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Archive | Archaeological Prospection

On all types of archaeological survey: geophysics, prospection, and remote sensing.

A day with Macedonian archaeology – “Neolithic settlement Tumba Madzari” (VIDEO)

This short documentary was recorded for the project celebration of international day of archaeology “Day of Archaeology 2013″ by association “Archaeologica” ‘with the support of Ministry of Culture of Republic of Macedonia.

Realization:
association Archaeologica

Interlocutor:
Elena Stojanova Kanzurova

Camera, Assembling, Music:
Jane Kacanski

Organisation:
Radomir Ivanovic
Elena Karanfilovska

Skopje, July 2013

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Angela Gannon (RCAHMS) – West Lothian

Angela Gannon, RCAHMS at the viewfinder on top of Cockleroy Hill

Angela Gannon, RCAHMS at the viewfinder on top of Cockleroy Hill

‘If you’re not fast, you’re last’ is one of the choice phrases I, Angela Gannon, routinely hear from my two sons as I invariably end up sitting in the back of the car having been beaten to the front passenger seat … again! So it is too that in the list of Scottish council areas for the Day of Archaeology, my first to third choices had already been selected by colleagues. But should West Lothian really be number four in my list anyway? Well, of course not. As one of RCAHMS’ archaeological field investigators, and living just outside West Lothian, I have spent many a Sunday afternoon visiting sites and monuments here, from the cairn and henge on Cairnpapple Hill to the lesser known fort that crowns the summit of Cockleroy Hill.

West Lothian ‘Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2011’

West Lothian ‘Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2011’

It is the latter that I want to champion today because, despite the regular procession of visitors traipsing to the top, I suspect it is only a small percentage who recognise the fort – even though the well-worn path they follow to the summit passes through the original entrance. Situated on the boundary of Beecraigs Country Park, the path leads walkers to the viewpoint on the top, and on a clear day you can see Ben More, near Crianlarich, 74km (46 miles) to the north west, Goat Fell on Arran 106km (66 miles) to the west-southwest and Black Hill in the Scottish Borders 53km (33 miles) to the southeast – or at least that’s what the directional arrows on the viewfinder lead us to believe. Over to Fife are the hills of Dumglow and East Lomond, both with forts on their summits, and to the east the profiles of the Bass Rock and North Berwick Law are readily recognisable. We ourselves have visited Cockelroy on many occasions and under very different conditions – in shorts and T-shirts in March to wellies and waterproofs in July. And, yes, I haven’t got the months mixed up!

The outer face of the lower rampart. Copyright Angela Gannon

The outer face of the lower rampart. Copyright Angela Gannon

The fort has much to commend it. As a prominent and conspicuous hill, it occupies a commanding position in the landscape, overlooking Linlithgow and Grangemouth with fine views north over the Firth of Forth. Its perimeter is defined by a stone rampart that follows the leading edge of the summit with stretches of stone inner and outer faces still visible. From this we can tell that the rampart was originally about 2m thick and had an earth and rubble core. On the west and southwest, the ground drops precipitously but on the northwest it falls more gently and here the fort is defended by an additional line of defence. This too takes the form of a stone faced rampart. Alongside the viewfinder and the Ordnance Survey triangulation station within the interior of the fort, four ring ditch houses were recorded in 1985, but I have yet to visit the site and be convinced. Perhaps under better lighting conditions and with a more positive ‘eye of faith’ I might see them.

Looking west along the north section of the upper rampart. Copyright Angela Gannon

Looking west along the north section of the upper rampart. Copyright Angela Gannon

So next time you venture up Cockleroy remember to look down – the archaeology is there at your feet. But in the meantime, do have a look at our site record for the fort  including the oblique aerial photographs taken under snow.

There are also some great kite aerial photographs taken by Jim Knowles of the West Lothian Archaeology Group which are well worth a look too: http://www.armadale.org.uk/cockleroy.htm

This is what I’ve chosen for Day of Archaeology, but why not tell us your favourite archaeological sites in Scotland on Twitter using #MyArchaeology.

 

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ABC of Swedish planning archaeology and an archaeological paradox

There are many kinds of archaeologist – some are specialized in a region or on a period others do contract archaeology, surveys, work at museums, laboratories or work with planning issues etc etc. We do many many things. We do archaeology!I’ve done it all – more or less: I’m an osteolgist so I do the odd osteolgical analysis. I’m an archaeologist so I’ve done surveys, contract archaeology, research archaeology and currently I work at the County board of Östergöland in Sweden doing what could be called planning archaeology.

Osteology, mesolithic skeleton, Övra Wannborga, Öland, Sweden

Osteology, mesolithic skeleton, Övra Wannborga, Öland, Sweden

So what is planning archaeology? Well lets say it’s a form of archaeological desk-based assessments – what kind of archaeology is needed in a certain situation – for example when someone wants to build a road or house. In Sweden the County boards are responsible for this part, we also order the archaeology and then let the developer pay for it – sounds sweet, it has its ups and downs. Of course I can’t just decide from the top of my head, the decisions are made according to law and praxis.

This is how it works in Sweden, in three easy (or not) steps!

Step one. Person A, the developer, submitting a notification that he or she is planning a development of some sorts. The County Board will make an assessment concerning if there are archaeological needs, based on archaeological records, previous digs, historical maps and other studies. If we find that we don’t have enough knowledge to make a decision or if the data points to the likelihood that one may encounter ancient remains – then we order a preliminary archaeological investigation.

Ismantorp ancient fortress, Öland, Sweden

Ismantorp ancient fortress, Öland, Sweden

During a preliminary archaeological investigation an archaeological contractor, a museum or other arhaeological institution of the County board’s choice is choosen. They do a review of historical sources, archaeological material as well as a survey (field walking) and, if necessary, do search trenches.

Excavation 2010, Västra Götaland, Sweden

Excavation 2010, Västra Götaland, Sweden

Based on the information from the preliminary archaeological investigation we then either say that archaeology in some form is needed or not.

Step two. If needed the next step in the process is an archaeological investigation. During this the ancient monument is to be defined geographically, decide its function, be dated and its scientific potential should be described. For this a limited archaeological excavation is needed. The result should give us the information needed to decide if the final step is needed, a full archaeological excavation, but also facts enough for others to be able to make an excavation plan and a cost estimate.

Excavation, Blekinge, Sweden 2011

Excavation, Blekinge, Sweden 2011

Step three. The final step, if needed, is a full excavation, meaning the ancient monument is to be removed and documented. If this cost is under 890 000 Swedish crowns, ca: 104000 Euro, the County Board can decide who will do the archaeology, if it costs more it needs to be procured.

In most cases the developer has to pay for all archaeology. Among the various steps in the process the developer can of course choose to cancel the archaeological process (and stop the development), they also aim to give the developer the opportunity to look at other opportunities or changes to lower thier costs. In the end the less archaeology being made the better we do our jobs – as the intention is to preserve monuments rather than make them disappear – a kind of archaeological paradox, wouldn’t you say.

A lot of what I do is this – is that boring?

- No, it actually is quite interesting and in many cases complex, and you get to learn new things along the way. I never thought I’d be doing make procurements when I studied archaeology, and by the way I wasn’t taught how to either!

Rock art, Hästholmen, Östergötland, Sweden

Rock art, Hästholmen, Östergötland, Sweden

Is this all that we do? No we do lots of other things concerning cultural heritage, such as signs at ancient monuments, small surveys, projects, meeting land owners, forest owners, looking into environments and landscapes etc. But when the sun shines outside I can feel the trowel luring me, but then again when its rainy/snowy, cold and/or wet it’s quite good to be sitting inside – looking out :)

Winter dig Sweden 2010

Winter dig Sweden 2010

Magnus Reuterdahl, an archaeologist at the County Adminstrative board Östergötland, Sweden and blogging at Testimony of the spade.

 

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Geophysical Surveys for the Minor Centers Project

Hello! Kayt here, and this year I am finally in the field for the Day of Archaeology! I’m working with my colleagues Gijs and Tymon (who isn’t here because his third child is arriving any day now!) from the Minor Centers project at the University of Groningen in the Pontine Plain. The project is looking specifically at the role of minor central places in the economy of Roman Central Italy. You can read a lot more about the background of the project and access our fieldwork reports and papers on the project website.

We’re in Italy for a few weeks to do two things. First of all, Gijs is here with a team of student volunteers drawing and cataloging finds from fieldwalking surveys last Autumn and early this year. There is an awful lot of ceramic material associated with the sites we’re examining as part of the project, so they have a huge task! Yesterday they passed the 1,000th sherd drawn, and they still have crates and crates to process! It’s vital work though: we need a good understanding of the ceramics in order to date the sites we find, and if possible, understand their function. Sometimes we can locate sherds with a very specific purpose, like milk strainers used in cheese production. At other times we can identify production sites because we find by-products of industrial processes like iron slag or over-fired pottery that has a particular glassy surface. With a thorough understanding of the ceramic material, we can date our sites and say something about their function. If we can go one step further and identify pottery production sites and trace the clays and temper used in the pots, we can start to examine short-distance trade networks. We have a specialist joining the project in the Autumn to do just this! With all of these elements in place, we can build up a network of minor towns and road-stations trading with each other and over greater distances, and with the chronological data from the ceramics, we can examine how that network changed over time, perhaps in response to policies handed down from Rome.

Drawing progress at basecamp

Drawing progress at basecamp

I arrived two days ago with a team of topographical survey specialists from our institute to carry out a series of geophysical surveys on targets identified by the fieldwalking. The aim of our geophysical surveys is to understand the spatial limits and layout of the sites we find by fieldwalking, or that are already known from historical records and previous archaeological work. The reason we are braving almost 40 degree temperatures to do this, is because one of our key sites, Astura, lies within a major military base. We can only have access for survey in July and August, when the military (quite rightly) think it is too hot to work and go on shut-down. So we’ve been there today and yesterday. It’s painstaking work because the area is covered in dense forest. We have identified a series of open clearings that are probably in the area of the archaeological site and we are slowly surveying them with single-sensor handheld gradiometers. We can’t use the very fast cart-based systems with multiple sensors, in part because of all the trees and bushes, and because the more modern systems rely on dGPS: we have tree cover. This means we need to work on grids recorded in a total station and tied in to the ‘real world’ using reference points on things like buildings. This is why we have the specialist topographers with us! Sander and Erwin make my life a lot more simple. I only have to worry about the geophysics, and they take care of the rest, which is great. We did some work in the same area last year and identified two possible kilns or perhaps salt-production hearths and possible traces of walls. But the data from the last two days is disappointing: either we are outside the settlement area, or the buildings are too deeply buried or poorly contrasted for us to discover. We’ll have a discussion tonight about whether it is good to return tomorrow to finish the area free of trees, or whether we should move on to one of the inland sites near the via Appia. The picture below is one of the most open areas of the site, right by the sea. You can just about see the Torre Astura in the background, between the pine trees. The building you can see now is medieval but it occupies an area in use since well before the Roman period.

Magnetometers warming up this morning, with Torre Astura in the background

Magnetometers warming up this morning, with Torre Astura in the background

It is very hot and dusty work, and I am very grateful to my student volunteer Tom, who is giving up a chunk of his summer to help out. I wouldn’t change my job for all the tea in china though. Italy is an amazing country, with wonderful people and beautiful places to be outdoors working at. Today alone I’ve seen three different kinds of lizards and a wild boar and her stripey piglets running across the road to the site. Who knows what we’ll see tomorrow? Or find in the data? Perhaps a nice early christian church, or a roman cemetery? Maybe I’ll find the kilns Gijs really wants to go with his pottery! However, tonight we have a big festa in the town we are staying in to enjoy, because it is the feast of Santa Anna, who is locally venerated. If you want to keep in touch with what we are up to, you can follow me on twitter @girlwithtrowel - I try to update at least once a day from the field, sometimes more often.

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Mike Middleton (RCAHMS) – Shetland

The archaeology of Sumburgh, Shetland.

The author in Levenwick c.1977. Copyright Mike Middleton

The author in Levenwick c.1977. Copyright Mike Middleton

I’m Mike Middleton and I manage two nationwide archaeological mapping projects. The Historic Land-Use Assessment , is mapping signs of past land-use preserved within the modern landscape and the Canmore Mapping is focussing on the known extent of archaeological sites recorded in the RCAHMS Canmore online record of monuments.

I’ve chosen the archaeology of Sumburgh at the south end of mainland Shetland where I spent many happy hours, as a child, scrambling over the archaeological sites without really knowing what they were. Both my parents worked at the airport and being busy people, they were often at work when I finished school. So I would spend time out playing with my friends, on the beaches and land around the airport. There were loads of great places to play. One of our favourites was the abandoned WWII defences. Built quickly out of poured concrete onto sand, the buildings had no foundations and have subsided and partially collapsed over the years providing the perfect place for young boys to play war games.

If we were feeling more adventurous we would head down to watch the seals and sea birds at the bottom end of the Ness of Burgi. En route we would pass the Ness of Burgi fort. Known as a blockhouse or gatehouse fort and built during the Iron Age, around 100BC, the fort has a rectangular gatehouse cutting off a narrow promontory. With its low, broch-like entrance and cells to each side it was an excellent playhouse.

The Ness of Burgi blockhouse from the north-west. Copyright RCAHMS (SC 342869].

The Ness of Burgi blockhouse from the north-west. Copyright RCAHMS (SC 342869].

A view from inside the reconstructed wheelhouse at Scatness. Public contribution to Canmore, Copyright Mike Middleton

A view from inside the reconstructed wheelhouse at Scatness. Public contribution to Canmore, Copyright Mike Middleton

Most amazing to me now, as I had no idea it was there at the time, is the multi phase site of Scatness. The site was excavated in the late 1990s and revealed evidence for Iron Age, Norse and Post-Medieval settlement. It is dominated by the remains of a broch and surrounding wheelhouses. Both of these monument types are Iron Age drystone structures specific to Scotland. Brochs are hollow-walled and tower-like in form while wheelhouses incorporate a series of stone piers within the outer wall much like the spokes on the wheel of a bike. I still find it hard to believe that so much was under the ground I played on and invisible to me at the time. Equally amazing is the proximity of the Scatness site to the very similar and just as complex multi phase site of Jarlshof.

An image of a Viking ship incised into a piece of slate. The author’s favourite find from Jarlshof. Copyright RCAHMS (SC1221187)

An image of a Viking ship incised into a piece of slate. The author’s favourite find from Jarlshof. Copyright RCAHMS (SC1221187)

Although as children we didn’t know Scatness was there, we weren’t short of brochs to play on because just opposite the end of one of the runways is Brough Head broch or Eastshore broch as I knew it as a kid. The site is partially eroded by the sea, cutting it in half, something of particular fascination to us children. Like Scatness and Jarlshof the broch is surrounded by unexcavated earth covered structures and abandoned 19th-century farm buildings. It is quite possible that if excavated this site could be as complex as Scatness and Jarlshof.

Brough Head broch from the sea showing the two walls of the broch exposed. Public contribution to Canmore, Copyright Mike Middleton

Brough Head broch from the sea showing the two walls of the broch exposed. Public contribution to Canmore, Copyright Mike Middleton

Sumburgh has an incredibly rich archaeological resource. I look back with fondness and frustration at my youth playing on these monuments. I feel lucky that I have had the chance to grow up in such a rich archaeological environment while disappointed I didn’t understand what they were at the time. However, the sites of Sumburgh also provide a snapshot of the big issues facing our heritage today. The hastily built WWII defences were constructed as temporary structures. Made from concrete and often in poor repair many of us don’t realise their historical significance. These factors mean that our wartime sites are one of the most rapidly diminishing archaeological resources in Scotland. The Brough Head broch, Jarlshof and the Ness of Burgi Fort are all suffering the effects of coastal erosion, a threat facing thousands of sites worldwide and those maintaining the sites at Scatness and Jarlshof, have to balance the needs of conservation with the thousands of tourists who wish to visit these wonderful sites. What the archaeology of Sumburgh illustrates is it that not every site can be saved. It is just a matter of time before sites like Brough Head are lost to the sea and there just isn’t the resource to save all the threatened sites in Scotland. However, we can record these monuments and make this information available so we, or others in the future, can try and understand them better. We can’t all excavate sites but we can all take a photograph and draw a plan. We don’t need to excavate every site to understand it. By taking photographs or drawing plans we can all record vital information. You can be part of this process by visiting sites, helping to record them and then uploading your research using the MyCanmore public contribution tool. We need your help to record our heritage. We can only do it together!

This is what I’ve chosen for Day of Archaeology, but why not tell us your favourite archaeological sites in Scotland on Twitter using #MyArchaeology.


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Kirsty Millican (RCAHMS) – Perth and Kinross

Perth and Kinross.  ‘Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2011’

Perth and Kinross. ‘Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2011’

My name is Kirsty Millican and I work for the Historic Landuse Assessment (HLA) Project at RCAHMS. The site I would like to focus on may not seem the most spectacular; if you visited it today all you would see is an apparently unremarkable arable field. Instead, like many thousands of sites in Scotland, it is revealed to us just as cropmarks – the differential growth of crops above buried features -  photographed from the air. At Westerton in Perth and Kinross, these cropmarks reveal the former presence of a Neolithic timber enclosure (probably built sometime between around 3300 and 2600 BC, and classified on RCAHMS Canmore pages as a pit enclosure because of the way it is revealed on the aerial photograph), an enigmatic type of monument that I find as fascinating as much for the way in which it is revealed to us today as for the glimpse it gives us of the activities and structures built by our prehistoric ancestors.

The image here shows the Westerton enclosure quite clearly – it’s the rectangular enclosure in the centre of the photograph defined by two parallel lines of five neat circular dark marks with one centrally placed mark at each end. These circular marks in the crop record the presence of buried post pits – the holes dug to take standing timber posts. The posts themselves have long since decayed and disappeared and only the infilled pits remain beneath the soil. And here’s my interpretation of these marks with the enclosure in red. North is at top of this image, so the enclosure is at a slightly different angle to that in the aerial photograph.

Interpretation of the cropmarks at Westerton. The timber enclosure is in red, cropmarks of other features are in black. Copyright Kirsty Millican

Interpretation of the cropmarks at Westerton. The timber enclosure is in red, cropmarks of other features are in black. Copyright Kirsty Millican

Today there is nothing above ground to indicate that Westerton was once the location of an important prehistoric structure (see image below) and indeed it was built of a relatively ephemeral material, wood, which would decay and disappear over time. However, through the medium of differential crop growth and ripening caused by the buried features and the fact that those features were captured on a photograph taken from a small aeroplane, we have this picture of a monument constructed over 4000 years ago. Therefore, from these simple marks in the crop, it is possible to begin piecing together something of what people were doing, or at least building, here thousands of years ago. This in turn gives us a window onto the past peoples and societies, their lives, activities, beliefs and values. I continually find it amazing the something as apparently simple as the way in which crops grow can reveal so much.

The location of the timber hall today within an apparently unremarkable arable field Copyright Kirsty Millican

The location of the timber hall today within an apparently unremarkable arable field Copyright Kirsty Millican

So let’s return to Westerton and see what it can tell us. The site at Westerton has never been excavated, but we know from similar sites dug elsewhere that it likely dates to the later Neolithic period (probably somewhere between around 3300 BC and 2600 BC) and that those post pits would have held substantial timber posts, probably of oak. This, then, was a substantial timber structure. For a variety of structural reasons it generally thought that Westerton, and other similar structures, are unlikely to have had a roof. Clues to the purpose and use of these timber enclosures are fragmentary, but they are usually interpreted as having some kind of ceremonial and/or funerary function. Below is one possible reconstruction of what Westerton may have looked like. As only the holes dug to take the upright timbers survive, inevitably there is a lot of speculation involved in reconstructions such as this. For example the timber posts may have been modified, carved or painted in some way, and there may well have been fencing between the posts. Despite what we do know, there remains an element of mystery about these Neolithic timber structures.  Nevertheless, images such as this at least help us to begin to imagine what they may have looked like.

Speculative reconstruction of the timber enclosure at Westerton depicting the enclosure as formed by large, relatively unmodified timbers. Copyright Kirsty Millican

Speculative reconstruction of the timber enclosure at Westerton depicting the enclosure as formed by large, relatively unmodified timbers. Copyright Kirsty Millican

Some of the excavated sites that help us to interpret the cropmarks at Westerton are also found in Perth and Kinross, and the RCAHMS Canmore pages have some wonderful images of these sites. These include the timber structure excavated at Littleour and one at Carsie Mains. Another similar, though unexcavated, cropmark site has been recorded at Balrae. Several other timber enclosures are also known elsewhere in Scotland. Therefore, we know of several of these mysterious sites both in Perth and Kinross and beyond. Whether they were all exactly contemporary is impossible to say but, who knows, perhaps the same people who built Westerton knew of the structures at Littleour and Carsie Mains and the communities that built them. Certainly they knew the reasons for their construction, reasons that can only be vaguely grasped today, and will have participated in particular ceremonies and events both within and around these structures. Whatever they were used for, these were undoubtedly important structures. Think of the effort involved in cutting down oak trees without metal tools (these enclosures were built before the introduction of metal to Scotland, so stone axes must have been used) and of erecting the large timbers to form the enclosure without the use of modern machinery.

There is much more that could be said about this site; there just isn’t enough room in a single blog post. However, I hope this has given some flavour of why I find sites such as Westerton so fascinating, and the way in which such ghostly marks in crops can reveal a wealth of information. This information would be unreachable (and indeed Westeron and many thousands of other cropmark sites would be entirely unknown) without a combination of the effects of buried archaeology on growing crops, the aerial survey of individuals and organisations such as RCAHMS and the luck that meant someone flew over this site at just the right moment to see and record it. The fact that all these factors came together at just the right time allows us to reach back to the things people and communities were doing and building in a location more than 4000 years ago. It truly is fascinating!

This is what I’ve chosen for Day of Archaeology, but why not tell us your favourite archaeological sites in Scotland on Twitter using #MyArchaeology.

For further information you can also contact the local authority archaeologist. In this case contact details are:

David Strachan
Manager
Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust
4 York Place
PERTH
PH2 8EP
01738 477081
www.pkht.org.uk

 

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Heather Stoddart (RCAHMS) – Midlothian

Heather Stoddart, RCAHMS

Heather Stoddart, RCAHMS

I am Heather Stoddart, draughtsperson, illustrator and surveyor in the Architecture and Industry Section  at RCAHMS.

Midlothian ‘Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2011’

Midlothian ‘Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2011’

My chosen building is the impressive Lady Victoria Colliery at Newtongrange, which we recorded for Industrial Survey.

This was one of the largest surviving Victorian collieries in Midlothian and Europe that was saved from demolition after its closure in 1981 and is now the site of the Scottish Mining Museum. The tall red-brick buildings and the arcading create an impressive structure that housed one of Scotland’s most important industrial processes.

We were asked to produce survey drawings of the ground plan of the site, pithead tub-circuit plan and the North, South, West and East elevations which was an extensive amount of survey work but shows the layout of the buildings to scale and generated a good comprehensive record of the complex.

Survey drawing of the ground plan of Lady Victoria Colliery, drawn by the author. Copyright RCAHMS

Survey drawing of the ground plan of Lady Victoria Colliery, drawn by the author. Copyright RCAHMS

Drawing any Industrial site can be challenging as you are recording a process and machinery but the scale of this site made it even more so. Often a process links one level to another like hoppers, conveyor belts, winding gear and elevators which is important to record and was the case at this site too.

East elevation of Lady Victoria Colliery. Drawn by the author. Copyright RCAHMS

East elevation of Lady Victoria Colliery. Drawn by the author. Copyright RCAHMS

The initial survey was started using a EDM/Total Station (a distance laser theodolite) which generated an accurate skeleton layout of the buildings from which we were able to generate the scaled plans and subsequently the elevations. We also used the EDM to assist with the recording of the Headgear which is the steel structure located above the mine shaft and can be seen from quite a distance due to its elevated position.

I also created finished digital images of the North and West elevations for ‘Scottish Collieries’, a RCAHMS  publication which was published in 2006.

The North elevation image was nominated as Scotland’s favourite archive image by public vote in 2008 for RCAHMS Treasured Places.

This is what I’ve chosen for Day of Archaeology, but why not tell us your favourite archaeological sites in Scotland on Twitter using #MyArchaeology.

 

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Billy MacRae (RCAHMS) – Inverclyde

Billy MacRae, RCAHMS

Billy MacRae, RCAHMS

A CUT ABOVE!

What is the connection between Petra, Nazca and Greenock?

Any ideas? No, well, I didn’t either until recently, but the answer is…they all have extensive aqueducts.

I’m Billy MacRae and I work as a Landscape Assessment Officer at RCAHMS and what I get excited about in archaeology is that it is not just about the extraordinary and exceptional, but also the ordinary and everyday things which were part of the experience of life in the past.

Inverclyde ‘Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2011’

Inverclyde ‘Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2011’

The Loch Thom-Overton aqueduct, or “Greenock Cut”, as it is sometimes known, is a fantastic example of 19th century engineering and ingenuity. The Greenock Cut is also a symbol of the desire to harness and manipulate the landscape for what many believed was the advancement of society.

Loch Thom and Greenock Cut. Copyright RCAHMS (DP035861)

Loch Thom and Greenock Cut. Copyright RCAHMS (DP035861)

The complete water system comprises reservoirs, sluices, workers’ bothies and obviously, the water course itself. It was devised and built to power the industries in and around Greenock and also provide clean drinking water for an expanding population. The fact that this aqueduct provided Greenock’s water supply until 1971, a working life of over 140 years, is a testament to the skills and hard work of those who designed, built and maintained it. The industrial heritage of Inverclyde, the mills, factories and refineries were only made possible by civil engineering works like the Greenock Cut.

Looking towards Greenock from Loch Thom-Overton aqueduct. Copyright RCAHMS (DP 035862)

Looking towards Greenock from Loch Thom-Overton aqueduct. Copyright RCAHMS (DP 035862)

The other great thing about landscape archaeology and the Loch Thom-Overton aqueduct in particular, is that you don’t need to visit a museum or sit in the bottom of a muddy trench to appreciate it. There is a pathway which runs the length of the aqueduct and forms part of the Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park. This landscape bears witness to many thousands of years of human activity. While you are there, you could also look out for the remains of rig-and-furrow cultivation, hut-circles, cup-and-ring marked rocks, and there’s even a Roman road and fortlet not too far away.

As for Petra and Nazca (try Googling “Nabatean aqueduct” and “Nazca puquios”), they are pretty impressive too, but not quite so easy to visit for a stroll at the weekend.

This is what I’ve chosen for Day of Archaeology, but why not tell us your favourite archaeological sites in Scotland on Twitter using #MyArchaeology.

 

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Robert Adam (RCAHMS) – Edinburgh

Edinburgh. ‘Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2011’

Edinburgh. ‘Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2011’

Robert Adam, RCAHMS (copyright RCAHMS)

Robert Adam, RCAHMS (copyright RCAHMS)

I’m Robert Adam and I am the Aerial Photographer with the Aerial Survey Team, recording all aspects of the historic landscape that makes Scotland what it is. In my twenty-nine years as photographer with the RCAHMS, I have had the good fortune to travel the country and photograph both architecture and archaeology from the air and on the ground.Not being an archaeologist hasn’t prevented me from appreciating, learning and understanding the basics of the subject. However, like many other non archaeologists, I always thought that archaeology was found in the hinterlands of any country. From the farm land fields of Scotland, of which I have photographed many a crop mark site to the highland clearance areas through to an Indiana Jones type of site set in the deserts.

However, I found that you do not need to travel further than your front door to encounter an archaeological site. I live in the south side of Edinburgh and found only recently the Caiystane near Oxgangs Road, a standing stone with weathered cup markings. Nothing particularly outstanding, and one of many in the area.

Drawing showing view of six standing stones and wayside crosses. No.1 the Caiy Stane. Copyright RCAHMS (DP050277)

Drawing showing view of six standing stones and wayside crosses. No.1 the Caiy Stane. Copyright RCAHMS (DP050277)

 

There are several suggestions as to the origin and purpose of the stone. The stone may have been erected in the Neolithic period and marks a burial. Others suggest it commemorates the site of a battle between the Picts and the Romans.

General view of the Caiystane. Copyright RCAHMS (DP092799)

General view of the Caiystane. Copyright RCAHMS (DP092799)

 

 

 

It’s a fairly featureless piece of stone and not what you’d call attractive, but it’s where it’s sited that makes it fascinating: smack dab in the middle of a housing estate. It is a site with an interesting and unknown history; nestled somewhat inconspicuously within the estate that many people must pass in a day not giving it a second look.

This is what I’ve chosen for Day of Archaeology, but why not tell us your favourite archaeological sites in Scotland on Twitter using #MyArchaeology.

 

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Folkestone Research & Archaeology Group: Finalising our First Newsletter & Exploring the Downs

We set up the Folkestone Research and Archaeology Group in January this year, having met on a recent dig in the area. Realising that there was no local group in existence, we set about creating one. Since we started, we have engaged in a number of activities and also hold monthly meetings. We decided that a regular newsletter would update any of our members who were unable to join in some of the activites and also to help promote our group to anyone who is interested.

Our editor composed our first newsletter, and on The Day of Archaeology, a few of us met up to finalise the content for distribution the next day.  We also had a good chin-wag over upcoming events. The newsletter can now be viewed on our website here.

A day later, one of our members came up with the bright idea of taking a walk “up the downs” (dont you just love that term?) on Sunday. Other than being a bit of a social event, we also wanted to explore the locations of a number of barrows that we may be able to excavate at a later date.  As usual, the bright sunny day (as predicted by the weather forecasters) turned out to be “unsettled”, with us having to wait for the heavy showers to abate before setting off.

Walking over the downs, we located a number of the barrows we were looking for, whilst also enjoying the views. We covered the area we wanted to explore, with intermittent sunny spells and rain showers. We then noticed some black clouds ominously advancing towards us, so took the shortest route (the road) back to the pub, with cattle racing along in the field next to us, also trying to avoid the oncoming storm. Thankfully, we made it back, just in time, before the rain and hail began their assault.  Over a Guinness, our chairman had a quick chat with the pub landlord about conducting a dig in their beer garden, whilst the rest of us discussed the training dig we have starting in a member’s garden this coming weekend.  It looks like we could be a busy group in the near future.

Escaping the Storm Clouds

Escaping the storm clouds and the deluge to come

 

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