- May 2017
- June 2016
- September 2015
- August 2015
- July 2015
- May 2015
- February 2015
- January 2015
- December 2014
- October 2014
- September 2014
- August 2014
- July 2014
- April 2014
- February 2014
- December 2013
- October 2013
- August 2013
- July 2013
- June 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
It’s been nearly a week since the last blog post and I have taken the opportunity to hide from the rain again to write another post and bring you up to date with our discoveries.
If you have been following our Twitter feed or Facebook page you will have seen that it is quite prehistory-heavy this week! Not only have we started to excavate into the barrow ditch, but the five cremations discovered in the centre of the barrow in April have at last been lifted.
In order to preserve the cremation urns as carefully as possible, we block-lift them to excavate later in a more controlled environment. Although it might not look terribly
clear, you should be able to see the darker charcoal-like patch in the middle of the square that Niall and Andrew are cutting in the photo above. When cleaned up, small fragments of white and black burnt bone and the edges of very degraded pottery are visible, indicating that a cremation has been placed in a pot.
The block-lifting takes some time and they are extremely heavy – as this next photo testifies! Carefully wrapped up, it needs several students and a wheelbarrow to transport it to the Finds Hut.
While we have lifted five cremations and expect it likely that we might find more in the centre of the ring ditch, this week revealed more evidence that Tayne Field was a focus of mortuary activity in prehistory.
One of our students, Tom, is digging at Lyminge on his very first excavation. He was tasked with excavating what appeared to be a post hole in Trench 2. Almost immediately he began to see that the cut of the possible post hole was larger than expected, and that there were bones within the deposit.
It was quickly established that these were not the usual animal bone waste found across the settlement at Lyminge, but clearly human remains. As you can see from the photo below, we are dealing with a crounched inhumation with the individual lying on their side, knees curled towards their chest. Unfortunately the skull and some lower long bones are completely missing, most likely because the grave is truncated by later ploughing. The shape of the skull is such that it usually lies at the highest point in a grave, and so is often lost in this way.
We are lucky that this crouched inhumation contained grave goods, in particular a fragile but reasonably complete pot or beaker. This allows us to suggest that this is a ‘Beaker’ burial, dating from just before the beginning of the Bronze Age. Beaker Burials are found across Europe and understood to represent one facet of a European-wide culture named
‘Beaker people’ or ‘Beaker culture’ after the pots within the burials. Such culture dates from c. 2500 BC in Britain, up to around 1700 BC. A very famous and well furnished example is the Beaker Burial at Stonehenge, the ‘Amesbury Archer‘.
It is unusual to find richly furnished Beaker Burials in Kent, and the burial at Lyminge has been disturbed through later farming, however we are lucky to have found one small bone object on the skeleton that was probably worn by the individual buried. In the image below is a small bone toggle. Bone fastenings or toggles are known, but this one is a very interesting shape and potentially fastened a strap or perhaps a belt.
We must emphasise that we are being careful to treat all human remains with respect, and we are covering the grave until it is recorded and the remains lifted. Our licence to exhume human burials for research stipulates how long we keep them and how we treat them, and the same goes for the cremations.
Of course, the main reason we are in Lyminge is to explore the Anglo-Saxon settlement! We certainly haven’t neglected the Anglo-Saxons this week, even with the excitement surrounding our prehistoric archaeology on site. Much progress has been made on the area known as the ‘blob’ or our possible surface midden just south-east of the barrow. We have at last identified some clear edges to the size of this feature, as you can see in the image below.
Taking this large area down in a grid pattern, 100mm at a time, allows us to keep a detailed record of where all the finds are coming from, which will be particularly important if we begin to see different features beneath this large spread of material.
Already we have found a particularly interesting area at the edge of the possible midden. In taking down some of the 1 x 1m squares, we began to see a great deal of flint. Cleaning this back carefully has show us that the flint appears to have been laid down for a specific purpose, with some very large pieces selected. It appears to form a metalled surface that might have formed part of a yard area or perhaps an area for a specific activvity. Because it is on the edge of the midden spread, overlain by some of the midden material, it is quite possible that it relates to pre-existing features beneath the rubbish, or that perhaps it is contemporary and later ploughing has pulled the midden material over the flint metalling.
Certainly there are Anglo-Saxon features cut through the metalling – you can see one of these in the image below, where a large dark pit containing datable Anglo-Saxon material has been cut right through the flinty area (to the right of the 1 x 1m squares).
Excavating inside the ‘blob’ has also been extremely productive. In the last post I showed you a beautiful brooch that came up quite early on, and since then one of the most frequent finds has been an amazing quantity of glass fragments.
Glass is not a common find on settlements, although a great many complete vessels have been found in Saxon graves in Kent. What is really interesting is that we have a very large assemblage of glass from Lyminge now, and so far we have counted over forty fragments from this season alone, many of them from this midden area. We also have a small piece of glass that has not been formed into a vessel and is possible waste from glass manufacture, although the date is uncertain.
The glass that is from vessels is all fragmentary, but they comprise pieces from some very fine Anglo-Saxon vessels indeed. The fragment in the top left of the above photgraph has come from a vessel just like the one in this photo of a cone beaker held in the British Museum’s collections.
The large timber hall first discovered last season has not been neglected either! We have made quite an advancement here with the discovery that there are two phases of building associated with the hall that helps to explain the sequence discovered last year and shows how hard it is to interpret complex archaeology in a narrow evaluation trench.
The photo above shows the continuation of the wall trench we discovered last year, with the ‘ghosts’ of rotten or removed planks clearly visible in the backfill of the wall (marked by labels). It seems now that it was rebuilt at a later date, using large round post holes at intervals. One of these posts is visible as a black ‘splodge’ just below Peter’s hat as he bends over to draw a plan of the wall trench. This is a very exciting discovery as it helps us to understand which buildings might have been the most important, or at least important enough to merit rebuilding at least once.
I will finish this blog post with the very small part we have played in the memorials of the beginning of the First World War this week. Our 20th century discoveries on Tayne Field have included Second World War temporary structures for soldiers posted in Lyminge, and artefacts associated with that short but dramatic period of Lyminge’s history. Although this week commemorated a different, earlier war, it was a war that shaped the last 100 years and influenced what happened across Europe and at home in quiet English villages such as Lyminge, including the outbreak of the Second World War.
In the library, the Lyminge Historical Society have put together a small display of items gathered from local people from the First World War, and artefacts that we have excavated on Tayne Field from the Second World War.
I was invited on Monday to the Lyminge Family History Group’s launch of their book on the Lyminge men who fought in the First World War, published by the Lyminge Historical Society. Extracts and poems were read, and reminicences of those whose parents fought in the First World War were heard. It was an opportunity to examine personal histories that I don’t often get working on such a distant past as that of the Anglo-Saxons and the Bronze Age.
A candlelight vigil was held in the parish church on Monday evening and many of our staff and students attended, being away from home and unable to attend their own local services.
As archaeologists, the commemorations bring home to us that the story of Lyminge begins with the very first people flint knapping on the edge of the Nailbourne and continues right through to the present day where our presence at the book launch was individually recorded to form part of the historical archive. Our excavations try to people the past through objects, buildings and burials, just as we try to people the more recent past with reminisences, photographs and stories before it slips away from living memory.
An enormous amount has happened since the last blog post, even though we only really started excavating into features yesterday! I have lots of really fabulous pictures to show you all that I hope will show you really clearly what kind of archaeology we are dealing with.
We are now halfway through week two and have completed the first phase, cleaning back the trench by hand so that we can see the features properly.
This was a long, hot phase topped off by some extremely welcome but rather over-dramatic rain that brought out the different colours of the features really well. We all ran for cover as the clouds rolled over the excavation and it began to really pelt it down!
Although the rain was welcome, work had to come to a stop for a short time to make sure we didn’t give ourselves more work by churning up site by walking on it.
The rain did a fantastic job of clarifying the archaeology for us. Tayne Field is on a geology of chalk and an orange clay, which bakes hard in the hot sun to a grey colour, so it is important to have rain so that we can see the different colours of the archaeological features. If we don’t have a bit of rain now and again we have to water the site with a hose, and cover it up to keep the moisture in.
You should be able to spot all sorts of dark lines and circles against the whiter natural chalk bedrock in the photo above – these are post holes, ditches and wall trenches. The sharp black rectangular outline of the Second World War mess hut is particularly clear. After the rain, a quick trowel over to clear up silty patches and any loose spoil meant that we could move on quickly to the next phase – getting pre-excavation aerial and raised shots of the site prior to planning and excavation.
For this we set up a scaffold photo-tower (from which the above photo was taken), but we were also lucky enough to be able to bring in two helicopter drones to take really excellent views of the site. Here you can see the set up Alan from AD Photographics uses, quite a large drone with six blades but really great for getting fantastic vertical, steady images of the site.
The second drone was much smaller and manned by Andy Wood, who was able to get really excellent oblique shots showing the site in context with the rest of the village, incredibly helpful as it helps us understand the settlement within the wider landscape.
The vertical shots taken by Alan show up the Saxon archaeology incredibly well. This first image is taken of Trench 1, with the large circular ring ditch of the Bronze Age Barrow very clear. The spread of material currently understood to be a surface midden (otherwise known as ‘the blob’) is also really clear as the very dark area at the top of the photograph.
You might also be able to spot smaller dots and patches that are likely to be associated post holes and other structural features that are part of the Saxon settlement.
The second trench is more complicated because of our previous excavations, but we have, as a result of the rain and some very careful troweling, identified the opposing wall of the timber hall discovered last year, as well as internal partitions and a possible doorway.
This might look a bit mysterious, so I have edited the photo (see below) to show you where the large timber hall is. It runs underneather the end of our trench and a small brick built outbuilding that seems to be associated with the WW2 structures, and we won’t be able to excavate the full extent of the hall, but it is possible that the building was up to 30m long, if we have correctly identified the entranceway at this stage.
Certainly we can tell that the width of the building was almost 10m, which promises the biggest hall that we have discovered thus far at Lyminge, even bigger than the feasting hall discovered in 2012 which was 21 m x 8.5 m!
The oblique photos taken by Andy show really well where we are in the landscape, so I can’t move on to other things without showing one of these photos too!
The barrow is particularly clear in this image and you can spot the church to the left of the photo, behind which we excavated part of the monastic phase of the settlement at Lyminge in 2008 and 2009.
If you’ve been following twitter or facebook you’ll know that in the last few days we started to properly excavate features, but we have also opened a small 2 m x 4 m test pit down by the stream. Simon, our environmental supervisor, is running this area as part of his PhD research investigating the landscape and environment of Lyminge throughout its occupation history.
Completely hand-dug by a team of delightfully muddy students and volunteers led by Simon and our new Assistant Environmental Supervisor Tom Gardner, this trench is giving us information we have never had before, as it goes below the water table.
So far the datable evidence suggests Saxo-Norman waterlogged features (several centuries later than our Anglo-Saxon settlement), with preserved wood, structural features such as stake holes and other evidence that we just don’t get in our dry, open area trenches on the plateau of Tayne Field – whole hazelnuts and other plant matter that will be invaluable when carefully analysed back in the lab.
Some lovely pieces of preserved wood have come up, and will be really useful for dating the different layers. The photo below shows a piece of oak in situ which associated pottery currently dates to c. 11th-12th centuries AD.
The pit is still under excavation so we do expect more news as they move into earlier layers and of course I’ll be keeping you all posted!
The photography done, pre-excavation planning and drawing of the trenches began in earnest, and excavation in our main trenches began yesterday with slots placed over the medieval ditch in Trench 2, and the beginning of excavation on the ‘Blob’, our possible surface midden spread in Trench 1. This stage of the excavation is always exciting as there are usually immediate finds and discoveries to cope with from the first scrape of the trowel into archaeological features.
We’re taking a slightly different approach to the excavation of the ‘blob’ in Trench 1 – it’s far too large to do as we usually dig and remove half of the feature to reveal the sequence of stratigraphy. This time we have divided up the area into 1m squares, and we are removing alternate squares to get a view through as much of this area as possible. We are taking each square down in 10cm ‘spits’ to make sure that we can record where all the artefacts come from as accurately as possible.
Ideally we will be able to verify whether we definitely have a surface midden (an area where rubbish and waste material has been collected), and whether the midden covers over other structures or features of an earlier date. Such middens are reasonably rare on Anglo-Saxon sites because they usually get ploughed away in the centuries following Saxon occupation. Tayne Field has been mostly pasture rather than ploughed land, which is why this area might have been preserved. Examples of surface middens exist at similarly dated sites like Bloodmoor Hill, Carlton Colville, in Suffolk.
Already we have had some lovely finds from this area, with pieces of glass, pottery and metalwork coming up. This lovely complete iron hook was found by Andrew yesterday, and today he clearly has kept his magic touch with the discovery of a complete square-headed Small Long Brooch just as I was wrapping up this blog post! It has ring and dot decoration and a beautifully preserved catch-plate on the back for it’s iron fastening pin.
We’re really thrilled that this area of Anglo-Saxon material culture is throwing up such interesting and complete objects already. LYM14 is promising to be a very rewarding season both for buildings in the settlement and for artefacts!
It is Thursday of week 1 in the final season of digging on Tayne Field, Lyminge, and it’s time for the first round up! We’ve already got quite a bit to show you. As I explained in the previous blog post, we’re opening two trenches this year in order to try to answer some of the remaining questions we have about the Saxon settlement before we backfill for the last time.
On Thursday last week we brought in the plant and Neil broke ground on Trench 1, with Gabor carefully watching for anything sensitive and for the archaeological features recognisable from the geophysics.
Plenty of familiar faces are back for this year’s dig – Gabor of course, and Zoe and I all took part in the two days of intense machine watching in the blistering heat, that we had last week just before some intense thunderstorms.
Simon, Emily and Helen have begun organising their Environmental and Finds operations, with Helen and Emily having plenty of last year’s unwashed finds to get on with!
We can’t always get everything washed on site as it needs to dry before being bagged, so there are always a few crates from the previous season left over at the end of the dig. The finds team are whizzing through them though!
As well as Roo, Rosie and the usual suspects, we have one or two new faces on the team too, and I’ll introduce you to them as they arrive over the next few weeks.
First is our new Trainee assistant Field Supervisor Jack Smith, recently graduated with a degree in archaeology from the University of Reading. He took part in the dig last year and we’re really pleased to have him back to join the team.
We also have a brand new logistics manager, Niki Hunnisett, who is doing a fantastic job organising things that are very important for a dig to run smoothly, such as water, site cabins, loos, tools and all those bits that lots of us take for granted just ‘happen’ on site!
Things have been going very speedily so far this season – despite the incredibly hot weather that is quite tiring to dig in. After the trenches were opened by machine, the hand cleaning in began in earnest in Trench 1. This is the trench which has been positioned over a Bronze Age ring ditch containing several cremations, and which had several Saxon post holes cutting into it. We established this in our April Test Pit dig and we’ll be more fully excavating it this season. There is also a very interesting large dark patch with animal bone and pottery visible on the surface, in the south-eastern corner of this trench. This promises many Saxon finds – you’ll be hearing much more about this as the season progresses.
Here are our students and local volunteers in the photo below troweling over the whole trench to remove loose spoil and to clearly reveal the archaeology before we beging to dig into it. Because it is so dry we are also watering areas and covering them with black plastic, or the natural clay bakes solid in this hot weather and it is impossible to dig.
Trench 2, closer to Church Road, was a slightly different affair to begin with – we opened this trench over an area that included some of the previous season’s trench. The 15m extension of the main trench in 2013 was covered in black plastic and backfilled so that we could remove it this year – and that is exactly what we did! This was the trench in which we found part of a very large timber hall, so our excavations in this area will attempt to find more of it and any associated structures.
Removing the backfill was extremely hard work, even though we had put plastic sheeting down to protect the archaeology. The team set with this task did a fantastic job and got it done in just over a day.
You can see in this next picture the sheer amount of soil that was shifted! While removing backfill isn’t archaeology as we all know it, having this area open means we can really accurately look for the continuing lines of wall trenches and other associated features.
We have already established that the World War II structures on Tayne Field – barracks and dining huts for soldiers training locally – were built on levelled terraces cutting into the natural chalk, but haven’t disturbed the earlier archaeology too much. These areas were first revealed in last year’s trench, and have produced finds from the war years including glass, broken crockery and pieces of tins of food and the like, showing us that these buildings were certainly used for eating in! The photo below is taken from Google Earth’s historic aerial photographs, and was taken just after the war. You can see where the buildings were in relation to Church Road, exactly matching the foundations we have found so far.
All that is left is the cinder block foundations of the structures, but they seem much more visible than much of our Saxon archaeology at first because of the construction materials used, although finds and features of Angl0-Saxon date and earlier are already being revealed in both trenches!
One early find was made at the very beginning of the week when hand troweling began in Trench 1. Roo has had a great start to his season almost immediately finding this lovely little copper alloy bird with ring and dot decoration. It’s an unusual object it would usually have a fixture or fitting on it somewhere to attach as a brooch or pendant perhaps. It doesn’t seem to have any obvious fitting for attachment to something, so perhaps is a decorative pin head or similar.
Another much earlier fascinating find was made this week, and suprisingly also by Roo! He seems to have the magic touch this week. This little object below came up when he was cleaning over the Bronze Age barrow, and although it needs a little clean-up, it’s very clearly a tanged chisel from the Late Bronze Age (perhaps around 1200-800 BC with the research we are able to do in the field).
These two artefacts are wonderful examples of what we hope will be the sort of objects we will find more of once we begin to excavate into the features we have been revealing all week long. So far things are looking positive and we will have lots to show those visitors who come to our first site tour of the dig at 2pm this Saturday. If you aren’t able to come, I’ll be updating the blog with all our exciting news as much as I can, so check back for more news!
We’re really excited that the final dig of our three season campaign begins next week on Monday 21st July! As it’s the last time we’ll get to dig on any scale on Tayne Field, we’re quite ambitious this year – we really want to complete the picture of the royal vill on Tayne Field as far as possible.
Last summer we completed the geophysics that I have shown you before, and of course you’ll know from the previous blog post that in April we targeted a large circular feature visible on the geophysical survey, hand-digging a trench over what proved to be a Bronze Age Barrow, complete with cremation urns and lots of Saxon post-holes cut into the ploughed-out mound. It is well known that Anglo-Saxon settlements and cemeteries often seem to have focused on or targeted prehistoric monuments, so the plan for the 2014 season is to fully excavate the barrow and establish how the Saxon settlement on Tayne Field interacted with prehistoric features that would have been visible in the Early Medieval period.
As you can see from the plan above, we are opening a second trench on Tayne Field this year! Trench 1 covers the whole of the barrow, and a very interesting ‘anomaly’ in the south-east corner that has the potential to be Anglo-Saxon sunken-featured buildings (SFBs). Test pits dug in 2012 showed Anglo-Saxon pottery and a deposit remarkably like that of the SFBs excavated in 2012 and 2013. The second trench should also be quite exciting. Last year’s excavations discovered two walls of an extremely substantial building in the extension of the main trench, underneath World War II archaeology, and we’re hoping to find as much as possible of the rest of this building this season. It has unique architectural features, with an unusual triple plank-in-trench construction, and investigating this building will, we hope, add to the list of ‘firsts’ for Saxon archaeology at Lyminge! Some of the infrastructure plans above may change a little once we are in the field, but we hope to keep approximately to the layout above for our trenches and site huts this year.
We are also pleased to announce the online publication of the 2013 Interim Report. We have summarised the main discoveries from last year and included lots of pictures so you can see how significant the excavations on Tayne Field have been over the past two years. You can download it from the website, under the ‘publications’ tab, or equally click on the front image below to save it to your computer. We really hope you enjoy the round-up of last year’s dig, and please do come and visit or volunteer for the final season to see how it all concludes!
As per usual, I’ll be blogging from the field as much as I can so do keep following our progress here. Comments and questions are most welcome! We hope you are all as excited about the final dig as we are!
Some of you will know that a small evaluation trench briefly opened up on the 7th April on Tayne Field. It closed just as quickly as it was opened, just six days later. This was indeed the Lyminge Project team investigating some features on the geophysics prior to the full dig beginning in July!
We opened a hand-dug 20x2m over a circular feature present on the geophysics that were undertaken by Dave Thornley with help from Simon Maslin and Sean Doherty during the excavations last summer. The photo below shows a close up of the geophysics, which should help you locate the mysterious dark wobbly circle just north-east of a ‘big black blob’.
This circular feature looks suspiciously like the ring-ditch to a barrow (a burial mound), potentially Bronze Age in date, so the important thing before the dig in the summer, was to establish a date and to see how complicated the archaeology might be. This investigation will help us locate our trench in July, letting us know whether we should excavate the entire barrow. We also wanted to find out how much damage the visible ridge (perhaps a field boundary of some sort) running across the whole of Tayne Field and straight through the circular feature might have done in this area.
We marked out the trench to completely cross the circular feature, taking in the full diameter and a bit more to be sure of catching the whole thing.
Although it took a day or so of cleaning back (hand digging is much slower!) we had a lovely small team comprised of volunteers from Dover Archaeological Group who have dug with us at Lyminge over the years and a few students from the University of Reading, all of whom really sped everything up. Very quickly we could see that we definitely had a ditch at either end of our trench, matching the circular feature on the geophysical survey.
We also revealed an orangey feature full of 20th century glass and other rubbish that was the ‘ridge’ that runs across Tayne Field, as well as a few more ‘mysterious’ shapes. The team was deployed to clean back the trench thoroughly to reveal all.
It seems reasonably clear that any mound that existed doesn’t survive very well, likely due to ploughing when Tayne Field was agricultural land. We might be able to see better evidence for the mound when we open a larger area, and it seems likely that there was a mound at one point, but it no longer survives to any great extent.
Our first task was to tackle one part of the ring ditch, to see if we could get dating evidence. Richard and Gordon got stuck in on this, and had excavated a large slot into the ditch within a day!
We were able to get so much done because everyone worked incredibly hard to shift enormous amounts of spoil in a very short time, so we want to thank all our Spring Dig volunteers for their tremendous effort.
You can see in this next photo below the full depth of the ditch – quite substantial and with only worked flint discovered in this slot, highly likely to be Bronze Age. The ditch goes right down to the chalk bedrock that is the local geology at Lyminge.
At the southern end of the trench the archaeology was a bit more complicated. The ditch showed up incredibly clearly and was excavated to just about the same depth, however a few small features such as post holes were apparent, and we established that the possible field boundary is covered in orange clay mixed with modern glass and debris, and doesn’t appear to have disturbed too much beneath it.
The most exciting thing, however, was the discovery of cremations in the centre of the trench. We knew that if it was a barrow, that it should by rights contain one or more human burials. Many of these are ploughed away over centuries of agriculture, so that only the deepest features remain (the ring ditches), and of course they weren’t always placed in the centre of the barrow so that it was by no means clear that our trench would be located exactly over any cremation burials. We were thrilled, therefore, to reveal no less than five cremations, several clearly buried in pots, in almost the centre of the barrow.
We cleaned them up for photographs and one of them was carefully excavated all round but not lifted. The cremated remains had been placed in a collared urn which was then turned upside down and placed in the barrow. We have recorded and carefully recovered these cremations return to fully excavate in the summer.
Over the 6 days we spent at Lyminge this April, we managed to prove the existence of a Bronze Age barrow complete with a minimum of five cremations and a substantial ring ditch. We also uncovered structural details such as post holes with some associated Saxon pottery and glass bead, and proved that it is well worth uncovering the rest of the barrow in the summer, particularly as there may be further Saxon features associated with the burial mound. As the rest of Tayne Field is full of Anglo-Saxon evidence, it is highly likely that our small trench has shown us only a very small portion of the Saxon features that are potentially associated with this prehistoric
monument that may well have been visible as a mound in the Saxon period. It really shows how important open-area excavation is in being able to interpret a site!
Of course, as the title to this blog post suggests, this is not the only thing that has happened on the Lyminge project recently! While all the preparations for the new season go ahead, with volunteers signing up, logistics for the dig being booked and plans for excavating ironed out, we have had a visit from the AHRC-funded Chicken Co-op Project.
This is an interdisciplinary, inter-university project looking at the spread and development of the domestic chicken from its origins in East Asia to the rest of the world using a whole range of techniques and approaches including zooarchaeological analysis, genetics, isotope analysis, history, anthropology, biology etc. to bring light to origins and use of the humble, understudied chicken.
Staff and students from the universities of Nottingham, Durham, Leicester, Bournemouth and York make up just some the project team, and a few of them are visiting us here in Reading. The chicken bones from the excavations at Lyminge are proving to be an excellent case study, and some of the Chicken Project team have been spending a few days with us in Reading examining our chicken bone assemblage.
Even with just a couple of days it is already clear that in the early Saxon period (5th-7th centuries AD at Lyminge) there was very little chicken at all at Lyminge, while the contrast with the later period (8th-9th centuries AD) is stark, with a huge amount of chicken bone.
Particularly interesting is the age of some of the chickens, with some very elderly hens and cockerels with healed fractures and osteoarthritis. Clearly the chickens were being looked after well to quite some age!
It’s great to be able to share data between AHRC-funded projects, and the data from our animal bone assemblage will be equally useful to us at the Lyminge Project as it will be for the Chicken Project. Being able to track the introduction and use of chickens at Lyminge means that we can identify changes between the use of animals and livestock in the pre-Christian royal vill period and the later double monastery. Even at this early stage we can see significant differences just in the numbers of birds present in these different periods, and we’re really excited to see the full results as the project continues.
The past few weeks have been incredibly interesting for the Lyminge project, and it can only get better with the final season of excavations beginning on the 21st July 2014. It’s looking like it’s going to be a really exciting season, with plenty more to learn about the Saxon royal settlement at Lyminge and of course the extensive prehistory of the area. I’ll be blogging lots more from the trench as per usual, so do keep up with the blog if you aren’t able to get down to the dig!
If you are interested in volunteering on the Lyminge Archaeological Project, you will need to book an induction session if you haven’t attended one in previous seasons. After having attended an induction you can come back as often or as little as you like! Click here for all the details or type the link in the poster below into your browser.
Student bursary applications are also now open with a deadline of 4th April 2014 and you can find all the information you need here.
We look forward to seeing new students and volunteers in the summer! The dig starts on the 21st July and runs until 31st August 2014.
We are extremely sad to convey the news that Professor Nicholas Brooks, a key member of the Lyminge Archaeological Project steering committee, passed away after an operation on the 2nd February 2014.
Nicholas was Emeritus Professor at the University of Birmingham, having joined the university as Professor of Medieval History in 1985. He was the Dean of the Faculty of Arts from 1992-5, Associate Dean from 1996-7, and was a Fellow of the British Academy and continued to research into Anglo-Saxon history well into his retirement. His publications are extremely numerous and much of his work from the 1960s onwards is considered debate-changing and key texts in Anglo-Saxon studies. His recent publication of the Christ Church Canterbury charters (2013) with Susan Kelly is a vitally important contribution to charter studies and the history and archaeology of Anglo-Saxon Kent.
Nicholas was extremely supportive of our project, and visited almost every single year of its life, from the earliest digs in 2008. His detailed knowledge of the history of the Anglo-Saxon Monastery at Lyminge was invaluable, and he always delighted in giving
impromptu lectures to our students and volunteers on site which were universally enjoyed. He always joined in with the digging when he visited, and was on site at some very significant moments, in particular the discovery of the Lyminge plough coulter. He even got stuck in on one of the hottest days that we experienced in 2013, and was particularly thrilled to find Saxon vessel glass in a sunken-featured building.
His contributions to our steering committee meetings were always incredibly valuable, with pertinent questions and points that we hadn’t considered, and it was clear from our correspondance that he really looked forward to coming all the way to Reading from Birmingham to hear about the progress the project was making.
He will be sorely missed by the Lyminge team both for his incredible knowledge of the period and for his genial friendship and unwavering support of our endeavours.
Our work carries on while we aren’t digging, and indeed there’s lots to talk about! Some of you will have seen bits and pieces in the press, or heard about things through the grapevine, but as we approach Christmas I thought it would be a good idea to do a bit of a round up of what has been happening since we backfilled the trench and put away the tools for another year. Tayne Field looks rather quiet now! This is what the dig looked like after all the infrastructure was removed and the backfilling was completed:
The grass is now growing back well, and the fencing is still up to make sure that it doesn’t get too damaged before its first mow.
It’s important to look after the new grass so that we don’t have to do too much damage control later on. Here we are (see right) with the new grass looking a little overgrown, but this is all so that it looks like it’s been there forever when it’s finally mown.
During the rest of the year we don’t rest on our laurels! On top of thinking about organising the next dig, writing articles, and giving lectures and talks, there is lots of post-excavation work to do, making doubly sure that all the records made in the summer’s digging season are accurate, filed in the right place, and that nothing is missing from the plans. Simon then gets going with inputting our records into the IADB.
This year we are thrilled to have an extra volunteer on the project! Julia Ippendorf is a Masters student in archaeology at the University of Freiburg, Germany, who is volunteering with us for three months as part of her degree. This is wonderful, as it means that we can do all those extra things with our database that we haven’t yet found the time for in our busy schedules – things such as inputting all the finds data right back from our first open area excavations in 2008. Julia is also getting lots of experience archiving and all the post-excavation processes involved in digitising archaeological records. We’re extremely grateful to Julia for all her hardwork.
Don’t forget that even though uploading and digitising all our records to the IADB is still very much ongoing, anyone can access and look at the records that are in the database. Just go to the main page of the project website, have a look at the PDF for instructions, and log in as a guest using ‘guest’ as both username and password! You can then bring up plans and records from 2008-2012, and we will soon have 2013 up there too.
Some of you will have noticed that Lyminge was in the press in the past few weeks! We always try to have a press release to get news out about the dig, and this year we were able to focus in on the wonderful bone gaming piece found by metal-detectorist and volunteer David Holman in a wall trench towards the end of the excavation.
Of course, if you are a regular reader of the blog or volunteer on the project, you get to find out this sort of news right away. Yours truly blogged about our exciting find just after the dig ended! We were thrilled that both the BBC and the Guardian newspaper took up the story, as this encourages other sites and papers to get involved, as well as proving our own excitement about the dig. Gabor was invited to speak on BBC Berkshire Radio and you can listen to him talk about the gaming piece and the excavations in a podcast for the ‘Voice of Russia‘ website. You can find links to all our press on the press page of the website, as long as it is online and it stays up in perpetuity.
Those who follow the project on Facebook or Twitter will have seen the video made for us by Steve Thomas, Lyminge resident and professional documentary maker. Steve was filming us all summer so that we can add video and audio to the excavation archive and he was kind enough to produce the short film below as a taste of what went on at Lyminge this summer (with thanks to Sarah Lucas at the University of Reading for adding the branding). It’s great to have yet another medium with which to record what goes on at Lyminge, as well as a fantastic look into what we do for those who can’t get to the dig.
As if all that wasn’t enough, we’ve also updated the website to include information on the 2013 season! You can now find a photo gallery entry for 2013 with a selection of photos from the excavations as well as some of the finds. If these just aren’t enough for your Lyminge dig fix, you can find many more photos of the dig as it unfolded if you make your way back through the blog.
There is also now an entry on the excavations page about the LYM13 season, rounding up what we found and how we are interpreting it at this initial stage. Of course as more information comes through from post-ex and through ongoing analysis we will certainly keep it updated and keep you posted!
In October Andy Macintosh, one of the site supervisors at Lyminge who come to us from Canterbury Archaeological Trust, visited Lyminge Primary Schol as part of their themed day about Royalty. This was, of course, the perfect theme to incorporate what has been going on in their very own village! Lyminge historically has direct links to the Kings of Kent in the Anglo-Saxon period, and our excavations support this through the very high-status nature of our finds. Many of the children visited the dig in the school holidays, so they were able to learn even more about the history of their own village and incorporate it with the fun of dressing up and getting to see exciting objects close up.
The square-headed brooch that Andy is holding in the photo above is a very significant find, but actually not a find made by the project! In the 1950s, an Anglo-Saxon cemetery was excavated just north of the village, and among other things garnet-inlaid brooches were discovered. More information on the cemetery excavation, including photographs of a range of objects and the burials themselves, can be found here.
It is very likely that the people buried in the Lyminge Saxon cemetery were those that lived in the settlement we have been excavating on Tayne Field. These very high-status finds are held at Maidstone Museum, and belong to the Kent Archaeological Society. Our links with KAS and CAT mean that they could be brought to the school, which is a fantastic thing to be able to do, and something the children really enjoyed.
There is lots more I could tell you but that’s probably enough for now! We do certainly hope you’ll keep following the blog and have a look around the website for lots more information. Our travelling exhibition is in fact still in Dover, but has been moved to Dover Library over Christmas and into the New Year, so you should be able to catch if you haven’t already. Don’t forget that in the New Year we’ll start letting you know about how to get involved in 2014 and keep you posted of about what’s happening with the project.
A very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from everyone at the Lyminge Archaeological Project!
The Lyminge project team are happy to announce the arrival of two key publications – one academic and the other aimed at a public audience – off the back of another highly successful excavation season in summer 2013. The first, by Project Director, Dr Gabor Thomas, published in the current volume of the Antiquaries Journal, provides a detailed synthesis of excavations between 2008 to 2012. The paper assesses and contextualises the results in a chronological framework emphasising Lyminge’s capacity to provide new insights into how the founding of monasteries in Anglo-Saxon England redefined a pre-existing stratum of central places embedded in the power structures of the pagan past.
The second article, by Project Post-Doctoral Research Assistant, Dr Alexandra Knox, has just appeared in the latest edition of Current Archaeology magazine. While revealing more details concerning the remarkable Anglo-Saxon feasting hall discovered in 2012, the article also takes the opportunity to highlight the community dimension of the Lyminge project and key discoveries dating from the prehistoric and medieval periods.