about dive into durham

A research project of the Department of Archaeology, Durham University.
seal matrix Between 2008 and 2019, archaeological investigations of a submerged river bed, positioned just downstream of the twelfth century Elvet Bridge in Durham City, County Durham, have revealed an important multi-period underwater archaeological site. This site has eventually yielded a significant collection of typically small metal finds, the total number of which now exceeds 13,000 objects. This remarkable collection of objects has been described as 'a major research facility, probably the largest collection of late- and post-medieval finds in the North of England: a unique regional/national resource'. Such is the significance of this underwater archaeological site - an important historical location positioned close to a scheduled ancient monument and adjacent to the eastern-boundary of the Durham World Heritage Site (WHS) - the Department of Archaeology, Durham University have adopted it as a research project. The project is now known as the Durham River Wear Assemblage (DRWA). The Elvet archaeological site, together with its important assemblage of small finds, actively contributes to the rich archaeological record of the Durham WHS.

One of the key aims of our work is to record and research the objects using archaeology students along with specialists with more traditional archaeological skills from finds drawing to comparative analysis and developing typologies. It is envisaged that this material will be published in volumes of a popular archaeology monograph series, plus papers in academic journals. Once complete, permanent public and academic access to the identified objects of assemblage and their associated research will be achieved through placing object details on the Durham University Museum catalogue. Public attention will be focussed on the assemblage though local lectures, exhibiting in a number of local museum venues and through its connection to the present people of Durham by publishing a popular booklet in partnership with the Durham City Freemen.

The DRWA positively contributes to the North-East England Research Group's aim to explore the archaeology and historic environment of North-East England. One of the unique aspects of this group is that their research is underpinned by work carried out by academics, the commercial sector and in co-operation with community groups, see: North-East England Research group.

Dive into Durham

Dive into Durham

Dive into Durham


Although it is anticipated that the research of the objects will continue over the next three to five years, it is our aim to get as many of the small finds as possible on display in local museum galleries.

To date, hundreds of the artefacts have already appeared on display in exhibitions, including: 'Diving into Durham' (Palace Green Library - June-Sept 2014), 'Plots & Spangles: The Embroidered Vestments of Helena Wintour' (Auckland Castle, Bishop Auckland - Oct-April 2016), the 'Living on the Hills, 10,000 Years of Durham exhibition at Palace Green Library (2016-present), and in the Department of Archaeology, Durham University (2015-present).

In June 2021, MA Museum and Artefact students from Durham University, working closely with Gary Bankhead, have curated an exciting the online exhibition: 'Hidden Stories from the River Wear - Exploring 1000 years of Durham History'. The exhibition exlores hundreds of objects revealing their hidden stories to dive deeper into Durham’s past.