During late August, Wessex Archaeology spent two weeks on the Otterburn Range in Northumberland alongside volunteers from the Revitalizing Redesdale Landscape Partnership to assess three possibly prehistoric features.

The team was full of experienced and extremely enthusiastic volunteers eager to get stuck into digging and investigating three features identified by Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) archaeologists; a possible ring cairn, possible burial cairns and a ditch and bank.

Unfortunately, our possible ring barrow turned out not to be prehistoric and is possibly a post medieval stack stand used for drying hay. A possible burial cairn produced no evidence of burials, but its construction was very structured especially when held in direct comparison with a nearby second cairn. This second cairn was clearly a clearance cairn. The bank and ditch produced no dateable finds, but a small lump of charcoal was recovered from the ditch fill.

The site at Otterburn, where archaeologists and volunteers searched for Bronze Age features Working on site at Otterburn

Despite the awful weather and lack of finds, Wessex Archaeology was able to provide the volunteers with hands on training in excavation and recording techniques, metric survey, photographic recording as well as providing a workshop of the basics of osteoarchaeology.

Post excavation work on the environmental samples recovered will hopefully provide organic material for radiocarbon dating, which will allow us to date the features and determine once and for all if they are part of the wider Bronze Age landscape of the Otterburn Training Range.

Volunteer Bob Jackson said: “I thoroughly enjoyed the dig and the company of everyone present. The whole event went smoothly thanks to your excellent organisation both before and during the dig. Thank you. I also enjoyed the talk on osteoarchaeology very much. I thought Diana Swales put it over at exactly the right level and dealt with our ‘inquisitive’ 9 year old very well."

Ben Saunders, Senior Marine Archaeologist