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I'm on a year's CBA Community Archaeology Training Placement at Northlight Heritage in Glasgow

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Rest of November 2013

After the Community Heritage Conference I continued to have a busy month...

I drew the winner of the Cumnock Shop Front Heritage Hunt (where there were clues in the shop windows like this and kids had to hunt for them).  They got a goodiebag of prizes - thanks to the shops in Cumnock who donated them.  

I also did a couple of school visits in Cumnock - one was at St. Patrick's Primary where I did a Skara Brae session (they asked specially!)  Thanks to Historic Scotland Rangers in Orkney for providing a great Education Pack and to Alice Watterson for the use of her film - which is great - check out her blog to have a trippy neolithic experience.

National Archives
Later in the month I even headed over to Edinburgh to the National Archives and NTS Archives to do some documentary research about the Mausoleum at the House of Dun.  It was my first time in the National Archive and a bit scary!  I found it VERY difficult to read the 17th and 18th C Handwriting - but the highlight was finding a letter with James VI Privy seal on it.  

Cumnock History Group
We attended the first ever meeting of the Cumnock History Group at the Baird Institute in Cumnock.  It was brilliant to be there at the formation of a brand new group - which was an unexpected outcome out of our Raising the Bar heritage project.  

Wemmys Caves
I went up to Wemmys Caves in Fife to visit a project which Northlight and our sister organisations ArcHeritage and Trent and Peak are involved in.  Northlight are involved in creating a high quality digital scan of the amazing Pictish carvings in the caves - which will be available for the public to view online.  I was lucky enough to be able to sit in on an RTI workshop which was fab - using a normal camera and some amazing software to create images of the carvings with a movable light source.  You can read more about it on the SCAPE website: 

Selkirk Finds
I worked with one of the Hidden Heritage volunteers - Biff to sort out the finds from Selkirk - including this lovely spindle whorl.  We got all the finds catalogued and sorted - and it was great to have a yarn to Biff again!  

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Scotland's Community Heritage Conference

Conference outing
One of my activities as Community Archaeology Bursary Placement was to help with the organising of Scotland's Community Heritage Conference - hosted by RCAHMS, Archaeology Scotland, Historic Scotland, Perth & Kinross Heritage Trust, NTS, SCAPE and Northlight Heritage.  I worked with the Skills for the Future trainees at RCAHMS (the lovely Martin and Sharon) to run the photo competition and we helped to run the social media storm with live tweets during the conference.

Sharon & Martin have put the tweets online here:


I also gave a poster talk about what I've been up to on my placement so far - and a minute of madness  talk on Edinburgh YAC (I only had 60 seconds to talk!) which can be viewed on Doug Rocks-Macqueen's website:

Youtube Video of Minute of Madness

It was a brilliant conference - vibrant and exciting (and I'm not just saying that because I helped organise it!) It was great to see friends old and new and to hear about the wealth of great community-led archaeology projects going on around Scotland.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Peat Coring with Pete

At the start of November I headed to Arrochar again for a Peat coring workshop - I've always wanted to do this - so was very exciting.  Although we didn't find any peat it was still very useful to show how environmental archaeology can be used in a community setting.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Selkirk Castle Community Archaeology Project

children from St. Joseph's Primary come to visit the site
I was really looking forward to this excavation, as we've worked with a group of volunteers in the community over the summer to run various workshops (walkover survey, desk based research and a terrestrial laser scan) to encourage them to become more interested in the local archaeology and specifically the site of Selkirk Castle.  To find out more see the group's website http://selkirkcastlecap.weebly.com/
When you go down to the woods today!  One local chap lent us his bear suit to take some novel shots!

The excavation took place in the last week of October and we had over 30 Volunteers - as Volunteer coordinator, scheduling them in so we had no more than 12 per day was tricky!  It was the one dig I've been on where 99% of the Volunteers attended when they said they would!  We had a real mix of people  - 3 generations of one family, retired folk, health professionals who'd taken time off, school children...the lot.  What a great bunch of volunteers - and they were so enthusiastic that they kept working hard even when we weren't finding much in the way of medieval castle remains!  Star find for me was Richard's Spindle Whorl - found at the base of the Motte.
Wildlife ecologist and archaeological volunteer Richard with his spindle whorl - evidence for a textile industry in Selkirk before the big mills.
We had a site open day on the Saturday - with around 50 visitors and on the Thursday I welcomed an entire primary school to the site.  For me the highlight was working with a group of volunteers who were getting into archaeology for the first time.  I hope we'll be back!
Me giving a site tour

Saturday, 2 November 2013

October - A mix of things

At last, during October I got a wee bit of time to think about future projects, and have a look at different avenues of funding out there.  It's a bit daunting but also very exciting at the same time.  However, I was also very busy with the Cumnock Project.  Although the excavation had finished, the project was still continuing.  I organised a little 'Shop Front Heritage Hunt' for the October holidays, where shop owners let me put little clues about Cumnock's history in the windows and the kids had to go around looking for the clues.  In the end I got 26 responses, which for Cumnock I think isn't too bad...
Initial Wordle cloud of "Inn 3 Words" - memory gathering about the Tup Inn

We also had a couple of meetings with the Cumnock Living Memory Group + new members of the community who came to our "Memory Bank" sessions.  The breaking news on 31 Oct was that the amazing ladies from the Living Memory Group want to start up a completely new group with new members and will donate all their website content (A LOT) to the new group!   Amazing.  It's so great to think that the Raising the Bar project has inspired a new group to form.

At the end of October I did a 'follow up visit' for one of the local primary schools - the teacher wanted a Victorian tour of Cumnock.  It was a great success - the kids orientated themselves in the OS 1st Edn map far better than the teachers & helpers managed to.  They also spent time in the Square using old photos to work out where the photographer stood and how the views had changed.

We also had planning meetings for the Community Heritage Conference happening in November - I was working with the Skills for the Future Trainees at RCAHMS to organise a photo competition.  The entries started trickling in throughout October.  The theme was "Heritage for the Heart" - something I totally believe in - Heritage is good for you!

Monday, 30 September 2013

A little bit about Cumnock's Raising the Bar


Well I don't know where to start talking about this project.  It's been a whirlwind!  When I started working on it properly at the end of July/beginning of August I was quite daunted - Would the people of Cumnock be at all interested in heritage?  It's a fairly run down Ayrshire mining village, so I thought it might be quite a challenge.  I was also quite daunted by the site we were going to be digging - right next to the road and I thought access wise for groups of school children was going to be tricky.

First of all - the people in Cumnock blew me away.  Everyone is so friendly, helpful and curious.  Now, a few months into the project Ingrid and I are 'weel kent faces' (as we say in Orkney) on the streets of Cumnock.

Second of all - yes the site was not the most visitor friendly - it wasn't in a lush field of green grass, but in a concrete filled carpark - full of demolition material....however the location was key to the high engagement levels we achieved during the excavation.  Because it was in the middle of the town, we had so many passers by checking in daily to see what had been discovered!

Before the excavation we did various things to raise awareness of the project and gather community input.  These included having a stall at the Cumnock Highland Games and also doing some 'pub crawls' looking for memories of the Tup Inn - the site we would be digging up.  What a great response - the pub seems to have been a really well loved place and what better place to dig up on a Community project than someone's favourite pub! Ingrid also did a 123D Catch workshop with the Young Carers to give them an introduction to archaeological recording.

Volunteer Shaun digging away
We carried out a two week excavation at the start of September (prior to which I'd done 8 school pre-visits in 4 days!) where we had 19 Volunteers from the local area come and learn the techniques of excavation.  Recruiting the volunteers was interesting - we got quite a lot from the local Volunteer Centre and the Job Centre.  It was key to us to up-skill people to help with their employability.

We also had visits from 6 primary school classes and 2 Young Carers groups.  The Young Carers were great.  If you think how hard their young lives must be - trying to knuckle down at school whilst caring for an ill/disabled/elderly family member - no wonder when they get to Young Carers group they let their hair down!  Despite this, once they got into digging, they were concentrating so hard!  This is what I find really rewarding about Community Archaeology - using what I love to give people a special and memorable experience.

We also worked alongside Neil Finlayson - a woodcarver who worked together with the forestry staff at East Ayrshire Woodlands to create a collosal bench.  The bench was then a platform for Community Art- each visitor getting to 'Make their Mark'
The Bench Arrives!

Craig - a local chap who designed a Cumnock-themed carving for one side of the bench, and carved most of it himself!

More on Cumnock later - I haven't even scratched the surface of the amount of work we've done!

Wednesday, 31 July 2013


Well it's been a while since I last posted!  The reason being that I've been so busy with the various Community projects on the go at Northlight Heritage, and invariably, actual work takes precedence over writing about the work!

I will try to go project by project and give you a flavour of the key things I've been up to....


A German member of the Clan Gregor society talking to the local B&B owner at sun down

At the end of  July I worked up in beautiful Dalmally on an excavation organised by the Clan Gregor Society.  The digging volunteers from the Clan Gregor Society http://www.clangregor.com/ came from all over the world (America, Germany...) but there were also local members of the Community involved http://loch-awe.com/local-groups/dalmally-historical-association/

It was a unique experience for me because the Clan Gregor members were after something very specific - evidence to back up the Geophysical results and historical research that there is be a high-status fortified dwelling in Dalmally where the MacGregor chieftain was based.  Canmore record

There were very high hopes to find evidence of this fortified manor.  My trench turned up a modern field drain, but in one of the other trenches we had a stretch of walling, which is a bit more promising.
What I liked about the project was how much the Clan Gregor Society involved the local community and how much just a little bit of a taste of excavation can get folk hooked!

Kate and Ian - two volunteers who were ace at planning and so enthusiastic!

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Week 13 - Burning the Circle

Well the highlight of this week was, hands down, setting fire to a timber circle in Arran...to create a public spectacle, engage people in Arran's amazing archaeology and also to try a bit of an experiment.  About 40 people turned up to watch at 10pm on a Sunday night.  Check out Dr Brophy's blog about the experience http://theurbanprehistorian.wordpress.com/2013/08/09/the-12th-hole/

As well as the amazing timber circle burning, I tried my hand at creating a demonstration Burnt Mound - it worked really well and I really enjoyed chatting to visitors to Brodick Country Park about how the Bronze Age folk heated water.  We had lots of debates about what they would have used the hot water for.  My favourite suggestion was from one wee boy who said "TORTURE!"  We managed to boil and egg in the water & eat it ... Success!!

I felt privileged to have erected one of the timbers by hand...I didn't dig the hole though!

Thanks go to the epic University of Glasgow and the amazing Arran Ranger Service https://www.facebook.com/ArranRangerService

Monday, 29 July 2013

Week 12 - Bennachie

Me working with Volunteers to clear rubble from Shepherd's Lodge in Bennachie
I spent this week up at Bennachie in Aberdeenshire.  I was kindly hosted by Northlight's Aoife Gould, who is the Community Archaeologist on this great collaborative project.  Check out the website here: http://www.bailiesofbennachie.co.uk/excavation/ 

The project is all about this amazing hill - Bennachie - and everything in it - from flora and fauna, to geology and archaeology.  There is a very active community group called the Bailies of Bennachie who are working with archaeologists and anthropologists from the University of Aberdeen and Northlight Heritage to try to uncover information about the colony of crofters who lived in an area of common land during the 19th Century until they were evicted by their landlords.

I spent the week in one particular dwelling - working with students and volunteers from the community recording and excavating a house at Shepherd's Lodge.  We even know the family name of the people who lived there, which meant finding personal objects like a clay pipe even more special.

I also demonstrated the wonders of pole and kite aerial photography to three school groups - who all seemed to love coming to speak to the archaeologists.

Some of the Bennachie team at Shepherd's lodge 

Week 11

This week was mainly spent in the office (which is a necessity sometimes!)  The above picture shows a visit to the Dickson Laboratory near Maryhill in Glasgow by some of the Hidden Heritage volunteers.  They were given a tour of the lab and then set to work sorting out and cleaning the artefacts found on the Hidden Heritage excavations.  I think it's great that Northlight are involving volunteers in the post-excavation side of archaeology, as it's often forgotten about compared to the thrill of excavation.  

I also worked on a project which is going to take place in Selkirk in the Autumn, as well as helping to prepare a draft report on our work for the Inner Forth Landscape Initiative.  The most interesting phone conversation I had this week was with a retired miner at High Valleyfield in Fife.  He told me some great anecdotes about the domestic culture of miners and how he got chatted up in the pub after backshift, because he literally had black coal eyeliner on (so deeply ingrained, it didn't come off in the shower!)  This conversation really taught me the value in Oral history projects - to bring something industrial to life.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Week 10 - Glenshee Excavations

I was very lucky to spend most of this week up in the amazing landscape of Glenshee on an excavation which is jointly led by Northlight Heritage and Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust http://www.pkht.org.uk/ We were investigating a pictish long house with turf and stones walls.  We found some enigmatic post holes underneath one of the turf walls!  Very intriguing.  The highlight of my week was working with children from Kirkmichael Primary school.

Catch up with the dig on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GlensheeArchaeologyProject

Aerial Photo of children from Kirkmichael Primary on the Ring Cairn

Aerial photo from kite of Kirkmichael Primary children and their trench over a clearance cairn
Me surveying a Pitcarmick house with children from Kirkmichael Primary: copyright © George Logan 2013

Me surveying a Pitcarmick house with children from Kirkmichael Primary copyright © George Logan 2013

Monday, 17 June 2013

Week 9

One great thing about Community Archaeology is that you get to meet lots of different people.  This week I started working on a Heritage Skills survey for the Inner Forth Landscape Initiative http://innerforthlandscape.wordpress.com/.  This involved going to meet communities around the inner reaches of the river Forth and talking to them about which aspects of their heritage interest them.  I saw places I'd never seen before - such as the magnificent Lime Kilns at Charleston and heard how even people as far away as Australia are concerned for their conservation.
On the other side of the Forth I spoke to the Friends of Kinneil - a very active heritage group, who've produced lots of resources to engage local people in their heritage, such as this brilliant film: http://www.bonessmining.org.uk/

 I also went to meet two nice ladies from the Scottish Buildings Preservation Trust at the Haining in Selkirk.  This is the site of a new Community Archaeology Project, which I'm working on http://www.thehaining.co.uk/sccap.htm we had a look around the exciting site of a medieval Motte and Bailey Castle and discussed how we are going to get local volunteers involved.

But I didn't do all the visiting.  At the start of this week Tara - the Community Archaeology Placement Coordinator at the CBA came to see me!  It was great to catch up and make sure I'm on track with my placement.  Thanks Tara!

Monday, 10 June 2013

Week 8 Continued

I spent one morning this week sorting out our records from the Hidden Heritage Project - which also hit the press:http://www.helensburghadvertiser.co.uk/news/roundup/articles/2013/05/13/457083-video-hidden-heritage-project and was on BBC Radio Scotland Out of Doors as well.  I am missing the Arrochar alps, but on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday of this week I traded the Cobbler for Govan Old Church - just as evocative a place!  The re-display of the Govan stones is magic and well worth seeing for yourself http://www.thegovanstones.org.uk/  I spent several hours at the tail end of the week getting to grips with Adobe Illustrator to produce some learning materials for the p6-7s and their teachers on drop spinning.  Thanks to Ingrid for her patience!  

We used chopsticks and clay to make spindle whorls and then decorated them with Viking runes.  Whoever thought p6-7 boys would enjoy spinning so much?  We also did some paper weaving as a way of introducing the Weaving Truth with Trust project to the classes.  http://weavingtruthwithtrust.org/

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Week 8 - It all started in a carpark

Archaeology in car parks is very fashionable these days!  My week started with a visit to Cumnock - to this car park where you can see foundations poking through the tarmac of an old Inn which stood on the site.  If you google it you find it's haunted!  Jesting aside, I'm very excited about our new project "Cumnock Digs It" - which, as well as re-claiming a central space in the town for temporary community use, will get local 16-25 year olds into archaeology and learning new skills, to help them on the path to positive futures!

The rest of the week holds more excitement in store - when Northlight Archaeology hits the Govan Fair - the oldest procession in Glasgow http://thegovanfair.org/?page_id=238

But before that kicks off I wanted to make sure you all listen to BBC Radio Scotland's Out of Doors programme on Saturday, because their very own Mark Stephen came to the Hidden Heritage Dig last week to interview us about the project 
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0074hjr  If you aren't up at 6.30 on Saturday, you can get it on iPlayer!

Week 7 - The enigmatic mounds...Not even a clearance cairn?

Well - It arrived far too soon - the last week of excavation in Arrochar....the last chance to find some evidence of Viking graves along the isthmus from their pre-Battle of Largs raiding spree (see above picture!).  Local folk stories tell of large mounds, in which Viking ship burials are concealed.  Well, I'm afraid we had to disappoint - and found only 2 natural mounds.  Has it been hard maintaining the community's enthusiasm with no Viking treasure?  Answer: NO!  They have loved it.  It has been great to witness such a positive reception for what some might say was not-terribly-exciting archaeology and to find out that normal people can also get excited about tiny little bits of flint and chert (Our star find was a flint blade - pictured with the finder below - she is a local Mum who runs the Brownies!)
We rounded off the week by visiting the now famous site of High Morlaggan - famous as a benchmark Scottish Community Archaeology project on a boulder strewn hillside above Loch Long, and afterwards we took to the Village Hall dancefloor for the best "Sooth" Ceilidh I think I've ever been to (Orcadian ceilidhs take a lot of living up to!)  I was sad to leave Arrochar but exciting about the new challenges ahead...

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Week 6 - Stuckidhu Enclosure

Last week we excavated a possible hut circle within a strange enclosure shaped like a jellybean!  It is on the North facing hillside on the isthmus, overlooking Tarbet.
This is a photo of me teaching Ann and Alistair how to plan - they got very stuck in and attached to the trench after carefully planning every stone!

We had a visit from over 40 school children from Lomond School - one of whom said afterwards "That was EPIC!" so we know our engagement with them was a success

The highlight of last week was the Open Day, where we welcomed over 150 people up to the site.  It was truly magnificent.  There was Viking ale, Venison Stew, live butter making, grain grinding, wool spinning, kite photography and I made bone bobbins to make some Viking style braids.  They were a big hit.

My first shot at kite photography...pity the card needed to be re-formatted!!

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Week 5 Hidden Heritage Excavation - Possible Macfarlane Dwelling

19th Century manuscripts tell of a dwelling house belonging to the Chief of the Clan Macfarlane being in Tarbet close to the shore...it was noted as being in the grounds of the Manse...so we are digging up a very kind lady's garden in search of this house.
This was Day 1

Day 2 was much sunnier.  I took the p6-7 from Arrochar Primary down to our new trench opened up on the Playing fields in front of the Manse to try to locate some anomalies shown up on the Geophysics.  The kids did very well - one even found a sixpence from 1960!  I guess for an eleven year old that's pretty old. I'll be back later in the week to tell you more...

On another note, the Hidden Heritage Project now has a new website: http://www.hiddenheritage.org.uk/    Enjoy!

Monday, 13 May 2013

Week 4 - Excavations in Arrochar - Week 1 -Creag an't Searraich

The Hidden Heritage archaeological investigation is culminating in a 4 week excavation programme between Arrochar and Tarbet.  We are excavating 1 site per week!  A bit Time-team-esque!  I was a bit worried about training volunteers in excavation and recording, since I haven't worked as an archaeologist for 3 years...however I was relieved to find out it's like riding a bike.  In fact, it was a really nice change to be working with Volunteers on a Community dig than it is working on a commercial site!  Heather, Cathy and I had a trench each to investigate different features of the 18th-19th Century farmstead.  My trench had a suspect looking straight edged plaform running parallel to the earth and stone bank which surrounds the site.  Upon further investigation the 'platform' turned out to be formed by a line of natural bedrock.  However the bank was particularly interesting.  Thanks to Volunteers Derek and Moira for their wonderful pre-excavation planning.  Moira did a great job of cleaning the bank face (as did Lynne (pictured) ). Volunteer Biff and her wee friend Fionnleigh did a great job of excavating a section through the bank to see how it's made up.  Biff, who said she didn't like drawing, was very proud of her mid-excavation plan of the bank, showing both sides.  She said of her drawing - "Oh, it actually looks like what it's supposed to look like!" It had a gorgeous coursed outer face on the N side and then a more earth/cobble face on the S. facing side.  Meanwhile we welcomed many classes of school children to the site and gave all of them a shot at excavation!  It was a great week!  Heather found what we think is the main residence of the McIntyre family and Cathy found a possible second building (but you'd better ask Cathy about that!).  Can't believe we're onto the next site already! In the evenings I'm managing to get out for runs along the isthmus to keep up my underwater hockey training. The views are stunning. I also joined in with Zumba at the community hall and went to speak to one of the pillars of the community - Heather McTavish to try to glean some of her wealth of memories of the Parish over the years.

Week 3

During week 3 I attended Citizenship Day at Castleview Primary School in Craigmillar in Edinburgh.  I led a workshop for the Primary 7 class on their local heritage and what their responsibilities are to look after it.  We looked at old maps and aerial photos of Craigmillar and talked about how Scottish children like Agnes Moffat were not lucky enough to have the rights that modern children have...although rights come with responsibilities!  Before lunch I took the class to their local care home so that the kids could perform a virtual tour of Craigmillar Castle (they are the Junior Guides there) and so that they could get to know the residents and quiz them about Craigmillar in times gone by.

This photo shows us walking to the care home - bringing a touch of the Medieval to modern Craigmillar.  It was a truly amazing day for all those involved and I was proud to be a part of this inter-generational conversation.

Later that week I worked again with two schools in Govan - once at Govan Old Church and then in St. Constantine's Primary.  I think my enthusiasm for the Vikings might have come across!  Although I did have the funniest ever comment from a child when I showed her this photo of Viking tweezers
 and asked what they were.  When no answer came I prompted "They help you look beautiful"....A hand went up...."yes?" I asked.  The wee girl replies "Are they straighteners?"  This is why we should always put a scale in photographs!

I am also very interested in the modern and the medieval Govan colliding...This picture shows the "Doomster Hill" as it is today:
I wonder how many local residents know anything about the fact that this might have effectively been a court/parliament/ceremonial site of the Kingdom of Strathclyde!

And I wonder how many of them walk across this stone set into the pavement which depicts an inscription from the amazing Govan Sarcophagus!  Probably the oldest Grave monument in the Church - dating from about 850AD!

Cairnpapple Weekend

Just a quick post to show you some photos of the Cairnpapple Hill History weekend on 27-28 April.  This event is organised by Historic Scotland Ranger Service at Linlithgow Peel.  http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/index/learning/ranger.htm They invite lots of people up to Cairnpapple Hill to showcase Historic Scotland's only manned prehistoric site on the Scottish Mainland.  I am a big big fan of Cairnpapple and was very pleased that I got to go along in my Northlight guise and help out.  I took along a bespoke handling box of neolithic axe heads and a wee piece of Bronze Age pottery, kindly lent to me by Archaeology Scotland http://www.archaeologyscotland.org.uk/

I was doing some artefact handling with some gorgeous Bronze-age replicas ...

as well as helping the visiting children to express their artistic talents painting a 'death mask' with ochre paints (this is because there was a wooden object found over the teeth in the North Grave at Cairnpapple).

I was also working with John Wells and Jim Knowles from West Lothian Archaeology Group - John does kite photography and is keen to share his work with others: http://www.armadale.org.uk/archaeologyintro.htm 
On site showcasing his wares was Graham Taylor - a potter who makes replica vessels from all time periods.  He has shown me before how to make the designs used in Bronze Age pottery decoration - http://www.pottedhistory.co.uk/ I will be working with him later this year at the Festival of Prehistory in Arran.
Lastly I met a lovely lady called Jan Hendry - who does wool dying, spinning and weaving.  Her little cardboard looms are much better than the ones I've tried to make before!