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Department of Archaeology

All Research Projects

Yeavering: A Palace in its Landscape

A research project of the Department of Archaeology.

Background

Northumberland is a region that hosts a number of internationally and nationally important archaeological sites that date to the 7th and 8th centuries, a time when Christianity was reintroduced to England and when major changes took place to the shape and size of political territories and structures. Yeavering, Northumberland is one of these sites. It lies in the shadow of the Cheviot Hills, immediately below Yeavering Bell, a hill fort believed to be active as late as the 4th century AD. Although lying west of Dere Street, beyond the old Roman frontier, local sites and finds indicate a thriving Romano-British population and active contact with communities south of the wall in the 1st to 4th centuries AD. The earliest phases at Yeavering represent a relatively simple site marked by a number of rectangular hall buildings. These have been disputed, identified by some as a successor site to the hillfort, a ‘British’ settlement dating to the era before the Deiran overlordship of these northern territories, and by others as ‘Anglian’, slightly later and relating to the sixth century and a period of colonisation, interaction and take-over by Anglian groups from the south. The settlement is mentioned by Bede in AD 731 as a palace used by Edwin and place where the Roman missionary Paulinus conducted mass baptisms during the reign of Edwin. Bede also describes how the site was deserted in the time of the kings that followed Edwin and another palace was built at Maelmin (Milfield). The halls of this royal settlement were finally discovered in 1949 through aerial photography, and between 1953 and 1962 a considerable area of the site was excavated by Brian Hope Taylor and published in 1977. 

The current project has developed from Durham staff engagement with The Gefrin Trust. Chris Gerrard, David Petts and Rosemary Cramp, with Sarah Semple, are members of the Trust along with representatives from Northumberland Parks, the County Council, English Heritage and the Glendale Gateway Trust. The organisation was set up in 2002 to ensure the future protection of the site of Yeavering through sympathetic management, conservation and investigation.

In this role, Durham Archaeology has assisted in raising the profile of the site on the web, helped launch a travelling exhibition and a popular booklet and initiated a programme of new field research on the site. The latter began with the trialling of up-to-date techniques such as magnetometry and ground penetrating radar on the palace site. These results, shortly to be published, have revealed that previously unrecognised features exist, even in the areas previously explored by Hope Taylor.

The next stage of work, currently underway, involves the development of a Research Agenda and a Project Design.

Staff

From the Department of Archaeology

Scottish Soldiers Project