Archaeology Scotland

Archaeology Scotland – Eila Macqueen

I’m Director of Archaeology Scotland and have been in post here for nine years now. Day of Archaeology still takes me by surprise as I always intend to be more organised but never am! My approach to things is always a bit last minute as I have a lot of competing priorities keeping the organisation afloat.

My team is now up to 13 staff working on a wide-range of projects and activities to help people engage more in archaeology in Scotland. Just now things are hotting up for this year’s Scottish Archaeology Month (SAM) which takes place each September. Lesley McEwan, our SAM coordinator had been planning a Big Dig in Edinburgh as part of SAM and we are working with AOC Archaeology supported by a wee HLF grant to make this happen and convince local people to try out a test pit in their gardens. Lots of media coverage about this this week including something in The Sun apparently! That’s a first for us.

I was quite surprised by a couple of negative comments on the Scotsman online about the gardens dig. They were along the lines of “you’ll find nothing and why would people want to dig up their garden in the summer when they need it for the kids to play in”. I find it strange that archaeology can be seen in isolation from the benefits it can bring – learning new things, skills, meeting people, research and so on. Perhaps we need to be better at communicating that which is one reason why things like Day of Archaeology are so good!

So far my day has been taken up with our response to the recently issued consultation on the new Historic Environment Strategy and merger of Historic Scotland and the Royal Commission in Scotland. Keeping an eye on and trying to influence policy and practice in Scotland is a large part of what we do and we work through our networks to try and have positive changes for the protection and appreciation of archaeology.

This afternoon I’ve been sending some text and images to the developers of our new website which is an exciting event for us – to have a new site after many years of our existing one. The site should be live before the end of August (all being well). I hope you will have a look and let us know what you think www.archaeologyscotland.org.uk

Cara Jones – A rare but busy day in the Archaeology Scotland office

Me and my desk - we actually rarely interact

I work for Archaeology Scotland’s Adopt-a-Monument Scheme, a five year initiative which supports and facilitates local community archaeology groups who wish to conserve and promote their local heritage. We work throughout Scotland – from Shetland to Dumfries and Galloway and aim to work with 55 groups over the five-year scheme. In addition to our more traditional projects, we are also funded to do outreach projects – taking archaeology to non-traditional heritage audiences. I would call myself a ‘community archaeologist’ – a job title which can be open to interpretation and can encompass many different activities and tasks.

My Day of Archaeology is a little less active than last year’s post, and lot less active than the day I originally had scheduled. I had planned to travel over to the West Coast, visit one AaM group near Oban to give advice about how to start reporting on their results (from formal dissemination through reporting and archival submission, to wider dissemination through a Wikipedia page) and then go on to another group to help them with an open day they have planned for this weekend.

Instead, I have a rare but busy day in the office which usually starts by checking emails. This is actually only my second day back after a two week holiday and yesterday my email box was bursting with around 140 emails. Ok some of those were things like Google Alerts, blog posts etc, which can be quickly scanned and then filed away, but many of the emails were from my groups, colleagues, other heritage professionals, many of which contained requests for help, advice, project updates and questions about upcoming fieldwork, workshops or new projects. I am still getting through the backlog…

After email checks, I usually start to go through the dreaded ‘to do’ list, which usually seems to get longer not shorter. Today’s tasks include edits to one of my group’s interpretation leaflets (which, in addition to paper copies, will be available digitally on their website); source an image and gain permission for it to be reproduced on a groups interpretation panel; edit the text for an interpretation panel; check that the welfare facilities are in place for fieldwork starting in two weeks’ time; ring one landowner to arrange a site meeting; ring another landowner about submitting required paperwork; commission elevations for an interpretation panel to accompany a planning application; arrange space (with a computer suite) for an upcoming digital recording workshop; progress a Listed Building Consent application; arrange a facilitator for an upcoming interpretation workshop; have a meeting with a colleague about an education resource we are co-producing….and if I have time, start to review a copy of a WW2 diary for one of our outreach projects (this might be my ‘treat’ task at the end of the day!)

Today must seem like a very dull day to anyone reading this post, but this is the reality of a full time job within community archaeology. In order to go out and do the fun stuff, we have to work hard to make sure everything is in place. Our groups have the passion and belief and put in so many hours to make the project successful, but not all of them have the skills to make it happen, which is where we help!

Adopt-a-Monument

Hello, my name is Cara Jones and work for Archaeology Scotland, as the Adopt-a-Monument Project Officer. Adopt-a-Monument is a five year scheme which supports and facilitates local archaeology groups who wish to conserve and promote their local heritage. The scheme is community led and we work through-out Scotland – from Shetland to Dumfries and Galloway. In addition to our more traditional projects, we are also funded to do outreach projects – taking archaeology to non-traditional heritage audiences.

My Day of Archaeology post is about one of our Adopt-a-Monument outreach projects – The Claypits. In 2011, Adopt-a-Monument was contacted by the Friends of Possil Park to see if we could help with their greenspace improvement initiative for an area of apparent waste land in central Glasgow. Flanked by the Forth Clyde canal, the area has a industrial past, linked to the development of Glasgow in the 18th and 19th century. On first impression, the Claypits does look like an un-inviting, littered and burnt out car dump kind of place – the type of place you avoid and definitely not a space where you would enjoy and appreciate. However, once you start to work there, get to know the local people and start researching the past and present use of the site, Claypits transforms into a valuable greenspace within urbanised landscape. I enjoy many things about this project, but one great aspect is that isn’t just about archaeology – we are working in collaboration with ecologists (it’s a great newt and frog site!), artists, a lovely local councillor, fishermen (Get Hooked on Fishing – a great youth engagement project), canoeists, mountain bikers, the local allotment association, Scottish Canals and the Waterways Trust. I’m sure I’ve missed someone out, but it is a great example of successful partnership working.

Team meeting before the event starts

But I digress! My Day of Archaeology was the ‘Bats, Beasties and Buried Treasure’ event, held at the Claypits on the 30th June 2012. Aimed at local people (and in particular local families) the open day encourages the use and enjoyment of their local greenspace. We ran several activities which included the dig box and ancient crafts, a treasure hunt and storytelling – all linked to the archaeology and local history of the area.

(The Dig box!)

Situated at ‘Base Camp’, the dig box contained replica finds (cattle bone, shell, beads, burnt pot, bone comb etc) which (after discovery) we encourage each child to think like an archaeologist – ‘what do these finds tell us about this location?’, ‘What would we find if we excavated your front room’ – introducing the concept of material culture within a context they understand. Next to the dig box we also had grinding activities (both a replica saddle quern and rotary quern) where children could grind grain into flour, which they could then take away with them. We also had a ‘make your own Neolithic pot’ areas, where children can make a small pinch pot and try and copy groove ware decorations.

Neolithic pot making!

We also organised a treasure hunt – developed by Kate (our placement from Newcastle University) who buried objects which relate to the past use of the site (some old brick from the iron foundry, an old milk bottle from quarry). While guiding them through the site, Kate encouraged children to find the object and then try and think about why the object was there and how it relates to the past use of the landscape. Our storytelling activity did the same thing – Erin (our crack storyteller) developed stories around the local history of the site and surrounding area. Her stories ranged from the time local football club Partick Thistle beat Celtic 4:1 in 1971, to a story about a young girl who disguised herself as a man to work in the quarry on the site at the time of the building of the canal. Storytelling is for us, a new way of disseminating the archaeological and historical background of the site and something we hope to develop further as Adopt-a-Monument goes on.

Erin and her storytelling hour!

Of the 100 to 130 visitors to the site on the day, 59 children took part in our activities, which, taking into account we didn’t have canoes or newts to attract children is not bad going!

Team Archaeology Scotland!