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!

Discovering Dumfries and Galloway’s Past

Well, hello from a soggy south-west Scotland. I’m Giles, Development Officer for Discovering Dumfries and Galloway’s Past and I wanted to tell you on Day of Archaeology 2012 about the project and what we are going to be doing over the next week or so…

DDGP is an exciting new community archaeology project based in south-west, providing training in using geophysical survey to help volunteers record, understand and interpret the region’s fascinating archaeology. There’s going to be plenty of opportunity for local people right across the region to get involved in the surveys – it’s a great way to find out more about buried archaeology without having to excavate.

What is geophysics, and what can we find out using it?

Not all archaeology is about excavation – you may have come across ‘geofizz’ on TV’s Time Team where it’s often used to plan where to put the trenches in. Geophysics is a way of mapping buried archaeological deposits – be they ditches, pits or building material – without ever breaking the ground surface.

There are two main techniques for geophysical survey:

Glasgow University archaeologists undertaking resistivity survey

Resistivity: By passing a small electrical current into the ground, and measuring the amount of resistance that results, it is possible to locate buried remains of archaeological interest.

Resistance is related to the amount of moisture in the soil. Around buried walls, for example, the surrounding soil will often be dryer. The current cannot pass so easily through this dry soil, so stonework can often show up as areas of higher resistance. This technique is therefore ideal for locating building walls and foundations.

Glasgow University archaeologists undertaking magnetic survey

Magnetometry:  This technique detects extremely small variations in the earth’s magnetic field, caused when the ground has been disturbed by previous activity. Burning, for instance, will often leave a significant magnetic trace.

Magnetometry is excellent for locating ditches, pits, middens, hearths and kilns – and is great at covering large areas quite quickly.

The great thing about geophysical survey is that the results can be rapidly downloaded on site to a laptop, and even with minimum processing it is possible to define ‘anomalies’ which can represent buried archaeology. For volunteers on the project surveys this is great – they can see the fruits of their labours in the field. We are aiming to get these very quickly into reports which will be uploaded onto our website, to share them with as wide an audience as possible.

Our next survey
It’s all a bit hectic in the office today as we put the finishing touches to our programme for next week’s survey. We’ll be undertaken both magnetic and resistivity survey at the nationally important site of the Roman fort at Birrens. This continues work that the University of Glasgow have been concentrating on – looking in and around Roman military sites in Eastern Dumfriesshire.

Magnetic survey results around Bankhead Roman fort, Dalswinton

This has looked at fabulous sites around Lockerbie, such as the Roman fort at Dalswinton. As you can see this has added loads of detail (as you can see on the right) to both the inside of the fort of Bankhead and the surrounding area – which aerial photographs have shown to be really interesting.

At Birrens Roman fort, near Middlebie, we’ll be focusing on similar things. A group of 6 volunteers will be joining us for 3 days next week to carry out some resistivity survey on the interior – hopefully we’ll get detail of the street pattern, as well as an idea of how the buildings – both the barrack blocks and administrative headquarters of the fort – were laid out.

You can find out more about Birrens fort – known to the Romans as blatobulgium (literally the ‘flour sack’) here.

We’re having an Open Day on Saturday July 7th – it’ll be a great chance to show the public the results as well as an opportunity to show just how geophysics ‘works’ – including the amount of walking in straight lines that’s involved! The response has been fantastic locally – so here’s hoping for some sunshine!

I hope this has wet your apetite both for ‘geophysics’ and the project – please see our website to keep up to date with the latest – discoveringdgpast.wordpress.com.

The project is jointly funded by the Scottish Government and The European Community, Dumfries and Galloway Leader 2007-2013; The Crichton Foundation and The University of Glasgow.