Archaeologists dig in for new season at Bamburgh Castle to investigate its medieval heritage

A new season of archaeological investigations is under way in the majestic grounds of Bamburgh Castle.

Bamburgh Research Project is working at the West Ward of Bamburgh Castle this summer.
Bamburgh Research Project is working at the West Ward of Bamburgh Castle this summer.

A team of 12 students, including some from the USA, will spend the summer searching for evidence of the castle’s medieval past.

It is a continuation of the work done by the Bamburgh Research Project since 1996.

Project director Graeme Young said: “It’s always a popular project and our American archaeology students know they have to do their fieldwork abroad.

A 9th century styca coin found at Bamburgh Castle.

“Bamburgh has a very interesting story and who wouldn’t fall for the romance of excavating one of the great castles in Europe?”

The team are working in the West Ward on a trench parallel to where archaeologist Brian Hope-Taylor undertook the first systematic modern excavations at the site in the 1960s and 1970s.

He unearthed such important finds as the Bamburgh beast (a gold mount with intricate zoomorphic designs), pattern welded swords and hundreds of styca coins.

“The aim has always been to join the two trenches up and I would like to have them at the same level by the end of this season in late July,” said Graeme.

Archaeologists from Bamburgh Research Project at work.

Samples will be radio carbon dated but the evidence very much suggests they are excavating buildings from the early medieval period, around the 7th and 8th Centuries AD.

“This area of the castle appears to have had an industrial background, making weapons and jewellery,” said Graeme.

“We’ve found a cobbled surface which appears to be a courtyard and we’re trying to identify the timber buildings from around that courtyard which would have been used by artisans. By the end of the season we aim to prove or disprove that theory.”

Last year, the team finished its work on a trench near St Oswald’s Gate. That trench is going to be backfilled in the coming weeks and the outline of two of the Anglo-Saxon halls they excavated will be marked out to help visitors imagine how the castle would have looked.

Excavations at Bamburgh Castle.

Over the years, archaeologists have discovered an Anglo-Saxon burial ground in the Bowl Hole and pre-Norman stone buildings in the Inner Ward.

Excavations at Bamburgh Castle.
A horse bone was a more unusual find at Bamburgh Castle.