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The Till Valley Archaeology Society migrated to the Cheviot Centre in Wooler for our well attended meeting on February 7.

Tuesday, 27th February 2018, 08:00 am

We welcomed Dr Ian Kille, of Northumbrian Earth, who gave a fascinating and amusing lecture, describing the geology of Northumberland and the connection with archaeology.

Ian explained the prehistory of Earth and the structure of its mass – the hot central core surrounded by the protective magnetic field, which is vital for all forms of life – the convection process and the crust.

There is a relationship between archaeology and geology – history and pre-history. James Hutton, the Scottish geologist and father of modern geology, stated: “No vestige of a beginning and no prospect of an end.”

Many millions of years ago, when the continental drift caused the ancient continents of Laurasia and Gondwana to merge, the fantastic rock formations we see today were created. The Whin Sill, evident at Hadrian’s Wall, Holy Island, Cullernose Point, Bamburgh and High Force, is the result.

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The Cheviot Range, a prime area, is part of the first union of England and Scotland, Cheviot itself being a massive volcano, with the surrounding hills subsequent lava cones.

Lindisfarne has different formations so it is necessary to look at the context, materials and the preservation of each deposit.

Usually the oldest deposits are at the bottom and the most recent at the top, but due to upheavals and drift, the earth’s crust has buckled and rotated. Evidence can be found on the Northumberland coastline, North and South of the River Tweed, at Siccar Point, Cocklawburn, Burnmouth and North of Eyemouth, where deep sea fossils, corals, plants and insects, can be found, high above present day sea level, and all much larger than the present day because of higher oxygen levels at the time.

There is also evidence of recurring climatic conditions, with bands of silt/sand below rock formations.

Deltas can give much information, the rivers carrying silt from miles away – the Mississippi Delta is a prime example.

The Milfield Plain is a large glacial deposit and more henges are found in this area than Stonehenge, evidence of very early human occupation.

A visit to Nepal was mentioned, where a glacier had melted and only rubble remained due to the erosive action of the ice. The unusual preservation of artefacts found at Vindolanda is mainly due to the acidity of the soil.

All stone buildings originated in geology, which has been exploited by humans, and there are many types of stone, some easier to work than others, leading to industrial archaeology, such as Scremerston coal, iron and lime kilns, and associated industries.

The geology uncovered at Lindisfarne in 2017 was fascinating. The ripple effect was seen on foundation stones in the Chapel, and the Whin Sill was exposed in the bottom of a trench. There was also evidence of a brilliant white sandstone, which had discoloured over time. Work is ongoing to discover the source.

The landscape around Flodden gives clues to the outcome of the battle in 1513. A fault line along the base of Branxton Hill produced a series of springs, which caused the boggy conditions encountered by the Scottish army. Young archaeologists took core samples from this area and found nothing but mud.

During 45 minutes, some millions of years were covered, and there is little doubt that much more information about Northumbrian Earth will be discovered.Dr Kille mentioned that his geology walks will return later this year.

The next TillVAS meeting is on Wednesday, March 7, at 7.30pm, at either Crookham Village Hall or the Cheviot Centre in Wooler, when Dr Chris Fowler will speak on Bronze Age Burial Practices in North East England and South East Scotland. Members free, visitors £4.