New Publication

I am delighted to have received a copy of a report published earlier this year and to which I made a contribution, but which has only just arrived with me. Published by the British Museum in their series of Research Publications, A Riverine Site Near York: A Possible Viking Camp? explores a site discovered by metal detectorists and brought to the attention of the Portable Antiquities Scheme and York Archaeological Trust in 2003. The finds included a hoard of coins, bullion, hack silver and weighing equipment, and also pieces of iron swords; other material included dress fittings, pieces and offcuts of decorative metalwork and more fragments of weaponry. Some of this material is 8th century or earlier, and appears to have been obtained for the purposes of being reworked and recycled; other finds – in particular the coins and weights – suggest activity in the period of the late 860s to the mid 870s. Similarities between the assemblage and the location of the site itself to that of a probable Viking Camp at Torksey have led to the suggestion that this could be another example of such camps, believed to be winter camps of the Viking Great Army of the 870s.

It is wonderful to finally see a report on this important site which was first discovered almost 20 years ago, with a particularly interesting finds assemblage with objects spanning a date range of 6th – 9th/early 10th centuries.

Archaeology Is Exploring!

I was recently asked if I would do a Zoom session about archaeology with some 8 – 9 year old children at an international school in France. According to their teacher, they were studying the topic of ‘Exploring’, a subject in to which archaeology would fit very well. Before the session, the students came up with some questions (in fact lots of questions!); sadly there were too many to answer all of them in the 40 minutes or so we had been allotted, but some of the best were picked. I had also sent some photos of sites, artefacts and tools used by archaeologists in advance of the session, all of which came in useful in our discussion.     

So, what sort of questions did we look at? Well, I was impressed by some of the things they had thought to ask. For example, how do archaeologists know where to dig? And what type of sites do they work on? I had to explain that I would talk about how it works in Britain, about how the development of sites leads to the destruction of archaeological levels, so archaeologists can come in, before the new road/buildings etc are built, to see  – in other words ‘explore’ – what had been there in the past. I also highlighted the importance of recording all that the archaeologists did, as archaeology itself is destructive. They also wanted to know what different types of archaeologist there are, and ‘had I ever met another archaeologist and worked with them as a team?’ This enabled me to talk about the different disciplines involved in an excavation, and how it absolutely is about teamwork. One very interesting question was ‘Has anyone ever got there before you made the discovery?’. In fact, on many sites, people have been there before, often in the distant past – perhaps robbing the stone from upstanding walls to take away and use for new buildings, or opening up mounds or tombs to see if there were goodies to steal from burials. These people were doing their own ‘exploring’! Also very relevant to the theme of exploring was a question about using maps, which I used to explain how important it is on an excavation that comprehensive plans of what is found are made, as once the archaeological layers have been removed, they cannot be physically recovered.

Finally, some of my favourite questions included:

If you find something with writing on it from a long time ago, can you understand it? Answer: usually.

If you were going on a dig, what would you put in your backpack? Answer: My lunch would be very important! Also my trowel, and waterproofs/sun cream depending upon the time of year!

I really enjoyed the session, and I am sure they found it useful too. I would be thrilled if in years to come, it transpired that maybe one (or more?) of the 20 or 30 students on that zoom decided to do their own exploring as an archaeologist.

Moving to a new office!

After over 30 years of working in York as an archaeological small finds specialist, I am moving to discover a new part of the UK.  I spent 27 years at York Archaeological Trust, and have been working for almost 5 years now as an independent specialist, but as from 3rd March 2020 I am going to be basing myself just outside Norwich in the town of Wymondham (pronounced Windham) and taking my office with me!

I shall continue offering my services: identifying, assessing, cataloguing, analysing, researching and publishing small finds of all materials of Roman to post medieval date, with particular emphasis on post Roman to late medieval periods. I can also carry out post excavation management of finds reports, and offer training in the identification of finds and other aspects of small finds work.

Please note new address details as from March 3rd 2020 below:

Nicola Rogers, 1 Northfield Gardens, Wymondham, Norfolk NR18 0DG

Tel: 07584907195



Exciting new excavations in York!

Roadworks and street improvements have recently taken place on Stonebow in the centre of York, and York Archaeological Trust undertook excavations in the area which have produced some very interesting artefacts, which will hopefully be studied in the near future.

See this link for more information:


Spindle Whorls and Loom Weights

Loom Weights and spindle whorls group (SC1307_SF47_SC1990.24_SF21292_1976.7_SF1097,2092,7919,13738)_02

Loom weights (back) and spindle whorls (front). Image © York Archaeological Trust


DO you think you know the difference between a spindle whorl and a loom weight? It is surprising how many people think they do – but are WRONG! In over 15 years of teaching about small finds in York, England, I have found that confusion over identifying these objects has come up frequently, so here is a brief examination of these two types of artefact, both used by women in textile working; hopefully, by the end, the critical differences between these objects will be clear, and you will able to confidently label these objects correctly! If you want to see the real things, do visit JORVIK Viking Centre where examples of these objects, and of many others involved in textile production, can be seen on display.

Spindle Whorls

Prior to the development of the spinning wheel (which probably appeared for the first time in England around the 13th century), hand spinning was used to twist together raw fibres to form yarn in preparation for weaving. This was carried out using a wooden spindle, a rod which tapered to each end; the ends were sometimes notched to secure the yarn in place.

A circular whorl was slotted on towards one end of the spindle, and acted as a weight to assist the spindle’s rotation; with the end of a roll of the raw fibres attached to the other end, the spindle was spun around, and the strands of fibre were pulled and twisted by hand into a spun thread. This could be done either while standing with the spindle hanging vertically, or sitting and rolling the spindle against the hip.

standinghip spin

Hand spinning using a spindle with whorl. Images © York Archaeological Trust


This complete spindle from Coppergate has notches, and rather unusually has been decorated.  Image © York Archaeological Trust

Spindle whorls have been found in considerable numbers in excavations in York. They are made of various materials including animal bone and stone, and less commonly, fired clay and lead alloy, and range from being crudely shaped with a knife to being turned and decorated. Roman whorls tend to be disc-shaped, and slightly smaller than whorls recovered from later sites in the city such as the Anglian settlement at 46-54 Fishergate, and the Anglo-Scandinavian settlement at 16-22 Coppergate. These whorls dating from the 8th – 13th centuries A.D. are also sometimes discoidal or cylindrical, but may also have hemispherical or biconical profiles. The stone whorls were often made of local stone, while the bone whorls would be formed from the domed end of a cattle femur which was cut off and then had a hole drilled through. Spindle whorls of this period appear to have a diameter range of 3 – 4.5cm, and a weight range of 4 – 63gms, suggesting the production of yarns for a range of fine and heavier fabrics.


bone whorl ceramic better





stone whorl


Spindle whorls from Coppergate, made of fired clay (top left), animal bone (right),  and stone (bottom left). All images © York Archaeological Trust

Loom Weights

The loom weights which have been recovered from excavations in York have all been associated with the warp weighted loom, which, as the name implies, used weights in its operation. This form of loom was extremely long lived, apparently originating in the Neolithic period, but in York evidence of its use comes particularly from the 8th – 10th centuries A.D. from the sites at Fishergate and Coppergate.


Weaving using a warp-weighted loom Coppergate. Image © York Archaeological Trust

The warp weighted loom in use at both of these settlement sites would have been made of wood; two uprights were leant up against a wall, and these were joined together by a lower shed bar or cross-beam. An upper beam or roller connected the uprights at the top, and it was to this beam that the vertical ‘warp’ threads were attached. The loom weights were tied onto the warp threads and hung down to either side of the lower bar, keeping the threads under tension.loom weight 1






A selection of loom weights from sites in York – the weight seen below has been burnt in antiquity.  

All images © York Archaeological Trust

loomweight 2

The form of the weights is annular or ‘bun-shaped’ with a central perforation, the shape used from the 5th – 10th centuries A.D. They were simply made by hand, with a piece of local brick clay formed into a sub disc shape and the central hole pushed through – thumb prints are sometimes visible on the weights themselves – before being fired. The recovery of complete loom weights is rare; they are more frequently found as fragments, but even so they are a much less common find than spindle whorls. The range of weights recorded for complete loom weights found across England at this period is 100 – 1460gms, with most being in the range of 150-550gms. The examples from York seen here are in the range 360 – 440gms, and the diameters range from c.8.5 – 12cm.

SO, now you should be able to tell the difference between these two types of weights used in textile working! To recap: the larger and heavier ones are loom weights which are annular, ceramic, with a diameter of c.10cm and a weight usually of 150-550 gms. The smaller lighter weights are spindle whorls which are also annular, and sometimes ceramic but more commonly made of stone or animal bone, and occasionally of lead alloy; they are smaller than the loom weights, with a diameter of 3 – 4.5cm, and a maximum weight of less than 100 gms. Despite these differences, what both types of object can do is to remind us how widespread and important textile production was in the past.


With thanks to York Archaeological Trust for permission to use their images, and in particular to Rebecca Sampson and Louis Carter for their assistance

Recent Work for Jorvik

I am delighted to continue a close relationship with the York Archaeological Trust and Jorvik, and recent work has included small research projects on Writing and Literacy, and on Games and Recreation in the Medieval Period, both of which incorporate some of the fascinating artefacts in the York Archaeological Trust’s collections. There are going to be some displays on these themes at Barley Hall, York in 2018  – in the meantime, you can see the reports online.

Click to access Writing-and-Literacy-in-the-Medieval-Period.pdf

Click to access Games-and-Recreation-c-AD1400-1700.pdf

And look out for more reports coming soon!


Vikings Vikings!

I have recently been to Denmark, a long held intention of mine, and went to some wonderful archaeological sites, with emphasis on the Vikings! I loved Roskilde, where we spent all day and had a go at being members of a Viking ship crew (definitely need to improve my rowing!).

Roskilde Viking Ship Museum


One of the six Viking ships found at Roskilde

We also visited the immense ring fortress of Trelleborg which not only featured   reconstructed buildings, but also had an excellent museum and some excellent and very informative Viking craft re-enactments

Trelleborg fortress


Ring fortress at Trelleborg, near Slagelse

Jelling had to be one of my favourite sites – we visited on a quiet Sunday morning, and apart from the amazing site itself with the mounds, church and spectacular views, not to mention the gorgeous carved stones, there was another brilliant new museum, with very effective – and state of the art – displays



Mound and church at Jelling



One of the Jelling stones, now preserved within a glass case

Other highlights were a visit to Ribe which is a beautiful town dating back to 700 AD, and with much of its medieval core remaining; be sure to catch the Night Watchman tour if you go!

Ribe Night Watchman tour



These tours have been running for 85 years now!

Other highlights were the Moesgaard Museum near Aarhus which is a spectacular building with more great exhibitions, including the very moving display of the bog body of Grauballe Man, the amazing Viking ship burial at Ladby (which we visited during a thunderstorm – very atmospheric!) and a visit to Copenhagen with more amazing museums including the Glyptotek Art Museum and of course the National Museum. Everything very much lived up to my expectations – it was marvellous!

Moesgaard Museum

Ladby Viking Ship Burial