Excavation of a Viking-Age Cemetery at Cumwhitton

I thoroughly recommend purchasing this book, as it is a great piece of work by OA North on what is one of the most important Viking sites to come up in Britain over the last few years.

Heritage Calling

Little did Peter Adams know, when he pulled a metal object from the ground in 2004, that he had made one of the most exciting discoveries in Viking-age archaeology in England for many years. He had been metal-detecting, with permission, on farmland to the west of the quiet village of Cumwhitton in the Eden Valley and, until then, it had been a fruitless search.

The object was reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme and proved to be a brooch that was identified as a rare Viking oval brooch of ninth – or tenth – century date. These are mostly found in pairs and in a burial context. He therefore returned to the site and did, indeed, find a second brooch.

One of the oval brooches found by Peter Adams. © Oxford Archaeology Ltd One of the oval brooches found by Peter Adams. © Oxford Archaeology Ltd

The Portable Antiquities Scheme commissioned Oxford Archaeology North to investigate the site as it was under immediate…

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Long Meg and Her Daughters Stone Circle, Cumbria – Part Two

Long Meg and Her Daughters - 3D view of Long Meg

Long Meg and Her Daughters – 3D view of Long Meg

This post is concerned with the photogrammetric survey strand of survey that we undertook (see first post) as part of the Altogether Archaeology project at Long Meg and Her Daughters stone circle near Penrith, in the Eden Valley, Cumbria.

In this instance we undertook to photograph 33 of the 69 individual stones consisting the stone circle, and including the Long Meg monolith itself. This process was undertaken by the Altogether Archaeology volunteers who photographed each individual stone from the ground, and by taking shots from above using a photographic mast. The intention was to take photographs from all around the stones so as to provide complete overlapping coverage of each individual stone. The background detail needed to be removed from each photograph and this was achieved both by masking it out on the computer and by having a white background held behind the individual stones during photography.

Long Meg and Her Daughters - photographic recording in action

Long Meg and Her Daughters – photographic recording in action

Altogether Archaeology volunteers were instrumental in going through the various processes using Agisoft Photoscan Pro software to produce nine 3D models of individual stones from the circle. The software combined the photographs, computed the positions that the images were taken from, generated a 3D mesh, and then the photographs were reapplied to the 3D mesh as a texture.  Each individual photograph needed to be prepared, and this entailed masking out of any background detail still left in the photographs, and then the application of survey control. The end product was a series of 3D models that can be viewed as 2D plans or within Adobe Acrobat as 3D pdf files.

Long Meg and Her Daughters - 3D stone

Long Meg and Her Daughters – 3D stone with control points

The photographs of the Long Meg red sandstone monolith came out particularly well as the bright sunlight slanted across the face of the stone containing the rock art motifs and gave sharp definition to the rock strata and any depressions in the surface.

Long Meg and Her Daughters - rock art motifs

Long Meg and Her Daughters – rock art motifs

Again many thanks must go to all of the Altogether Archaeology volunteers who braved the weather to take the photography on site, and to those luckier souls who were based in the nearby village hall processing the data.

Long Meg and Her Daughters Stone Circle, Cumbria – Part One

Long Meg and Her Daughters - Plan View

Long Meg and Her Daughters – 2D Plan View

Earlier in the year we were commissioned by Paul Frodsham of the North Pennines AONB under the guise of the Heritage Lottery funded Altogether Archaeology project to undertake two types of photogrammetric survey at Long Meg and Her Daughters stone circle located in the Eden Valley, near Penrith, Cumbria. This was part of a wider community project to develop an understanding of this exceptionally important monument and provide detailed surveys and geophysical investigation of the monument.

The work was undertaken in March 2013 and this post is concerned with the first part of our input into the investigation, which was producing a detailed aerial photographic plan of the site using a quadcopter UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle).

Setting up the Quadcopter

Setting up the Quadcopter

This method uses aerial photographs taken from a small electrically powered model helicopter (UAV) which has the ability to carry a light weight camera and has the advantage that it can take photographs from much lower altitudes than can legally be achieved with a light aircraft. Survey control was introduced to the photographs by the placement of survey control targets across the site which were located by means of a survey grade GPS.The photogrammetric processing was undertaken using Agisoft software that provides detailed modelling using the overlap of up to 150 photographs, and creates a very detailed DTM (Digital Terrain Model) across the site. The photographs were then digitally draped over the model to create an accurate 3D model of the ground surface.

Long Meg and Her Daughters - Solid 3D oblique view

Long Meg and Her Daughters – Solid 3D oblique view

The primary output, however, was an accurate flat two dimensional image which can be used to generate accurate plans of surface archaeological features and contours across the extent of the site (at the top of the post). However, the 3D model can also be output as a tool to visualise the site from any perspective and can be viewed in more recent versions of Adobe Acrobat as a 3D pdf file.

Long Meg and Her Daughters - 3D Oblique View

Long Meg and Her Daughters – 3D Oblique View

Many thanks should go to all of the Altogether Archaeology volunteers who turned up in the cold weather to work on site during the project.

Beware Exotic Animals

Beware Exotic Animals – Someone has got too much time on their hands!

Limestone Pavement

The limestone pavement at Great Asby Scar

The limestone pavement at Great Asby Scar

I have just spent a happy couple of hours in the company of Jan Hicks from the Lunesdale Archaeology Society, and we wandered around the common land at Orton and Great Asby Scars in the Eden Valley.

A shieling with stock enclosures at Great Asby Scar

A shieling with stock enclosures at Great Asby Scar

There may be the potential for the group to undertake basic walkover landscape survey on the fells there. Several years ago I undertook both walkover and detailed surveys of settlement/field-systems on Little Asby common which lies adjacent to this area for the Friends of the Lake District. It would be really great to see if further work could be done by volunteer groups in the area.

The area we visited has spectacular limestone pavement exposures and is partly a National Nature Reserve. Archaeology-wise cursory inspection revealed fragmentary remains of enclosures, field-systems, shielings and cairns upon them.

We visited Castle Folds Iron Age/Romano-British enclosed settlement and on the way back down from the fells we passed Gamelands Stone Circle.

Gamelands stone circle viewed from Knott hill

Gamelands stone circle viewed from Knott hill