Lindisfarne 2022

Dates coming soon...

Unearth evidence of life at heart of the early medieval Kingdom of Northumbria - before, during and after the Viking raids

Lindisfarne is the site of one of the most famous events in British history. In AD 793, Vikings raided the island’s monastery, sending shockwaves across Europe. Help us excavate the remains so that we can piece its story back together.

The monastery on Lindisfarne is no ordinary monastery; it’s where the Lindisfarne Gospels were illustrated, where the treasures that adorned the altars of early Medieval Europe were forged, and where thousands of miracle-seeking pilgrims came to seek healing. It’s also where Vikings launched a series of devastating raids in the 8th, 9th and 10th centuries. As a result, it was largely abandoned, left to ruin, and its original location lost to time.

That was until five years ago when our team of archaeologists, Venturers, and experts from Durham University located the first significant signs of its exact whereabouts. Since then, crowdfunders from around the world have gathered every year to help our archaeologists unearth new evidence from this historic site.

Who was living on the island before, during and after the Viking raids? What can we learn about their lives? How did they survive? And what cultural connections did they have with the wider world?

Despite its fame, historical documents written by chroniclers like Bede and Alcuin only record a fragment of the island’s story, but together, our community has unearthed fascinating new details about the men, women, and children who lived here, where they came from, the food they ate, what they did for fun, how they buried their dead, and the impact of the Viking raids on their community.

We're searching for the original monastery
So far, we've found carved namestones
a rare glass gaming piece
A record photo of a selection of Anglo-Saxon artefacts found at Lindisfarne, there are several coins, a fingerbone stained green by a copper ring that was found still around the bone, a pin, a pendant and a gaming piece.
coins and copper artefacts
traces of buildings
evidence of intricate metalworking
and part of an early cemetery
Time Team has even been to inspect the trenches!
Join us online, or on site, to help us continue the search!

Each year, the story is getting clearer, and the details are getting sharper. Some of the discoveries our crowdfunders have made have been so significant that they’ve made international headlines in the Guardian, BBC and Smithsonian.

As well as buildings, workshops and part of a burial ground, our discoveries include early medieval carvings, runic namestones, coins, hairpins, copper rings, and a unique glass gaming piece, and burials, all dating to the early medieval period when Lindisfarne was at the peak of its fame.

Join us for season six!

This year, our archaeological goals will be more important than ever; we’ve started to uncover what looks like the remains of an early medieval smithy, with evidence of the workshop, the furnaces, and the metal itself all still in the ground.

Not only is this an incredibly rare discovery, but given the importance of metalworking to Lindisfarne’s story, to Northumbrian culture, and ultimately to the Viking raiders, it’s potentially one of the most exciting discoveries that could be made.

The island’s monastery would have created items like the Lindisfarne Gospels, reliquaries and altarpieces that were exported to the churches of Europe, as well as everyday items like hoes, nails, and hinges. It’s one thing to find artefacts like these, but quite another to find traces of the workshops where they were actually made.

Can we find any other traces of the monastery whose wealth attracted the Viking raiders? And can you help us do it? If we can, we’ll be making an enormous contribution to the scientific understanding of early medieval metalworking, and to Lindisfarne’s story as a whole.

Always wanted to try archaeology?

Love archaeology? Always wanted to be part of a dig? This is your chance! Everyone is welcome to be part of our crowdfunded digs. You can choose to join our Dig Team, conserve artefacts with the Finds Team, or even bring the kids to DigCamp or DigClub. We’ll provide all the tools and training that you’ll need to learn and make discoveries with our team.

And if you can’t travel, don’t worry; our archaeologists will be running virtual tours, talks and events so that you can still learn and enjoy the real, live archaeology that you’ve helped to crowdfund – from home!

So, whether you want to join us in person, or will be watching online, together we’ll trace the history of Northumbrian monks, Viking raiders, and early medieval metalworking together.

Lindisfarne’s early medieval monastery sat right at the heart of Northumbrian power and politics. It was a major population centre, a hub of cultural influence, and a place of fusion between the Roman and Irish religious worlds… until Vikings attacked.

Sitting on a small tidal island opposite the famous Bamburgh Castle, King Oswald chose Lindisfarne as the place to establish a monastery in AD 635. But it was no ordinary monastery: it quickly grew to become the golden heart of the early medieval kingdom of Northumbria.

Made famous by chroniclers like Bede and Alcuin (and by popular TV shows like Vikings), it’s where the Lindisfarne Gospels were illustrated, where the treasures that adorned the altars of early Medieval Europe were forged, and where thousands of miracle-seeking pilgrims came to seek healing.

Lindisfarne’s power and influence reached deep into the heart of continental Europe, and was described by Alcuin as ‘the most venerable place in Britain’. Its fame, wealth, and the stunning religious artefacts that the were produced by the island’s monks are probably partly what attracted Viking attention…

Now that we’ve located a significant part of the site, we need to recover and record its remains. A lot of evidence survives, and by supporting this dig, you can help us continue the delicate process of recovering it.

Some of the discoveries our crowdfunders made are so significant that they featured in the Guardian, The Times, The Daily Mail and on BBC4’s Digging For Britain programme – this was the very first time any crowdfunded discovery had been featured on the show. And they’re just the tip of the iceberg.

We found several Anglo-Saxon burials, a namestone, a monumental wall, the outline of several early medieval buildings, plenty of pottery, and a silver coin minted during the reign of King Eadberht, as well as some curious bone artefacts which seem to be proof that some people continued to live on the island long after the monastery was supposedly abandoned.

The archaeology we’re poised to unearth in 2021 has the potential to offer huge insight into the lives of those who lived through Lindisfarne’s golden age, endured the Viking attacks and witnessed this transformative period in English history.

Lindisfarne is one of the most iconic sites in England’s early medieval history. Having been missing for over 1,000 years, we’ve now located a significant part of it.

Only with your support can we continue to uncover the rest of it…

In September 2021, we’ll continue the search for King Oswald’s monastery. The excavation is set to take place over three weeks, from Tuesday 7th – Sunday 26th September.

Now that we’ve located a significant part of the monastery, our plan is to use this time to:

  • Continue excavating the buildings and metalworking areas, to see if we can find out what they were for. Mapping out the monastery’s layout will be a huge achievement.
  • Dig deeper into the past. So far, everything we’ve found has been dated to the 8th-10th centuries. But the more we dig, the further back into the past we can head…
  • Investigate the burials we found. We’ve already revealed that buildings and burials are intermingled, and unpicking them will help us learn more about the people who lived and died during Lindisfarne’s heyday
  • Look for evidence of life after the Viking attack. We want to assess the real impact of the raids on the island’s population

We’re also changing the way archaeology is done, sharing the results and discoveries so that you can watch as we make them.

We need to raise £40,000 to carry out our excavation, analyse everything we find, and make the results available online. By supporting the dig, you will be helping us to:

  • Plan the dig. There are some (fairly complicated) logistics involved!
  • Run the excavation. We need enough archaeologists on site to make sure that everyone who comes digging with us has plenty of expert support
  • Pay for all the ‘aftercare’. We’ll need specialists to conserve and take care of all the artefacts we find – especially any burials and human remains
  • Analyse all the finds. We’ll also need specialists to analyse and interpret everything we find, including any burials, animal remains, ceramics, metal artefacts and environmental samples
  • Share lots of updates before, during and after the dig. It doesn’t start and end with excavation. We’ll be publishing videos, live streams, virtual artefacts and blogs so that you can follow the whole process from start to finish
  • Make sure that all of our data, discoveries and interpretation are freely available online. We think that the results of publicly funded research should be free and easy to access. We’ll be putting all of ours online as soon as they’re made.

Support this dig and have a role in some great archaeology!

Where is it?

Our excavation area is located on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, in front of the priory.

This year, our meeting point and Dig HQ will be the Crossman Hall, in the centre of Holy Island Village.

What are the daily start and finish times?

We send out the final details for joining the dig two weeks before we head to site, and the latest information for everyone joining us is also available on the Lindisfarne FAQ page here.

PLEASE NOTE: Lindisfarne is a tidal island, and it is only safe to travel to and from the mainland at certain times of day. This means that our days will be governed by the tide (how romantic!).

You can check the tide timetables for September 2021 here.

As a general rule, our dig days usually run from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, but on days where the tide does not allow us to start at 09:00, we start our days 20 minutes after the tidal causeway opens, and finish slightly later in the day.

The earliest we ever start is 09:00 am, and on days with a late morning tide we always allow at least 20 minutes from when the causeway opens to when we begin the day.

How have you adapted your digs in response to Covid-19?

We’ve introduced lots of Safe Dig policies which are designed to protect our staff, our Venturers, and the communities we work in. You can read about them here.

What do I need to know about joining the dig team?

Our dig experiences include all the tools, training and one-to-one instruction you will need in order to learn and have a great time whilst you are on site with our team.

Food, travel and accommodation are not included, however there is a list of links and helpful information provided below.

If you want to start planning your journey, check the rest of the FAQs for information about location, start times, food and accommodation.

What do I need to know about joining the Finds Room team?

Our finds experiences include all the tools, training and one-to-one instruction you will need in order to learn and have a great time whilst you are on site with our team.

Food, travel and accommodation are not included, however there is a list of links and helpful information provided below.

If you want to start planning your journey, check the rest of the FAQs for information about location, start times, food and accommodation.

What happens once I make my contribution?

If you’re choosing a Dig or Finds Room experience, you’ll be asked to select your t-shirt size, and start date at checkout.

After that, you’ll receive a payment confirmation with the details you gave us.

You’ll also get a follow-up email with more information about the dig, and the details you need in order to plan your journey.

We’ll then send you an email reminder two weeks before the dig, with info about how to watch the dig online, and any final details about exactly where and when to meet us.

What happens if we don't reach our crowdfunding goal?

We’ve set our crowdfunding goal to match the level of excavation and analysis we think this site deserves. Obviously, the closer we get the better, and the more people who join in the more we can discover, but we won’t abandon our plans if we fall shy of the target – this archaeology is too important to miss!

If we don’t reach our goal, we’ll stick to our guns and do the dig anyway – we’ll just scale down the size of the excavation to suite.

For example, we’d excavate a smaller area and send fewer artefacts off for scientific analysis, but the dig would still happen and you’d still be part of our team.

That being said, we’re confident we’ll reach our goal because we know there’s incredible archaeology waiting to be found and people like YOU are willing to help us prove it!

When will I get my t-shirt?

If you’re joining us on site, you’ll receive your t-shirt when you arrive.

If you’re not joining us on site, we’ll send it to you at the end of dig season (usually October or November).

When will I get my digital goodies?

You’ll start getting all your digital goodies (like video updates and virtual artefacts) when the dig begins.

Once the dig is over, it takes us about 12-18 months to analyse the finds and write up the official report. We’ll keep you updated with any significant developments from the lab during this time. It will be well worth the wait!

Is accommodation included? Where can I stay?

Accommodation is not included, so you can choose to stay wherever suits you best in terms of location and budget.

A quick search online will reveal that there’s plenty to choose from, from holiday parks and self-catering cottages, to B&Bs and hotels – something to suite every budget!It’s important to note that Lindisfarne is a very popular tourist destination and accommodation gets booked up extremely quickly.
If you’re coming to dig with us, we recommend that you book your accommodation for the dig as soon as possible. Here’s a few suggestions:

Hotels, Guest Houses and B&Bs
There are many places to rent a room on Holy Island. A good place to start looking for a place to stay is: https://www.lindisfarne.org.uk/accommodation.htm
On the mainland there are many places to choose from. The closest accommodation to the island is the Lindisfarne Inn: http://www.lindisfarneinn.co.uk, but a simple online search will turn up many options in the area.
Camping
There is strictly no camping allowed on Lindisfarne, but there are some great camp sites nearby on the mainland.
In previous years, some of the DigVentures team have stayed at the Barn at Beal: http://barnatbeal.com/camping/
We also recommend Budle Bay Campsite: http://www.budlebaycampsite.co.uk/
What about food and transport?

You’ll need to make sure that you can get to Lindisfarne for a morning start – remember to check the tide tables!

If you want to make shared travel plans with other Venturers, please note we will be emailing all our crowdfunders a link to our Facebook chat group, where you can make shared travel and accommodation plans together if you wish.

We will be flexing the start / finish times for each day around the tides, so don’t worry that you’ll be missing anything. If you’re staying off-island, you won’t be the only one!

And remember you’ll need to bring your own lunches, or cash to buy some from a local cafe.

Can I come and visit even if I'm not on the dig or finds team?

ABSOLUTELY! We invite all our crowdfunders (and anyone else who is interested) to come and visit. Bring friends, bring family, and make a day out of it!

You’ll be able to come and talk to us in the trenches,and visit the Finds Room in the second week of the dig to see our discoveries.

If you’ve crowdfunded the dig, we’ll also let you know about any special events we put on closer to the time.

What if I've booked, but can't make it in the end?

We can either transfer your dig days to another excavation at our discretion, or you can bequeath them to someone else… go on, pass on the archaeology love!

We’ve also updated our policies in response to Covid-19 to ensure you have the flexibility and security you need.

What if the weather is terrible?

If we could control the weather, we’d make it… temperate! Our ideal conditions are overcast (for taking photos), and drizzly (for keeping the ground soft). Sometimes, we also like a bit of sun (for good morale!)

If the weather’s truly terrible, or obscenely hot, then remember this: archaeology isn’t only outdoors! We can always head indoors to the Finds Room to work on the artefacts… cleaning, examining and identifying the things we’ve found so far.

Is there anything else I should know?

These FAQs should cover everything you need to know for planning your journey.

We’ll send you more specific joining instructions, with additional details about exactly where and when to meet us on Holy Island, two weeks before the dig begins.

Who else is supporting you?

This dig is being run in partnership with Durham University.

How else can I help?

Crowdfunding isn’t the only way you can help. Even just sharing our campaign on social media could introduce us to someone else who wants to support the dig.

Go on… tell your friends, tell your family, tell any archaeology-lovers you know and help us spread the word!

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