The Kaims Wetland
The Bradford Kaims a truly remarkable ancient wetland site, located just a few miles from Bamburgh, near the village of Lucker in Northumberland. The ongoing programme of excavations are revealing some breathtaking and unique organic finds preserved within peat deposits. Couple this with the unfolding story of a landscape in use over a period of thousands of years, with its enigmatic timber platforms and sequences of burnt mounds, and you have a captivating archaeological page-turner, where every excavation season tells us more about this exceptional landscape.
The wetland itself is known as Newham Bog and is part of an ancient landscape which formed following the retreat of the glaciers 12,000 years ago. Newham bog was one of a series of lakes stretching for around 8km through the landscape and draining into Budle Bay.
Over time the former lakes have become filled with peat and covered with a layer of topsoil. However, some areas remain as an open wetland. The nearby Embleton’s bog, for example, is home to a variety of birdlife and has been declared an Area of Special Scientific Interest. The Newham bog area is still prone to flooding and, given the chance, gives us a glimpse of the landscape in former, wetter times.
It is interesting to look at the area from above, on Google Earth for example, where the outline of the former lake area, measuring around 900m by 1000m, can be made out. The lake drained into a smaller lake to the north and finally into Budle Bay, around 5km away. An animation illustrating the extent of the wetland area is available in the menu above.
In 2009 archaeologist Kristian Pedersen discovered peat deposits in the region of Hoppen Hall Farm when excavating test pits with some of his students. He alerted the Bamburgh Research Project who began their own program of test pitting in 2010.
One aim of this test pitting was to identify the edge of the former lake. This is done by advancing the location of the test pits until the subsoil gives way to layers of peat. Other test pits were excavated simply as a way of carrying out a random sample of the underlying archaeology. Almost immediately the archaeologists hit upon a burnt area of sandstone, ironstone dolerite and charcoal. Wider excavation of the area suggested this could be part of a feature known as a burnt mound and revealed an unusual feature.
Fifteen sandstone slabs, covering an area of just over a square metre (left) were uncovered. The slabs looked like they had been subjected to fire and could be a kind of hearth. Archaeomagnetic investigation of the slabs indicated that this hearth would last have been fired around 6200 years ago. This was the very beginning of the Neolithic making the mound one of the oldest known.
This early find was only a taste of what was to come. Subsequent excavations in the area have revealed this as a fascinating and archaeologically important area. The links on the right tell you more…