Excavations 2023

The Gefrin Trust and Durham University launched and concluded their second field season at Yeavering in September 2023. Rooted in the Resource Assessment and Research Agenda undertaken for the Gefrin Trust, and subsequent Project Design presented to Historic England, our aims are to test out Hope-Taylor’s interpretations, extend new knowledge, improve academic and public understanding of this multi-period site and establish the first scientific chronological framework for the long-term development of human activity on the gravel plateau and the broader environs.

The second season focused on an area just to the east of the multi-period palace complex, with explicit aims to excavate and expose the section through the Outer Palisade of the Great Enclosure previously excavated by Brian Hope-Taylor and open a new section through the same feature to the north. Our trench also had a large western extension to evaluate anomalies present on the results from the 2021 cart-based geophysical survey.

The 2023 season met all primary objectives, opening two large sections across the Outer Palisade enclosure. We now know with certainty that the outer palisade ditch had a large secondary V-shaped recut. This second feature was almost wholly filled when a series of parallel, aligned fence (or palisade) slots were constructed on the site, one immediately west of the lip of the ditch and one to the east. We have two similar stone-packed slots running centrally at the uppermost level cutting the upper fills of the second phase of the outer ditch.

We also now have irrefutable evidence that Palisade 5, perhaps connected with palace A4, cuts the upper fills of the second ditch/palisade trench. We also have extensive amounts of charcoal, some burned in situ from the ditch sequences, that will enable us to meet our primary aim of establishing an absolute (scientific) chronology for the development of activity on the site. To the west, the geophysical anomalies that we thought might be hut circles have likely been caused by glacial features, but we do have an interesting set of large post-holes, some previously excavated by Hope-Taylor, others newly excavated and several with charcoal in the deposits. Further, we may have recovered post-settings associated with a northern entrance to the hall complex.

Post-excavation analysis is now in motion at Durham University in collaboration with Durham University Archaeological Services, with the use of external experts where necessary. Samples for C14 and OSL dating are promising in terms of establishing absolute dates for the development of the Great Enclosure and its final phases of use. We plan a short interim publication on the 2023 results and a more in-depth article on the combined 2021/2023 results this academic year.