Showing posts from May, 2014

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back!

Although the weather conditions for week two at Berkeley have been less than ideal, the students have made impressive progress in the trenches and we want to update you all on our exciting new discoveries and theories. Trench 14-
In this trench the students have excavated down to discover a burnt platform of clay and charcoal with burnt iron nails and degraded bricks. The current thinking suggests that this is a potential burning site of buildings during the Civil War period (1641-1651), these theories will be explored further next week. We can be sure, however, that solid burnt platforms are the remains of a significant burning event.
Trench 8- In the paddock, significant progress has been made on a series of three intercutting ditches, located at the top end of the trench. These were discovered below multiple medieval rubbish pits, which date from  the 13th Century through to the 16th Century suggesting that the ditches below the pits are late Saxon/ Norman in date, however very l…

Berkeley for the Students

For 10 seasons, the excavations at Berkeley have revealed important archaeological finds from several periods in history, with interest being generated at an international level. However, alongside the ground breaking research, the excavations also act as training for archaeology students at the University of Bristol. There are 50 to 70 students working every day, from undergraduates to masters and PhD students. Initially all first years are required to partake for two weeks, while second and third years participate as part of a unit. Many students also choose to volunteer for longer periods of time or outside of their module choices, showing how valuable the training is to those studying, and with an interest in, archaeology.
Every year from May to June students put the theory learnt in the classroom into practice. The excavations provide the practical skills needed for a career in archaeology as well as beneficial life experience. By working in such a big group students can appreci…

Bones of contention

Skeletal remains (both animal and human) are amongst the most common finds in archaeological excavations. These artefacts are useful in identifying economic and social aspects of the community associated with them, as well as assisting archaeologists in dating the site.

Animal bones can be used to identify the diet of the area; the presence of butchery marks and burnt bones can be interpreted as the preparation and consumption of animals which can give archaeologists an insight into how a community in a certain period ate and survived. Large amounts of animal bone also gives archaeologists the chance to use the oh so popular interpretation of ritual. Seriously, we love that.

The University of Bristol’s excavations at Berkeley have uncovered a large assemblage of red deer bones. Berkeley is home to a large red deer park where deer have been raised and hunted for hundreds of years. The deer at Berkeley have been so important that sources talk about Queen Elizabeth I staying at Berkeley…

A whole new trench.

Over the last ten seasons, we have opened various trenches around Berkeley in order to create a clear image of the archaeology in the environs. In recent years our main foci have been the paddock and Jenner garden with various other test pits and exploratory trenches set up in strategic locations to explore particular aspects of the Berkeley area. This year our primary trench is the paddock where various features are being uncovered and the excavation of the Norman house that we found last year continues. In the last few days we have opened a small trench running alongside the paddock. This was opened up as a result of past test excavations in previous seasons where evidence of a brick and rubble deposit  had been uncovered. One of our theories to explain this is that this may indicate the presence of a kiln, possibly Tudor, on site. This is particularly significant because Tudor bricks were made by hand and increased evidence of Tudor brick and any kiln like features would certainl…

The Unsung Heroes of the Job Site- Post-excavation Techniques

Everyone has an image of what an archaeological site looks like. To some Indiana Jones springs to mind, to others excavation brings about memories of Time Team episodes and there are some who will always think about Jurassic Park…A reminder: Archaeologists do NOT dig Dinosaurs. But one thing that people rarely think about is what happens after excavation. So we’re here to dispel the myths and welcome you to the world of POST EXCAVATION!
We all love the romantic image of archaeologists carefully scraping away layers of dirt to uncover exciting treasures or undiscovered societies but what actually happens to these objects once they’re out of the ground and how do we form our conclusions as to what they mean. During the Berkeley excavations, and throughout the year, staff and students are discovering just that through finds processing, cataloguing and archiving that is critical to our archaeological understanding of the significance of each site we work on. This week, students in the D…

Interview with Cameron Monroe.

As we mentioned yesterday, we were happy to host Professor J. Cameron Monroe on the first day of excavation here at Berkeley. Professor Monroe has been working in Benin and is on research leave for the next few months so how could we possibly resist getting an interview to see what he thinks about the excavations here at Berkeley, his current research and (no agenda- we promise!) what his opinions are about the use of student social media in archaeological excavation.
Social Media Team (SMT): So, the first thing is, what are you doing in the UK at the moment?
J. Cameron Monroe (JCM): I’m a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz and I’m on sabbatical for three months, I’ve been here for a month so far and I’ve got two more months to go. In addition to exploring the potential for some collaborative projects with the department of Archaeology and Anthropology here [Bristol] I’m writing up the results of 15 years of field work.
SMT: What have you thought so far about Berke…

Welcome to the tenth season at Berkeley Castle!

Well, here we are. Back at Berkeley for the 2014 excavation season and what an amazing start we have had to our 10th year here! The press interest in the excavation has been absolutely amazing and so far today one of our directors, Professor Mark Horton, was interviewed by BBC RadioGloucestershire for Chris Baxter’s show. We have been pleased to host Professor J. Cameron Monroe who is on sabbatical from the University of California Santa Cruz and were glad to have been given an interview that will be coming your way shortly. Doctor Stuart Prior, our other dig director, gave his exciting annual tour of the excavation and castle to all of our new first years and was deemed a Viking by one of the touring schoolchildren in Berkeley today.
As all of the archaeology students at the University of Bristol will know, Berkeley is not only an incredibly well respected professional research project but is also our training dig. As such, the social media team has been keen to get interviews with …

First press release of the new season

Thanks to the team at Berkeley Castle for putting together this rather wonderful press release, highlighting some of the exciting goodies in store for our students and the public! And today saw us reach a big milestone - 500 Facebook likes!

NEWS RELEASE Handle the Past Berkeley Excavations – 19 May – 13 June 2014 The University of Bristol’s archaeological students return to the dig at Berkeley. Join guided tours of the excavations from Berkeley Castle – amazing finds, incredible history…
Tweetable: Handle fascinating artefacts found at Berkeley, discover how they were uncovered and why they were there @BerkeleyCastle.   Visitor info at
The University of Bristol will be returning to Berkeley for the tenth year in succession to continue with their excavations at the Berkeley Dig.  Each year as their trenches go deeper and they explore different areas of the paddock, they uncover further spectacular finds. Dr. Stuart Prior, Senior Teaching Fellow in Archaeological …