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

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!

Week 2

It was an early start for me on the Monday morning of week two - but no Mondaymorningitis for me!  I headed to Arrochar to help Cathy MacIver and Heather James with the Digital Survey element of the Hidden Heritage Project.  http://www.threevillages.org.uk/community-development-trust/hidden-heritage-project/ 

This great project is run by two very active members of their community: Fiona Jackson and Sue Furness.  They are very familiar on the Scottish Community Archaeology scene as they ran a series of excavations at High Morlaggan as part of Scotland's Rural Past project.  http://highmorlaggan.co.uk/  These ladies truly are an inspiration and I could not wait to meet them and find out how they have made community archaeology such a success in this beautiful area of Scotland.

We spent each morning from Monday to Wednesday carrying out an EDM survey of the Ballyhennan Graveyard in Tarbet.  The EDM stands for Electronic Distance Meter and can record horizontal and vertical points to an accuracy of millimeters.  I haven't used an EDM or Total Station since I was at Uni but luckily Cathy had given me a refresher course in Kelvingrove  Park the week before!  It was fun trying to decipher some of the grave stone inscriptions and insignia.  There certainly are a lot of Macfarlanes buried there.
Each morning we worked with a different group of Volunteers to help them familiarise themselves with the equipment and how to carry out a survey.  They took to it very quickly and I think they ought to be very proud of the results (above).

Each afternoon we carried out a GPS survey of some of the sites identified during the Walkover survey.  We started off with "the Jellybean" - an oddly shaped rounded enclosure on the North facing slopes of the isthmus.  The GPS survey is not as accurate as the EDM survey but much more rapid.  Here is a picture of one of the Volunteers following the line of a field bank with the GPS machine:

 I spent the Thursday with Cathy in the Three Villages Community Hall learning how to Geo-reference the data we had collected from the EDM Survey and earlier Geophysical survey onto the OS grid.  This took me far longer to do than it was supposed to but eventually I managed to make sense of it!  However, it does mean that now we can place our trenches for digging over the Geophysical anomalies with greater accuracy.

Week 1

What a week - finished up as Community Ranger in Holyrood Park on Wednesday 18 April and begun my new adventure on the next day.  I started as Community Archaeology Trainee at Northlight Heritage on Thursday.  My placement is funded by the Council of British Archaeology and is designed to give me lots of experience in working with communities to kindle their enthusiasm for Archaeology.

I was straight into the Community on my first day.  I accompanied my colleague Ingrid Shearer to Govan Old Church as part of the Weaving Truth with Trust project http://weavingtruthwithtrust.org/ where local Primary School children are learning about Govan's exciting role as the religious and political centre of the Strathclyde Britons after the Viking seige of Dunbarton Rock http://www.bbc.co.uk/scotland/history/articles/kingdom_of_the_britons/

Ingrid didn't have any trouble convincing the school kids of her authentic Orcadian Viking heritage with this impression of a cow with a horn on one side of its head :-)