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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Excavating History at Bamburgh

Bamburgh is a small, picturesque village on the Northumberland coast of the United Kingdom, unique in its beauty and its history. The village is overlooked by a stunning medieval fortress that is iconic in the region. The citadel was the royal seat of the kings of Northumbria, who at one time ruled a kingdom that stretched from the River Humber to the Firth of Forth. Three were recognized as overlords of all Britain. The site has been pivotal throughout the history of the British Isles, and is -- remarkably -- still inhabited today.

The Site

The Bamburgh Research Project has been excavating at Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland, UK since 1996. The present castle is one of the most stunning locations in the UK, with an extensive archaeological legacy. The excavations are set within the castle walls in the West Ward, and we are excavating through 4 metres of stratified deposits that are the result of occupation on the site from as early as the Neolithic (and likely Mesolithic).

The excavations are now increasingly exciting, as excavators are approaching the 9th Century levels relating to the castle's heyday as a principal Anglo Saxon Palace and fortress of the Kings of Northumbria. The excavations have recently produced a large hoard of Anglo Saxon coins, known as Styccas, a great deal of assorted metalwork including gold mounts and horse harness fittings, spokeshaves, knives, Seaxes, a shield boss, chain-mail and evidence of intense metalworking on site, in addition to other craft activities such as weaving, bone-working and leather. They have even revealed a 'gin gang' mortar mixer, and evidence of stone-built buildings and timber structures. The castle at this period was a very busy place and the archaeology reflects it, with complex deep stratigraphy and large numbers of finds from all periods, including Roman material brought up from lower levels by large medieval pits.

The site has been featured on many TV programs, including a recent episode of 'Time Team'. The project staff also run their own media unit, recording the site through video and editing content during the season.

They also run a new site nearby, which is a wetland excavation - exploring a peat bog that began forming in the post-glacial period. There are many sites in the vicinity that have never been excavated, and they aim to explore some of those this summer. They began excavating the prehistoric lake edge last summer and have revealed an interesting flagstone feature associated with a great deal of charred material and Neolithic Flint Tools. A recent Archaeo-Mag date has placed this feature at 4500BC, which if correct, makes it a rather important and intriguing discovery. They will be stripping the area around this feature during the summer to see if they can uncover associated features or sites.

The Field School

Students who participate in the project will have the opportunity to dig at both the castle and the wetland sites (depending on the length of their stay). This field school is open to all students and volunteers. The professional staff provides training in all aspects of practical fieldwork techniques including excavation, drawing, photography, site recording, survey, post excavation analysis, databasing, sampling and environmental processing, artefact recognition and processing, and site interpretation. The site is run by professional field archaeologists who will work directly with participants in the trenches. The school runs between 6th June to 31st July in 2011. Price £160 per week plus £35 camping fee per week.

Students book using the online booking form on the ‘Get Involved’ section of our website.

The project is open to ANYONE - as full training will be provided. For more details please apply online using our website: www.bamburghresearchproject.co.uk

Dig for a Day – this is available to members of the public who want to experience the excavation but don’t have time to spend more than a day or so on site – email gerry.twomey@bamburghresearchproject.co.uk for more info or to purchase gift certificates that can be used during the excavation.

You can also find us through the following links:

our website: www.bamburghresearchproject.co.uk

blog: bamburghresearchproject.wordpress.com

YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/bamburghmedia

Twitter @ http://twitter.com/brparchaeology

Monday, January 24, 2011

Uncovering the Mysteries of Khirbet Qeiyafa


Anyone following major archaeological discoveries in Israel will recall the pottery shard whereon was found five lines of what may be the oldest Hebrew script ever discovered. The find was uncovered at a hitherto unknown archaeological site known as Khirbet Qeiyafa. Despite its mystery, it is emerging as one of the most important archaeological excavations in Israel, revealing an ancient city that may tell a new story about life during the times of ancient Israel's best known kings. Add to this its massive fortifications and its strategic location between Jerusalem and ancient Israel's coastal plain on the main road from ancient Philistia, and we have a site that promises to add much to our understanding of Iron Age Judah. It is in this area that the famous battle between David and Goliath may have taken place.

During previous excavations, an early Iron Age II stratum was uncovered, including a massive casemate wall, a monumental four-chambered gate and residential buildings. Radiometric dating places this stratum in the years 1,000 - 975 B.C., the time of King David. This makes it the only site in Judah that can be securely dated to the time of King David. The 2011 Season (June 12 - July 22) will continue to explore the site's fortifications and its urban layout.

Students and volunteers will have the opportunity to participate and help make a difference in this effort to answer important questions about this significant location. If you are interested in joining the team this summer, go to qeiyafa.huji.ac.il to learn more about how to apply. You may also find additional information about the project at Foundation Stone's site at www.foundationstone.org.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Founding Fathers?

Plato's writings about an ancient advanced civilization may not be altogether fantasy. New scientific research is raising some tantalizing new considerations. Was there indeed a great founding culture and people that gave rise to the well-known civilizations that ringed and navigated the Mediterranean and laid foundations for the emergence of European societies? Read more about this at Popular Archaeology.

Exploring the Early Years of Alexander the Great


In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great: from Boy to King

For more than 2,000 years Alexander the Great has excited the imagination of people around the globe. A tour in Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia offers a unique opportunity to retrace his early footsteps from his birth through to the beginning of his extraordinary 22,000 mile journey of conquest.


Traveling back through time, participants will explore the world in which Alexander grew up, from the palace in which he was born to the rural idyll where he and his companions were educated by Aristotle. They will learn about Alexander’s personality and the lives of the people who inhabited his tumultuous world. They will follow in his footsteps from young prince to king and trace these action-packed years as he took on the mantle of warrior and leader and embarked on his campaign of conquest of the Persian Empire.


Alexander’s formative years were dominated by the rapid expansion of the Macedonian kingdom, as his father Philip II carved out vast new provinces. Participants will learn about this expanded realm from East to West and North to South, following routes that Alexander took as regent to his father, the king, while familiarising himself with the land that he was born to rule. They will explore the lakes and forests of Western Macedonia, the new cities of Herakleia Lynkestis and Philippi that his father founded to secure his realm, and the rich and fertile heartland of the kingdom itself: Pella, Vergina and Edessa. They will visit the sites of some of the most famous sieges and battles that accompanied this rapid expansion, from the cities of Methone, Olynthos and Stageira to the battlefield of Chaironeia.


Having explored the epicenter of Alexander’s kingdom, and stood in the magnificent tomb where his father was laid to rest, the group will head south into the heartland of ancient Greece. Here they will investigate the cities and sanctuaries that played a key role in the development of Macedonia, from Delphi to Corinth, Olympia to Athens, some of the most significant sites in the ancient world.


The adventure finishes in the most important sanctuary of the Macedonians, Dion, where Alexander feasted with his men and prepared them for the battles and marches to come on their epic journey east.


For more detailed information about this escorted tour, see Peter Sommer Travels.

Photo courtesy Heinrich Hall/Peter Sommer travels.

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