyminge Archaeological Project

We are thrilled to announce that we have been successful in our application to the scheme! Up on the Downs is a £2.5 million Heritage Lottery funded Landscape Partnership Scheme that aims to make a significant difference to the easily recognisable and iconic landscape of the Dover and Folkestone area, particularly by investing in heritage, landscape and wildlife, and most importantly community, and we are so pleased that they have recognised the Lyminge Archaeological Project’s past and future contribution in these areas by awarding us part of their funding. You can see the other types of projects that they have been able to fund here. Their website has a nice summary of the work they’re funding with us too!

Another screen shot from the Up on the Downs Lyminge Project page

Another screen shot from the Up on the Downs Lyminge Project page

Combined with a generous private donation received at the end of the last dig, we are now fully equipped to be able to get our ‘final answers’ from Tayne Field. This summer, from 3rd – 29th August 2015, we will be running a four week excavation to tie up these loose ends from the ‘blob’, and we will be, as per usual, accepting volunteers.

The dig will not be on the same scale as those from the past three years, with a much smaller core team, a shorter dig season and targeted trenches rather than large open area excavations, but all this should be plenty to help us answer those remaining research questions! Depending on the archaeology we may need to cap digging volunteer numbers per day, but we will absolutely be taking volunteers, particularly for finds washing and processing. More details about how to sign up to volunteer will go up soon, and if you have volunteered before, we’d love to have you back!

Don’t forget that this season will be absolutely the last excavations that we’ll be undertaking on Tayne Field, as our plans for the future of the project (grant dependent of course) involve post-excavation work and analysis, publication and a whole range of exciting outreach work. If you want to volunteer or visit the site this will be your last chance!

We’ll also be having our usual Saturday site tours and perhaps even an Open Day, so watch this space for details – planning is in full swing so it won’t be long! You can subscribe to the blog, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter (@Lymingedig) for real-time updates.

 

Thrilled to have received a HLF grant from Up on the Downs

Thrilled to have received a HLF grant via Up on the Downs!

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The Lyminge Project Conference

It’s been a little quiet here recently on the Lyminge blog, mainly because the team have been hard at work organising a conference! As a result, there are lots of things that have been happening at Lyminge Project HQ to catch up with, so there will be a couple of blog posts to cover all the exciting developments.

The view of Canterbury Cathedral from the University of Kent campus, where the Lyminge Project conference was held

The view of Canterbury Cathedral from the University of Kent campus, where the Lyminge Project conference was held

On 24th April 1oo delegates and speakers decended on the University of Kent, Canterbury, for the long-planned end-of-project conference entitled ‘Early Medieval Monasticism in the North Sea Zone’. The weather was fine and we were all looking forward to a weekend of excellent discussion on the origins and development of monasticism in Northern Europe, with particular reference to the new information gathered from the Lyminge excavations over the past 8 years. The whole project team were excited to hear other academics’ perspectives on Lyminge and comparisons to settlements across the British Isles and further afield.

We began the conference weekend with an optional trip to Lyminge on the Friday afternoon, led by Gabor Thomas, our project director. Gabor took around 40 delegates to the village, showing them the areas that have been excavated since 2008, as well as around the church and churchyard, introducing the tour group to Canon Jenkins’ 19th century investigations.

Delegates to the conference were taken on a tour of Lyminge, here learning about the church. Photo by Carolyn Twomey.

Delegates to the conference were taken on a tour of Lyminge, here learning about the St Mary and St Ethelburga’s Church from Gabor Thomas. Photo by Carolyn Twomey.

Following the field trip was the keynote address by Professor John Blair on ‘Great Hall complexes and minsters in seventh-century England’. John drew together material from his research over the last few years, investigating the planning of Great Hall complexes and their frequent links with nearby Minster sites, putting Lyminge securely into context as both a site that fits this pattern and one that might even have been laid out on a grid system based on ‘short perches’ of about 15 feet.

Professor John Blair gives the keynote address

Professor John Blair gives the keynote address

John’s lecture got us all thinking about the landscapes in which Saxon monasteries and minsters were founded, particularly what kind of historical environment they emerged from. The wine reception that followed was enjoyed very much by all!

Gabor begins the full Saturday of talks with a paper on Lyminge, setting the scene for the conference

Gabor begins the full Saturday of talks with a paper on Lyminge, setting the scene for the conference

We invited speakers who we thought could particularly enlighten the conference topic, and they did not disappoint. In fact, the papers that were given proved to be incredibly cohesive, building a really interesting picture of the state of understanding of Early Medieval monasticism in academia today. Gabor kicked off on the Saturday morning offering a background to the excavations we have undertaken at Lyminge and a context for all the papers that followed that day and the next.

The papers that followed formed the first session, entitled ‘Power and Place’ were given by Professor Ian Wood of the University of Leeds and Professor Barbara Yorke of the University of Winchester, Professor Dries Tys of Brussels University, and Dr John-Henry Clay of Durham University, setting Early Medieval monasticism into its historical context. If you would like detailed titles and abstracts for any of the papers given at the conference, these are still available to download from the Conference 2015 tab on the main website.

(clockwise from left) Prof. Ian Wood, Prof. Barbara Yorke and Prof. Dries Tys speak in the 'Power and Place' session.

(clockwise from left) Prof. Ian Wood, Prof. Barbara Yorke and Prof. Dries Tys speak in the ‘Power and Place’ session.

Some of the most important points to come out of Ian and Barbara’s papers were the difficulties we have in understanding and identifying ‘double monasteries’ or indeed the existence of nunneries in England prior to the 8th century, very important points considering Lyminge has been understood to be an early double monastery headed by an abbess (generally thought of as a monastery with nuns and possibly monks or priests to serve the predominently female institution).

Dr John-Henry Clay speaks to the conference delegates on Saint Boniface's mission in 8th centry Germany

Dr John-Henry Clay speaks to the conference delegates on Saint Boniface’s mission in 8th centry Germany

Dries and John focused on monastic evidence in Northern Europe, with Dries putting Lyminge into context with the archaeological evidence in the Frankish lowlands, and John showing the impact the Angl0-Saxon missions in the 8th century had on central Germany, examining St Boniface’s pastoral strategy and its similarity to practices in Anglo-Saxon England.

The afternoon session on ‘Architecture and Layout’ was a jam packed one! We squeezed in five papers and began with Dame Prof. Rosemary Cramp drawing together our knowledge of monasteries gathered over the last forty years, and establishing where it leaves us today. This overview was a brilliant summation both of the work that Rosemary and many other archaeologists have achieved over the years and of those questions that as yet remain unanswered, with a particular focus on access ways and points of entry as a possible new approach to understanding pre-10th century monasteries.

Dame Prof. Rosemary Cramp summarises the past forty years of Early Medieval monastic archaeology

Dame Prof. Rosemary Cramp summarises the past forty years of Early Medieval monastic archaeology

The spectacular site of Marmoutier, Tours, France, a settlement and monastery that dates from between the 4th - 14th centuries AD. (Photo: http://www.archearegioncentre.org/Marmoutier.html)

The spectacular site of Marmoutier, Tours, France, a settlement and monastery that dates from between the 4th – 14th centuries AD. (Photo: http://www.archearegioncentre.org/Marmoutier.html)

Prof. Elisabeth Lorans provided a view of a completely contrasting monastery from France, (for a time contemporary with Lyminge) summarising excavations at Marmoutier, Tours, where the monastic site sits spectacularly on a cliff edge!

While the archaeology couldn’t be more different to our excavations of timber buildings cut into chalk downland, the fact that the topography influenced the development of the site at Marmoutier is an important comparison to the use of the landscape at  Lyminge,

Prof. Elisabeth Lorans introduces us to the monastic site at Marmoutier, Tours, France

Prof. Elisabeth Lorans introduces us to the monastic site at Marmoutier, Tours, France

with the monastic settlement placed up-slope, perhaps a symbolic separation from the royal vill location, making use of the higher ground for higher impact.

Further case studies followed Elisabeth’s paper, with the Irish perspective from Dr Tomás Ó Carragáin of University College Cork, talking about the fascinating site of Toureen Peakaun, County Tipperary, founded by Beccán in the 7th century. The site has a high quantity of early sculpture and carving, something entirely absent from Lyminge, and the archaeology includes a large earthwork encircling  an area of 7th-8th century activity, with the organising of space a key feature at Toureen Peakaun.

The 'restored' 12th Century church at Taureen Peakaun (Photo: http://www.megalithicmonumentsofireland.com/ANTIQUITIES_of_IRELAND/ABBEYS/SaintPeakauns_Church.html)

The ‘restored’ 12th Century church at Taureen Peakaun (Photo: http://www.megalithicmonumentsofireland.com/ANTIQUITIES_of_IRELAND/ABBEYS/SaintPeakauns_Church.html)

Dr David Petts (Durham University) gave us a brilliant reflection on the state of understanding of Northumbrian monasteries, particularly thinking about the way in which they were laid out – again pointing to the difficulties in understanding layout when excavations are often so ‘key-hole’, but showing that the use of topographic features and landscapes in the division or organisation of space within these sites is a common one.

Dr Tomás Ó Carraggáin and Dr David Petts present their research

Dr Tomás Ó Carraggáin and Dr David Petts present their research

The afternoon’s session finished with a fantastic paper from Tony Wilmott of Historic England, who has been excavating at Whitby Abbey over a number of years. He explained how much of the very earliest phases of the abbey has potentially been lost to the sea, but that evidence for domestic areas, glass-working and the potential organisation of space with a possible boundary ditch is bringing a much greater understanding of Whitby Abbey and its early monastic origins.

Tony’s enthusiasm for the site at Whitby left the delegates excited about the range and types of early medieval monastic settlements and the potential for a far greater understanding of monasteries of the period with more open area archaeology. His passion for the discoveries at Whitby are summed up in the following image taken by delegate Caroyln Twomey!

Tony Wilmott of Historic England shows his enthusiasm for the archaeology of Whitby Abbey! Photo by Carolyn Twomey

Tony Wilmott of Historic England shows his enthusiasm for the archaeology of Whitby Abbey! (Photo by Carolyn Twomey)

We were especially pleased at the range of attendees at the conference. While we managed to attract some big names in the world of Anglo-Saxon archaeology and history, we were equally pleased to have members of the Lyminge Historical Society and some of our local volunteers on the project, as well as undergraduate and postgraduate students, and archaeologists who work in the commercial sector too.

Sunday morning saw the panel discussion address the new research questions n monastic archaeology

Sunday morning saw the panel discussion address the new research questions on monastic archaeology. L-R Dr Helen Gittos, Dr Gabor Thomas, Prof. John Blair, Prof. Barbara Yorke, Dr Tomás Ó Carragáin.

This range of delegates made for really excellent discussion in the panel session on Sunday morning. Dr Helen Gittos (University of Kent) led the discussions, and slightly panicked the audience by asking us all to move into groups! She asked us to talk about what sort of questions we should be asking regarding Early Medieval monasticism, and how we should seek to answer these questions. Of course, once discussion had got under way everyone had a lot to say, so the initial panic was unjustified!

L-R Prof. Barbara Yorke, Dr Tomas O Carragain, Prof. Elisabeth Lorans and Dame Prof. Rosemary Cramp

L-R Prof. Barbara Yorke, Dr Tomas O Carragain, Prof. Elisabeth Lorans and Dame Prof. Rosemary Cramp

Drawing the responses together and putting them to the panel made for a really interesting and enjoyable morning, and many delegates commented afterwards that it was wonderful to be able to engage rather than just passively listen to the panel discuss the topics at hand.

It also meant that a highly informed, stimulated and attentive audience awaited the final session of the conference, ‘Monasteries as economic central places’, which focused on resources and production in early medieval monasteries. Dr Justine Bayley examined the evidence for the production of metalwork and glass in monasteries, comparing it to the evidence from other non-monastic settlement sites in order to understand the types of production taking place in these different site types.

(Clockwise from top) Dr Justine Bayley, Dr Mark McKerracher and Zoe Knapp deliver papers on production and consumption in early medieval monasteries

(Anti-clockwise from top) Dr Justine Bayley, Dr Mark McKerracher and Zoe Knapp deliver papers on production and consumption in early medieval monasteries

Dr Mark McKerracher was able to focus in on the environmental evidence from the monastic phase at Lyminge, combining  the samples he had analysed from Lyminge with his doctoral research, and showing us that the agricultural strategies employed at Lyminge were a combination of both tailoring their crops to the soil type and ‘hedging bets’ with a range of crops. Mark showed that it is possible that monastic settlements and ‘high-status’ sites might share similar archaebotanical ‘signatures’, and emphasised how rich the samples from Lyminge are compared with other sites.

Lyminge's quite unique pre-Christian zoorchaeological assemblage compared to other sites of a similar date (click to enlarge)

Lyminge’s quite unique pre-Christian zoorchaeological assemblage compared to other sites of a similar date (click to enlarge)

The Monastic phase animal bone assemblage, with proportions of cattle, sheep/goat and pig - completely different to the pre-Christian phase. Click to enlarge.

The Monastic phase animal bone assemblage, with proportions of cattle, sheep/goat and pig – completely different to the pre-Christian phase. Click to enlarge.

The conference concluded with the projects’ own PhD student, Zoe Knapp, presenting on her findings to-date from her research on the zooarchaeological assemblage at Lyminge. The sheer size of the assemblage has enabled Zoe  to show that there are very significant differences in the animals that were kept and consumed in the monastic phase compared to the pre-Christian settlement. Not only do her results suggest a possible way to identify a monastic settlement with good bone preservation, but it also helps us to begin to think about reasons for change in diet. Zoe suggested that the extremely high quantity of fish and the drop off in consumption of pig may indicate ideological changes in the approach to diet.

The conference ended with intense discussion of the last session, and delegates continued to hang around and discuss the events of the past few days, proving to us how significant an event it was in the re-thinking of Early Medieval monasticism. Indeed, we have had some really fantastic comments from delegates and speakers alike, and are thrilled with the review of one delegate who came all the way from Glasgow and praised the what she considered to be a very non-elitest atmosphere. Her blog review of the conference can be found here.

Although the project team were thoroughly exhausted by the end of the conference, we were all immensely pleased with the way it went, and went away with a whole host of ideas perspectives to consider. We would like to thank the speakers for their fantastic contributions and for helping to make the conference such a success, as well as the brilliantly engaged audience! For those who want lots more information on the papers themselves, keep a look out for the conference proceedings which we are hoping to publish soon – we’ll put up information about publication dates and further information as we get it.

Amazingly enough, there is a further post-script to this intellectual weekend in Kent!

The end of a long day stone-picking on Tayne Field. The first batch of grass seed failed so we're awaiting the new growth from the second batch very soon! Photo by Paddy Fraser

The end of a long day stone-picking on Tayne Field. The first batch of grass seed failed so we’re awaiting the new growth from the second batch very soon! Photo by Paddy Fraser

Gabor holds the buckle pin found during stone-picking

Gabor holds the buckle pin found during stone-picking

The discoveries continued the following day – we organised a day of stone-picking in Lyminge: following the backfilling of the 2014 trench a rather large number of loose stones remained on the surface, not ideal for the use of the Tayne Field for sports, picnics and dog-walking. With sterling help from Lyminge project volunteers Jackie Hall, Pete Butcher, Paddy Fraser and Andrew Garrett, as well as a team who were completing Community Service (kindly arranged by Richard Chubb of the Parish Council) we managed to rid Tayne Field of at least twenty bags of stones and flints, finding this gem of a 6th century buckle pin in the process!

6th Century buckle pin found by Pete Butcher lying on the surface of Tayne Field

6th Century buckle pin found by Pete Butcher lying on the surface of Tayne Field

Keep a look out for further blog posts in the coming weeks which will explain what happens next with the project. We are by no means ‘done’ even though the last AHRC funded excavation finished eight months ago – but this is all for another post!

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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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