Canmore

A Grand Day Out

6.30am

Yahoo! Today I, Angela Gannon, have a day in the field to look at some strange earthworks in southwest Scotland with my two former bosses, Roger Mercer and Strat Halliday. Both have now retired so today I’m in charge! For me, it’s great to get back to the day job as an archaeological field investigator and a welcome escape from meetings, merger discussions and writing my contribution for our book on St Kilda. I normally leave for work at this time so it’s not an early start. And today I can wear my favourite colour (bright pink) and do a bit of PR for Dig It 2015!

Dig It 2015!

Dig It 2015!

The first few spots of rain begin to hit the windscreen as I head to the Newbridge roundabout.

6.55am

First stop, Straiton P&R just off the Edinburgh City by-pass to pick up Roger. He’s waiting for me so his bus connections have worked perfectly. Off down the A701 now to collect Strat and complete today’s ensemble. Think we will be early…

7.15am

Arrived at Strat’s and as predicted we’re about 30 minutes ahead of schedule. After a concentrated effort to ‘complete his ablutions’ and transfer his wellies and waterproofs from his own car to ours, we’re on the road again. Still on the A701 heading to Moffat then onto Dumfries for our first stop at an earthwork called The Orchard, Snade (NX88NE 3). The rain is persistent now.

So what are we up to today? Well we have four sites on our hit list, all of which are novelties in the archaeological record and which we hope will provide some context for Over Rig, Eskdalemuir, a site Roger excavated in 1984 and 1985, and is writing up for publication (NY29SW 8). I was a site supervisor during the 1985 season – indeed this was my first paid employment as an archaeologist – and my memories are not so much of the multiple banks and ditches of a strange D-shaped enclosure and its unusual setting in a natural amphitheatre, but of 36 inches of rain in 9 weeks. While it may not have dampened spirits at the time, it certainly made me realise that excavation in Scotland (even in the summer!) had limited appeal, and that a career in field survey was a better option. I may still get wet but at least I’d have clean fingernails!

9.10am

By some masterful map reading – not a skill many people acquire in these days of satellite navigation systems – we arrive at the cottage nearest to The Orchard. Permission granted and we leave the car. Better get those waterproofs on.

10.15am

On site now with discussions ranging from location, topography, nearest known monuments, scale of the ditches and banks, visibility to and from the central platform… Certainly, its location in a watery hollow is similar to Over Rig and it has multiple banks and ditches but…Time to get out the trusted 30m tape and take a few measurements.

Having been part of the project team that introduced a Thesaurus of Monument Type to index and aid retrieval of all sites and monuments, all be it a few years ago now, I still maintain an interest in classification and I’m passionate about standards and consistency of approach – sad really. So I’m keen to improve those for the sites we’re looking at today. And if we can reach a consensus about their dates or periods even better as this will contribute to the work we’re undertaking on a Period/Timeline thesaurus.

A grand day out 4 July 2014 003

On site discussions

11.30am

A comfort break in a garden centre on the outskirts of Dumfries with enough time for a quick coffee (and a scone with butter and jam – well we deserve it, don’t we?).

12.25pm

Arrived at Auchenhay Bridge (NX77NE 1), another curious site with triple banks and intervening ditches, classified currently as a settlement. Marshy location but the scale is very different from The Orchard. Hmmm – would be surprised if the two were of the same date and function and would be equally surprised if this was a settlement. But the orchids love the damp location and surprisingly we are still smiling in the rain.

 

2pm

Lunch in the farmyard at Trowdale before we set off to look at Trowdale Mote (NX76NE 1).

A grand day out 4 July 2014 020

Lunch in the farmyard

2.30pm

There are similarities between Trowdale and Auchenhay Bridge in terms of scale, watery location and abundance of orchids, though here the remains comprise two ditches with a medial bank and central platform. Little wonder the site is classified as earthwork. How do we improve on this, if at all?

View of site

View of site

4pm

Pict’s Knowe, the last site of the day (NX97SE 13), and one that was excavated by Professor Julian Thomas between 1994 and 1997. This conforms to a classic henge in so far as it has a bank with internal ditch and central platform. Its location is different from the other sites on our list today, being on the valley floor with open views. Well worth another look, but is it similar to the others? I suspect not.

The cattle trampled causeway across the ditch at Pict’s Knowe

The cattle trampled causeway across the ditch at Pict’s Knowe

4.50pm

Back to the car and heading home. No orchids here but I do love the thistles.

5.50pm

Annandale Arms Hotel, Moffat. The driver (me!) requests a comfort break and a revitalising cup of coffee. Home is now in sight.

 

Coffee for three!

Coffee for three!

8.45pm

Home at last. Dropped off Strat and Roger and deposited the car back at the office. Job done! A long day, yes, a rewarding day, of course, but are we any the wiser? I do hope so. My priority now, however, is a hot bath and a stiff G&T. Perhaps I’ll be indulgent that have the two together. But I bet I’ll have dried out before my socks!

My wet socks!

My wet socks!

 

On archaeological archives, elbows and ladders…

Who: Lydia Fisher

What: I’m a Collections Access Officer in the  Collections Department at RCAHMS

How did you get here?
A BA in Archaeology from Simon Fraser University in Canada, museum volunteering, one plane ticket, two years at the British Geological Survey, and then an opportunity to work in heritage at RCAHMS, I’ve been here since 2006.

Lydia

Lydia

What are you working on today?
As a member of the Collections Department at RCAHMS, I help look after the archive of photographs, drawings, maps and manuscripts while also assisting with research enquiries in our public search room. Today I’m cataloguing, rehousing and creating a collections hierarchy for the personal notebooks, papers, correspondence and aerial photographs of the pioneering aerial archaeologist, geologist and Romanist J. Kenneth St Joseph of Cambridge University. He was instrumental in establishing Cambridge University’s Collection of Aerial Photographs (CUCAP) and in 1973 became Professor of Air Photographic Studies. His work has transformed our knowledge of the early history of Scotland through the identification of sites visible only from the air.  He wrote and lectured widely on the subject of aerial photography and archaeology, his particular interest being in Roman Britain.  The collections work that I am undertaking will assist in making the archive more accessible to researchers through our online catalogue Canmore.

Further information, photographs and drawings on these sites can be found on our online database Canmore: Ulston Moor and Inchtuthil

Published books available in our search room by JK St Joseph include Roman Britain from the Air (with S S Frere) (1983) and The Uses of Air Photography (1977). Roman Camps in Scotland (2011) by our very own Dr Rebecca Jones also refers to the JK St Joseph archive and the notebooks held at RCAHMS.

What did university not teach you?
Anything about architecture – it is a subject I have had to learn about from research enquiries, by cataloguing architectural drawings and from working with knowledgeable colleagues.

Surprising part of your job?
Working with collections material can be quite physical, so clothing needs to be practical (you are unlikely to find us in dainty dresses or heels) and it helps if you’re good with heights. I’ve become very adept at pushing buttons on doors and elevators with my elbow and paper cuts can be a common occupational hazard.


Mapping the Archaeology of Scotland

Name: Mike Middleton

What do you do? 
I make archaeological maps. I work in the data section meaning I work with three RCAHMS maps:

  • Canmore (the index to the RCAHMS collection) which to me is lots of distribution maps all in one. Filtering Canmore can help us map regionality.

Defining Scotland's Places - Roman

How did you get here? 
I studied Archaeology at Glasgow then went to France where my wife and I busked and volunteered on archaeological sites for a while before I got a job as a field archaeologist with the French state archaeology service (AFAN – Now INRAP). After seven years I returned to Scotland where I worked freelance for a bit before becoming a manager with Headland Archaeology Ltd. in Edinburgh. I joined RCAHMS in 2008.

Mike digging in France

Mike digging in France

Favourite part of your job? 
The favourite part of my job is the sense of discovery. I interact with the data in Canmore a lot meaning I’m always learning new things but by far the best part of my job is when we get out into the field and visit sites. That’s when you really get to learn about sites and landscapes.

What did university not teach you?
How to dig. I learnt that in Yorkshire volunteering on the Heslerton Parish Project. Thank you Dominic Powlesland!

Top tips for aspiring archaeologists?
Volunteer for everything…experience counts!

Dig as much as you can while at university.

Dig as much as you can after university.

Make sure you have other strings to our bow for when your knees go!

 

Philip Graham (RCAHMS) – Western Isles

Philip Graham, RCAHMS

Philip Graham, RCAHMS

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

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

The Standing Stones of Calanais

I’m Philip Graham, Public Engagement Manager at RCAHMS, responsible for letting people know about our work and for encouraging people to use our unique resources through an expanding series of lectures, group visits and tours, training and induction sessions, and events like Doors Open Day. A major part of my job is responsibility for our social media channels Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr so I get to work with the amazing range of images that we hold in our collections and on a daily basis share what we’re doing with the rest of the world.

Callanish. Copyright RCAHMS (taken by Philip Graham)

Callanish. Copyright RCAHMS (taken by Philip Graham)

Although I trained as an architect at the University of Edinburgh my job enables me to immerse myself in the whole spectrum of the built heritage, including archaeology and industry. The #MyArchaeology site I’ve chosen is the extraordinary Standing Stones of Calanais (or Callanish) in Lewis, part of a landscape dating back 5,000 years.

I was lucky enough to visit Calanais as part of a Heritage Lottery Fund project I worked on a few years ago called Recording Your Heritage Online which worked with community groups across the country to share their information and images with us to make them more widely available; now through MyCanmore people can upload their images and information directly into our website. The project also worked with the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland to produce four books in their popular series of Illustrated Architectural Guides.

Aerial view taken in 2004. Copyright RCAHMS (SC1023422)

Aerial view taken in 2004. Copyright RCAHMS (SC1023422)

Our aerial view shows the full extent of the stone circle. At the heart of this cross-shaped setting stands a solitary monolith 4.8m high with lines of smaller stones radiating south, east and west and an 83m avenue running from the north. Surrounded by the stone circle is a chambered tomb.

View of stone circle at Callanish, Lewis. Titled 'Druidical Circle at Callernish in the Island of Lewis, N. Hebrides. G. R. Mackarness , July 1866.' Copyright RCAHMS (DP094025)

View of stone circle at Callanish, Lewis.
Titled ‘Druidical Circle at Callernish in the Island of Lewis, N. Hebrides. G. R. Mackarness , July 1866.’ Copyright RCAHMS (DP094025)

 

 

The stones are nicely depicted in this sketch drawn in July 1866 by GR Mackarness who was an antiquarian and the Vicar of Ilam in Derbyshire, taken from the book ‘Views in Scotland’.

 

 

 

 

The fact that no one definitively knows what the purpose of this site was adds to its mystery. Some have argued that it was built for ritual or astronomical reasons, and you may have some ideas of your own!

There are loads more great images of the Standing Stones of Calanais on our websites:

http://canmore.rcahms.gov.uk/en/site/4156/

http://www.scran.ac.uk/database/results.php?search_term=Callanish

http://aerial.rcahms.gov.uk/database/results.php?search_term=Calanais

Find out what we’re up to by following RCAHMS on:

https://twitter.com/rcahms

https://www.facebook.com/rcahms

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rcahms/

http://www.youtube.com/rcahms

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.

 

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.

 

Piers Dixon (RCAHMS) – South Lanarkshire

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

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

Early Stone Castles of South Lanarkshire

I have been working as an Archaeological Investigator for RCAHMS since 1989 and currently as an Operations Manager in Survey and Recording. As a medievalist I have long been interested in castles in all their variety wherever they occur from Scotland to Greece, but opportunities for me to record and research them for RCAHMS only became available in 2000 with the Donside survey that led to the publication of In the Shadow of Bennachie (2007). This showed me that we have a lot to learn about the origin and development of castles, with a rash of motte-like structures, including the dramatic castle of Invernochty, Strathdon, with its ‘later’ stone curtain wall built by the ‘native’ earl of Mar, not all of which were medieval castles at all. Baileys, usually part and parcel of the castle earthwork, were absent, except at the Bass of Inverurie, but the mottes were often big enough to take a range of structures. More worrying was the absence of identifiable elite structures of the immediately preceding period.

View of Crawford castle from the air, showing the later stone castle on top of the motte. Copyright RCAHMS (DP153534)

View of Crawford castle from the air, showing the later stone castle on top of the motte. Copyright RCAHMS (DP153534)

The origins of castles in Scotland are generally assumed to derive from the influx of Anglo-French followers of King David and his successors bringing with them their notions of what was necessary for the centre of power of a lordship. Raising an earthwork or modifying a natural mound to make a place of strength was the quickest way of achieving this. South Lanarkshire provides a good test bed for this thesis since the documentation tells us that it was settled in the 12th century by Flemish knights, some of whom established themselves by building castles based on mottes or earthworks that defy easy definition. Some like Coulter motte in the care of Historic Scotland, or Crawford castle, a motte with a later stone tower, appear to have been typical conical mounded structures, but others like the earthwork at Castle Qua just outside Lanark, or that at Cadzow, not far from the later stone castle, take the form of promontories defended by earthworks with broad external ditches.  These were sites that were rejected as prehistoric settlement enclosures by the Royal Commission investigators in the 1970s, although a Roman coin found during excavations by Lanarkshire Archaeology Society of the Cadzow earthwork suggest a late Iron Age or Dark Age date.

Cadzow earthwork, showing the mound and south ditch. The old oak trees have been dated by dendrochronology to the 15th century when the site lay within a hunting park. Copyright Piers Dixon

Cadzow earthwork, showing the mound and south ditch. The old oak trees have been dated by dendrochronology to the 15th century when the site lay within a hunting park. Copyright Piers Dixon

Further investigation of these sites is clearly needed. That at Castle Qua has been the focus of some interest locally and the Commission has reviewed the possibility of further survey work at the site with Addyman Archaeology for the Clyde and Avon Valley Landscape Partnership.  The site itself is a dramatic one with a cliff on one side dropping down to the Mouse Water more than 100 feet below. A substantial earthwork that displays traces of stone facings lies within broad ditch enclosing an area some 30m across with traces of structures near the cliff edge. A second ditch suggests the possibility of a bailey.

Plan of Castle Qua showing the suggested line of the outer ditch as an overlay on the RCAHMS plan. (Addyman Archaeology overlay and RCAHMS DP152072)

Plan of Castle Qua showing the suggested line of the outer ditch as an overlay on the RCAHMS plan. (Addyman Archaeology overlay and RCAHMS DP152072)

Archaeology has also thrown up spanners in the dating of mottes, for example, excavations by Chris Tabraham at Roberton motte in the 1970s produced a sherd of imported pottery from France dated to the 14th century from the base of the mound. This contradicts the established wisdom of dating the construction of mottes and other earthwork castles to the 12th and 13th centuries by incoming Flemish lords. Although there is a good correlation between the documented Flemish incomers and the eponymous villages of Roberton, Thankerton, Symington, Covington, Lamington and Wiston, for example, all settlements of potentially medieval origin,  earthwork castles have yet to be located at all of them.  There is clearly much work to be done here in understanding the development of castles and this area provides an excellent location for doing just that.

Castle Qua earthwork and ditch, much overgrown. Copyright Piers Dixon

Castle Qua earthwork and ditch, much overgrown. Copyright Piers Dixon

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

Leanne McCafferty (RCAHMS) – Renfrewshire

Leanne McCafferty, RCAHMS

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

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

After graduated with an archaeology degree in 2002, I began working at RCAHMS on a partnership project with our Welsh counterparts, RCAHMW. This involved looking at how the two organisations recorded information about the built heritage including archaeology, architecture and marine sites. I  am currently a project manager within the Data and Recording section with a particular interest in the history of recording at RCAHMS and how this is reflected in the information we make available through our Canmore database. In an attempt to illustrate this, I’ve chosen the site of St Fillan’s Well.

The holy well of St Fillan lies to the east of Kilallan, a farm near Kilmacolm in Refrewshire. It is one of 276 holy wells recorded in the Canmore database.

These wells were associated with early medieval saints (although their use could have been much more ancient than this) and were reputed to have healing waters. The holy wells recorded in the Canmore database claim to cure a variety of maladies from deafness to “nervous diseases”. In the case of St Fillan, reputedly an Irish monk, the waters of his well have folk traditions associating it with the curing of rickets in children. Nearby the well are two associated monuments, St Fillan’s Seat and St Fillan’s Church, which is dedicated to the saint.

An engraving of St Anthony’s Well from William Ballingall’s Edinburgh Past and Present. Copyright RCAHMS (SC431735)

An engraving of St Anthony’s Well from William Ballingall’s Edinburgh Past and Present. Copyright RCAHMS (SC431735)

The information RCAHMS holds on the well is taken from the Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division’s record card. The cards were transferred to RCAHMS in 1983 and provided the foundation for what would become the database we use to record monuments today. This information is then available to the public through Canmore. The record cards provided a brief description of the site along with references to relevant publications and a map. They were compiled by the Archaeology Division office-based recorders and then passed to the field staff, who in turn would investigate the monument. The office recorders would assemble the monument descriptions from existing publications such as the RCAHMS County Inventories and Statistical Accounts.

Ordnance Survey record card for St Fillan’s Well. Copyright RCAHMS

Ordnance Survey record card for St Fillan’s Well. Copyright RCAHMS

For St Fillan’s Well, multiple sources have been consulted to construct a concise history and description of the site. The well was first recorded in the Old Statistical Accounts in 1791. The statistical accounts were first collected in the 18th century by Church of Scotland ministers and described the geography, agriculture and culture of their respective parishes. The Reverend John Monteath was responsible for Houston parish in which St Fillan’s Well is located and describes how the well was used for curing “rickety babies” until it was filled in by a local minister at the end of the 18th century. It also records the tradition of leaving cloth as a votive offering which means St Fillan’s was also a rag or ‘clootie’ well. One of the more famous clootie wells is located at Hill O’Hirdie near Munlochy in the Highlands.

The well was mapped by the Ordnance Survey in 1856 and recorded in the Object Name Book. These books were used by the OS staff to record the place names that were used on maps. Ordered by parish, a copy of the Name Books is available for public consultation on microfiche in the RCAHMS Search Room.

 First Edition OS map (Renfrewshire 1863, sheet VII) depicting St Fillan’s Well. ‘Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2011’

First Edition OS map (Renfrewshire 1863, sheet VII) depicting St Fillan’s Well. ‘Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2011’

In 1895 a paper exploring the association of the cult of St Fillan with Kilallan was published by J M Mackinlay in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. More recent publications on the well include Scottish Healing Wells (F and R Morris 1982) and W H Lyle’s The History of Bridge of Weir (1975).

Renfrewshire was not included in the county inventory survey by RCAHMS, but when it was visited by the Ordnance Survey in 1955, it was reported the field investigator that the well was being used as a cattle trough.

To see the Canmore record for St Fillan’s Well, see http://canmore.rcahms.gov.uk/en/site/42246/details/kilallan+st+fillan+s+well/

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.

 

Dorothy Graves McEwan (RCAHMS) – Orkney

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

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

 

My name is Dr Dorothy Graves McEwan and I am the Skara Brae Project Cataloguer at RCAHMS. Skara Brae is the best preserved Neolithic settlement site in Western Europe, and through this distinction has become a World Heritage site beloved by many people the world over. This unique site captured the imagination of antiquarians in the 19th century. It continues to fascinate archaeologists, myself included, to this very day.

My first ferry ride to Orkney. Copyright the author

My first ferry ride to Orkney. Copyright the author

My reasons for loving Skara Brae are entirely personal. In 2004, in the early days of research for my PhD, I took a trip up with my boyfriend (now husband) to visit archaeological sites in the Highlands.  Eventually, we pointed the car north and just kept driving until we came to John o’Groats. We looked at each other and said, “Why not?”

Onto the ferry we went, and the next thing I knew, I was staring at the glorious remains of a settlement that reminded me so much of The Flintstones that I had to laugh. At that moment, standing above House 7, I realised I was entranced by the Scottish Neolithic. It has since become a research passion.

Skara Brae; house 7. Copyright RCAHMS (SC346480)

Skara Brae; house 7. Copyright RCAHMS (SC346480)

An average day of my work currently consists of delving into containers of archive material that was created by archaeologists Dr David V Clarke and Dr Alexandra Shepherd, who in the 1970s excavated material from Skara Brae’s middens. A midden can be considered a fancy archaeological word for the ‘trash’ heap, where literally anything and everything can be found deposited. It is by excavating the midden so carefully that Clarke and Shepherd have been able to open a door into the past that might have otherwise remained closed forever.  By combining their work with Prof V Gordon Childe’s iconic excavations in the 1930s, we know so much more about the daily life of the people who built and lived at Skara Brae.

Skara Brae: Vere Gordon Childe in hut 8. Copyright RCAHMS (SC372285)

Skara Brae: Vere Gordon Childe in hut 8. Copyright RCAHMS (SC372285)

The midden has revealed an extensive diet including plants, shellfish, fish, wild birds, deer, and pigs. They created stone, wooden and bone objects and tools. They even possessed artwork: beautiful pieces such as carved stone balls and incised decorations that appear on some of the stonework.

Skara Brae Finds Photograph: Bone and stone objects, including mattocks and carved stone objects. Copyright  Historic Scotland (SC1165931)

Skara Brae Finds Photograph: Bone and stone objects, including mattocks and carved stone objects. Copyright Historic Scotland (SC1165931)

 

 

 

 

All of this and so much more will be forthcoming in a final report by Dr Clarke and Dr Shepherd. In the meantime, it is my job to catalogue the material into a singular Collection that any member of the public can easily consult online or in person at RCAHMS.

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.

 

 

Adam Welfare (RCAHMS) – Moray

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

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

My name is Adam Welfare and I am an archaeologist with a special interest in stone circles. Earlier this year I received a letter from a lady who had recently visited a stone circle at Lynagowan, deep in the hills south Forres, which she had first seen when she was a girl many years ago. However, to her surprise and immense disappointment she discovered that it had been removed from the field in which it once stood. She ended the letter with a request ‘Please can you find out what happened to it’. The letter raised a number of interesting issues, including the question of whether the stone circle had been correctly classified, what happened to it, and on broader scale about the vulnerability of archaeological sites in general to erosion and destruction. As far as the first point is concerned, the site was initially recorded in 1972 by Ian Keillor, an experienced amateur archaeologist from Elgin, but as far as is known his interpretation of the site was never verified or refined. There are no contemporary photographs and Keillor’s notes lack the detail that could have proven the site’s authenticity. Moreover, the field in which the circle is alleged to have stood is bordered by a 19th century farmstead and a former public road. It is therefore surprising that it escaped the notice of the Ordnance Survey as well as local historians for so long. As to what happened to the site, it is fairly clear that the stones have been removed to ease the task of cultivation. A number of images posted on the internet suggest that they may have been simply pushed over the edge of the river terrace to the east of the field.

Extract from first edition (1870-71) Ordnance Survey 6-inch-to-mile map. ‘Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2011’

Extract from first edition (1870-71) Ordnance Survey 6-inch-to-mile map. ‘Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2011’

Many archaeological sites are fairly slight in nature and as long ago as the 1840s John Stuart of Inchbreck, Professor of Greek at Aberdeen University, complained about the loss of antiquities resulting from agricultural improvement. Pressure from him and others of like mind eventually led to the mapping of ancient monuments like Innesmill by the Ordnance Survey, a responsibility that was subsequently passed to RCAHMS in 1983. Although many stone circles in Scotland must have been destroyed without any sort of record, details of more than 500 can be consulted using the Commission’s Canmore search engine. This record owes much to the work of the Ordnance Survey and there can be little doubt of the important role it played in documenting and preserving what is a vitally important part of the nation’s heritage. The story of the Lynagowan site is a salutary reminder that much recording work still needs to be done and that attrition remains a very real issue. However, we can be consoled to some extent by knowing that in general terms Scotland’s stone circles have never been better cared for and that many are now protected by an effective legal framework.

Easter Aquhorthies recumbent stone circle. Oblique aerial view of stone circle, taken from WNW. Copyright RCAHMS (DP083018)

Easter Aquhorthies recumbent stone circle. Oblique aerial view of stone circle, taken from WNW. Copyright RCAHMS (DP083018)

In researching stone circles in NE Scotland over the past few years, not least for my book, Great Crowns of Stone, I have been struck by how few remain intact. The recumbent stone circle of Easter Aquhorthies is a remarkable exception, but even so its mid-19th century owner considered it prudent to enclose it within a low wall. His counterpart at Pitglassie had no interest in his recumbent stone circle and instead extracted the stones and piled them in a heap ready to be taken away. Once cleared, such stones were usually put to work around the farm. At Bankhead several were reused in a field wall and one at Corrie Cairn was employed as a gate-post. Likewise, at Cairnfauld one supports the gable of a barn, while at Colmeallie another was built into a now ruined cart shed. However, sometimes a single stone would be spared demolition for use as a cattle rubbing stone – as happened at Peat Hill.

A general view of the demolished stone circle taken by the photographer James Ritchie at the beginning of the 20th century. Copyright RCAHMS (SC681780)

A general view of the demolished stone circle taken by the photographer James Ritchie at the beginning of the 20th century. Copyright RCAHMS (SC681780)

Another of James Ritchie’s photographs, this time showing the recumbent stone and fallen flankers built into a wall. Copyright RCAHMS (SCSC681758)

Another of James Ritchie’s photographs, this time showing the recumbent stone and fallen flankers built into a wall. Copyright RCAHMS (SCSC681758)

The author’s own image of an orthostats that has been used as a gatepost. Copyright Adam Welfare

The author’s own image of an orthostats that has been used as a gatepost. Copyright Adam Welfare

Another of the author’s own images, this time of a large boulder incorporated in the gable of a barn. Copyright Adam Welfare

Another of the author’s own images, this time of a large boulder incorporated in the gable of a barn. Copyright Adam Welfare

A third image taken by James Ritchie, this one of an orthostat – all that survives of a circle, which has been re-used as a cattle-rubbing post. Copyright RCAHMS (SC676655)

A third image taken by James Ritchie, this one of an orthostat – all that survives of a circle, which has been re-used as a cattle-rubbing post. Copyright RCAHMS (SC676655)

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.