Scotland

Enabling Scottish Archaeological Research – the final ScARF post

“And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.” Genesis 2:2

2017 is the seventh and final Day of Archaeology but I’m pretty sure no one taking part will be resting! I do though, think that the team behind #dayofarch deserve a little bit  lot of praise for the god/superhuman like effort they have put in over the years organising this) Since the first posts in 2011, ScARF has taken part in every ‘Day’ except from 2013 and 2014 when ScARF (www.scottishheritagehub.com) had no staff – a pretty good record (you can see the old posts in the links below).

In many ways, the work I am doing today is not that different from the posts I’ve written in the past.

The graphic design I was trying out in the first of the 2012 posts is still a part of my job – today I am creating posters to show research topics in need of love. I’ll probably spend about half an hour in the morning on that as a brain warm up before the ‘real’ work. Here you can see some of the word clouds I’ll use as a basis for the designs.

After coffee, it will be some close reading. The copyediting I wrote a post on in 2012 is more part of my job than ever and there are a few hours of my time today blocked out for working on editing the Regional Archaeological Research Framework for Argyll (RARFA) (http://www.scottishheritagehub.com/regionalresearch) . We are on the second draft of the manuscript – at the moment the formatting is all in place, punctuation, terminology, spelling and grammar have all been checked and sent back to the authors for review. I am just waiting for some final adjustments to images and changes to bibliographies to be sent in and then the ‘final’ version 2 can be checked.

At the same time, I am still (as in 2012) marking up the HTML for the text but for the first time I have some help in the form of a glamourous assistant in Anna, our Museums Officer!

Today I also have a meeting about sponsoring student places at an upcoming conference (stay tuned to the ScARF website to find out more! http://www.scottishheritagehub.com/content/student-network ) and I hope that this will result in students and early career folk who might otherwise struggle to afford to go to be able to attend the event. This kind of work on our ‘student network’ isn’t something that was part of the original ScARF plan but I spend an increasing amount of time on as I think it is important to get as many fresh brains (if that isn’t too zombie a thing to say) involved as possible in current research, Scotland needs more, younger, experts for the days of archaeology ahead!

After my meeting, it will be the glamourous administration job of booking accommodation and travel, including for an upcoming conference that I am presenting at (come along to the Highland Archaeology Festival http://www.highlandarchaeologyfestival.org/index.asp?pageid=651964  !) and doing some financial planning for the next month of the project.

Coffee is essential in the ScARF office

Coffee is essential in the ScARF office

After that, back to marking up HTML for RARFA. I do a lot of other things in my job, even if these posts make it seem like I do a lot of the same thing, the days of archaeology have been Fridays, and Fridays are usually my head-down-coffee-on-tap-techy-days! This week for example, I think about 60% of my time has been spent on various regional archaeological research frameworks – costing them, planning them, research into topics, looking for willing victims volunteers to write pieces for them, trying to get support for them and setting up meeting for the future. I’ve also been working on sorting out and simplifying the 2012 research recommendations so that they be answered by a wider range of people than they were perhaps intended for.

Since I started working on ScARF in 2011, my day to day work has been augmented with more and more administration due to having a managerial role that I didn’t have at the start. I’ve also taken breaks from Archaeology and had jobs in other fields (not the muddy kind, other ‘disciplines’) . One thing that has been constant since the first #dayofarch post though, is the fun I have reading about other peoples work in archaeology. Yes, when you read something exciting, you can feel jealous and sad that you are at that moment doing yet another round of monthly paperwork rather than being the one with the excitement. On the other hand, reading about the exciting research people are doing can really make you (or should that be, ‘should make you’?) see where the work you are doing yourself can fit in. I don’t get to do much any original research with my day job, or research what I’m really passionate about in archaeology, but one thing I can do through my day job is to increase the access that others have to current research. Well, that’s what I hope ScARF does and even if the #dayofarch is ending, I hope that people reading this post continue to use ScARF in the future.

Anna MacQuarrie is also writing a post for today, from a ScARF Museums point of view, so do please look out for that!

 

Past ScARF posts for Day of Archaeology

ScARF is a research project at the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and we are thankful to Historic Environment Scotland and Museums Galleries Scotland for our current funding. 

That grey area between museums and archaeology

Museum networks are pretty strong and active in Scotland – whether an independent museum, local authority or national, a freelance curator or educator – there is a networking body for you. One such is the Scottish Museums Federation, of which I am an ordinary member, and semi-regularly write a blog post on work my work with the Scottish Archaeological Research Framework (ScARF). I think of myself as being a museums person working on an archaeological project – a funny grey area where I’m not a curator, nor an archaeologist (strictly speaking). The SMF blog, then, is a really valuable way of sharing the archaeological side of my work for a museums audience, and likewise hopefully any archaeologists reading this will get an insight to a more museums-y focused project. So, this post has also been shared on the SMF blog, which you can see here.

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For a number of years now, there has been a project running called Day of Archaeology, wherein people working in the myriad different fields of archaeology (excuse the pun) write a blog post of what they have been up to that day. It’s provided a great insight to a ‘life in the day of’ archaeologists, not just in the UK but spanning all corners of the globe. Sadly, today is the last ever Day of Archaeology. I thought, then, that this might be a nice opportunity for another blog post showing where my job fits into the archaeological world, being as it is in that grey area betwixt museums and archaeology.

I’ve written a couple of posts before about my project (Museums Officer for the Scottish Archaeological Research Framework) but this will give an insight to an ‘average’ day in the ScARF office.

I start by checking emails – who doesn’t – reading up on latest museum news from various mailing lists and catching up with to-do notes I’ve left myself. Much ScARF time can be taken up with meetings, events, admin and dealing with incoming requests. With a team of two part-time staff, managing our time is crucial. But, this month is uncharacteristically office-based so it is that I’m working through panel reports and research recommendations spanning all of Scottish archaeology.

 Basketry in the care of Orkney Islands Council museum service. ©Anna MacQuarrie

Basketry in the care of Orkney Islands Council museum service. ©Anna MacQuarrie

These recommendations come from the 2012 ScARF panel reports and will form the beginning of a research framework for farming and fishing, based upon the work I’m doing with museums in Aberdeenshire and Orkney. It’s a new approach for ScARF and will take into account research on museum collections in both the aforementioned regions. A favourite part of this for me is producing maps and visual aides to help me visualise just where the collections and questions cross-over, if at all. My manager, Emma, is a whiz with data and GIS so we’re able to produce some nice maps and visuals.

Whilst all this work is very archaeological, I have to remind myself at all times that the collections in each area come front-and-centre. A quick flick through the photos I’ve amassed from visit to each area helps with this at a glance, as does the paperwork I share with my colleagues in each museum service. Their collections are broad, interesting and really speak of the places they represent.

Arbuthnot Museum whaling display, Aberdeenshire Council museums service ©Anna MacQuarrie

Arbuthnot Museum whaling display, Aberdeenshire Council museums service ©Anna MacQuarrie

When I’ve finished reading as much as I can handle in one go, I turn to thinking about the skills workshops we want to deliver, helping to bridge that gap between archaeologists and museum professionals. We’re looking at what themes and skills would be appropriate, who might be able to help us deliver and so on. Logistics, asking nicely and identifying needs – three important parts of the process.

Medieval fishing hook in the care of Aberdeenshire council museums service ©Anna MacQuarrie

Medieval fishing hook in the care of Aberdeenshire council museums service ©Anna MacQuarrie

Finally, I review what details need sorted out for forthcoming visit to our project partners – travel, accommodation, making sure everyone who needs to know does know. My next SMF blog post will be from the road, as I visit colleagues in Aberdeenshire again at the end of next month. ‘Til then – happy Day of Archaeology!

Get in touch: anna@socantscot.org

For more information on ScARF go here: http://www.scottishheritagehub.com/

For more information on the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland see here: http://www.socantscot.org/

ScARF is being funded by Historic Environment Scotland and Museums Galleries Scotland.

From castles to cows: exploring the photographic archives at Aberdeenshire Council

As the first Council archaeology service in Scotland, we hold a large archive dating back to the 1970s and beyond. While this means we have a fantastic resource collected over the years, it also means there is a large amount of data that needs to be digitised to make it more accessible.

Pitsligo Castle emerging through the mist in 1988 (Aberdeenshire Council Archaeology Service © ACAS – www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/archaeology)

One of the projects I have been working on recently is going through our slide and printed collection of ground and aerial photographs. These have all been scanned, and my task has been to ensure that all the images are digitally indexed and attributed to the correct record within our publically available Sites and Monuments Record.

Contact sheets and index from 1989.

As someone relatively new to the area, working on the photographs has been a great opportunity for me to get to know some of these sites better, from the well-known castles to lesser-known but equally important sites such as areas of prehistoric field systems and hidden cairns.

A cow in 1980 tried to become famous, today is its day (Aberdeenshire Council Archaeology Service © ACAS – www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/archaeology)

There have been a couple of challenges in identifying the sites from the photographs. Sheets of slides can throw up some odd sites with little or no description or context. Often these can still be identified by comparing with other sources or by asking colleagues, who have so far shown an impressive ability to know where a blurry field is or what a close-up of a stone shows. The second challenge has been the handwriting. I have begun to develop an eye for reading the scrawls of the previous archaeologists, but some of the scribbles will have to remain a mystery for now. Despite these challenges it is always exciting to find photographs of a site that we did not realise we had pictures of, as well as the occasional outstanding picture of a particularly spectacular site.

Someone at Dundarg Castle in 1988 had the best day at work ever (Aberdeenshire Council Archaeology Service © ACAS – www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/archaeology)

Having these images properly digitised and cross referenced means we are able to manage and protect the sites within out area better – has that large crack in the wall appeared or changed within the last few years, or was it like that thirty or forty years ago? Images of excavations also offer a great insight: to see the sites being dug,  and the “interesting” approach to health and safety standards of yesteryear, not to mention the fantastic fashion on display.

Dispatches from Edinburgh: ScARF project & museums – part 2

A blank powerpoint presentation being presided over by Joseph Anderson FSA Scot (1916-1832)

A blank powerpoint presentation being presided over by Joseph Anderson FSA Scot (1916–1832)

Lunches had, cups of tea refreshed twice over (the only thing this office loves more than archaeology is tea – fact) I spend the first part of my afternoon doing some admin: monthly reports, target checking, timesheets etc. As the ScARF project I’m working on is funded (thank you, Historic Environment Scotland & Museums Galleries Scotland!) I need to dedicate time to considering my work in the context of outcomes and indicators. As I’ve not been in the job long (question from my boss: “when I can stop calling you ‘new’?“) this also helps me focus my work as I continue to get to grips with the wider ScARF project.

Targets, outcomes, indicators, targets, outcomes, indicators...

Targets, outcomes, indicators, targets, outcomes, indicators…

Admin duly administrated, I can focus back on preparatory work for Orkney. I’ll be giving a few talks when I’m there, spreading the ScARF and museums gospel, so I’m busy drawing up plans for what these will entail. Though I’ve mentioned Orkney already, it’s not just there that I’ll be working with museums. Later on in the project I’ll also be working with the Aberdeenshire Council museums service on their collections. While both museums services have Recognised Collections and rich archaeological landscapes around them, they are both really different. It’ll be interesting to see how each museum service benefits from our project, and how our work varies with the different museums involved.

Meeting notes, to-do lists, mind-maps. Therein lies the heart of the museum project. And tea. Always tea.

In preparing talks and any work for Orkney I need to consider how relevant it might also be to Aberdeenshire – I don’t want to have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to working with my colleagues there later on. The main research topics I’m looking at just now are farming and fishing, so I return to my trusty documents (the ScARF panel reports are free to view online or download here) and see how they’re referenced, and how museums might already have contributed to them.

Perhaps in a couple of months time I’d have some rather more exciting photos to share (who doesn’t love a good museum store?) but for now these will have to do. Last but not least… why not sign up to our monthly e-newsletter at http://eepurl.com/bCFibT to keep up-to-date with all things ScARF.

Settlements, Shielings & Sunshine: Archaeological Survey at NTS Torridon

Torridon. One of the most dramatic landscapes in the United Kingdom. Driving to it, from the south or the east is an unforgettable journey. Three massive mountains, Beinn Alligin, Liathach and Beinn Eighe rise suddenly from the shore of the deep sea loch to over 1000m in height, looming over you and totally dominating the area.

Beinn Alligin & Liathac seen across Upper Loch Torridon.

Beinn Alligin & Liathach seen across Upper Loch Torridon.

The National Trust for Scotland looks after over 6,000ha of land on the north side of Loch Torridon. Along with the plants, animals, birds, footpaths & upland landscape that we manage, there are also a huge amount of archaeological remains. The majority of these are 18th and 19th century settlement and farming remains; there are very little prehistoric remains on the north side of the Loch, but plenty on the southside. Perhaps it is because prehistoric folk settled and used the same land that is still settled and in use today, thus all traces have been removed. You can find out more about the archaeology sites here

In March, I was lucky enough to lead a National Trust for Scotland Thistle Camp where we carried out condition monitoring and survey work across a number of the settlements and shieling sites. This is incredibly useful heritage management work, as it allows us to see the overall picture of change of the archaeological resource & to develop a management plan to deal with all sorts of threats such as bracken & vegetation growth, erosion, burrowing and collapse.

For the condition monitoring I have developed an Android tablet based system which utilises the Open Data Kit to allow us to remotely collect the data, and then submit it to a server when we have an internet connection. Internally, we’ve found the system to be incredibly robust and useful, and much simpler to use and get data back from than paper based systems.

Condition Monitoring at Wester Alligin, Torridon

Condition Monitoring at Wester Alligin, Torridon

In total we monitored 191 sites and structures over 5 days and from this developed a really good understanding of what is affecting the archaeological remains and how.

Condition Data, Torridon

Condition Data, Torridon

I have previously written about the Data Enhancement project I work on at the Trust; the GPS survey work at Torridon has allowed us to enhance our GIS data and polygons, which means we have better and more detailed information when managing our Torridon estate. We now know the exact location and extent of a wide range of structures, dykes and cultivation remains whereas previously we had them as point data or even described as “left of the structure” “below the area of woodland” and so forth.

Surveyed archaeological remains, Wester Alligin, Torridon

Surveyed archaeological remains, Wester Alligin, Torridon

Through doing this work we have also recorded remains that are quite obvious on the ground for for a variety of reasons had never been recorded and utilised aerial imagery from a range of sources to map some of the more ephemeral remains such as cultivation ridges and furrows. I have also been able to compare the remains to the historic Ordnance Survey mapping available from the National Library of Scotland which allows us to (being to) understand when buildings were built, in use and abandoned.

Some of the structures which appear on the above map

Some of the structures which appear on the above map

We also discovered a couple of possible new sites such as a cup marked boulder, which is very exiciting.

I need to thank the volunteers, Danji, Kathy, Joanna, Will, Thomas, Abbie, Barry & Jim who made this work possible and who took to the work with such great enthusiasm and interest.

It wasn't all hard work! Yhe group at the top of the Bealach na Bà.

It wasn’t all hard work! Yhe group at the top of the Bealach na Bà.

 

A day managing the Scottish Archaeological Research Framework

The day in the ScARF office begins with tea and the newest member of the team reading our old Day of Archaeology posts from 2012 and 2015 (if you haven’t read them, they can be found at http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/friday-fun-in-the-scarf-office-part-1/ and http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/friday-fun-in-the-scarf-part-2/ and finally http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/scarf-is-3-years-old/ . Since the last #dayofarch, the ScARF team has doubled in size and so now we are two people, making just over 1 full time post. This means that we can split ourselves easily between archaeology and museums work, as part of the plan for the future is to better integrate existing museum collections with trying to answer existing research recommendations, which so far have tended to be born out of pure archaeological thinking.

There won’t actually be much time for me to read #dayofarch posts today though, that will likely be a task for the bus home. Being part time means you have to use every office minute to its advantage and you often feel like reading blog posts and similar isn’t ‘real work’, even if they do have value! One I can read legitimately, though, is the post for today from Anna our Museums Officer at http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/dispatches-from-edinburgh-scarf-project-museums-part-1/.  Instead, today will mainly be about three things:

  1. Future Thinking on Scotlands Carved Stones – a major new panel report for ScARF
  2. The ScARF student network
  3. Admin tasks
Future Thinking on Scotlands' Carved Stones - a screenshot of the yet to be released resource

Future Thinking on Scotlands’ Carved Stones – a screenshot of the yet to be released resource

Firstly, getting the newest addition to the ScARF panel report family up online. Future Thinking on Scotlands Carved Stones (http://www.scottishheritagehub.com/content/future-thinking-carved-stones-scotland ) is due for release at the end of next month and will mark the culmination of work by a group of over fifty people led by Dr Sally Foster, Dr Katherine Forsyth, Stuart Jeffrey and Susan Buckham. I didn’t contribute to the writing of the report, but my job was to advise on structure and to put the text and images online and link everything together, as well as to link to other existing ScARF sections where appropriate. This means some HTML work, as simply copying and pasting leaves a horrible proprietary mess in the code, and then some design work to fit the images into the text nicely. Very similar, in fact, to what I appear to have been doing for the 2012 #dayofarch post.  I’ve blocked off most of the day to work on Carved Stones because it needs focus and concentration so I can’t let myself get distracted by other ScARF bits at the same time.

Exciting as the work on the new stones panel is, I don’t have time to spend all today on it. It’s already made up the bulk of my work over the past three weeks. So, after a no-break-desk-lunch, I plan on quietly putting the stones to one side and begin the never-ending task of project admin. Mostly replying to emails, you do know archaeological project management is pure glamour, right? Some emails will be routine and won’t need much time spent on them, some I can see from the subject line are to do with new archaeological research so they will get marked to explore properly later, and recently it seems quite a lot are related to some of our upcoming panel meetings so I will be sure to answer them straight away.

Trowelblazer Lottie had planned on helping out for the day but instead despairs at the increasing amount of post it notes

Trowelblazer Lottie had planned on helping out for the day but instead despairs at the increasing amount of post it notes

After that block of admin, it will be time for some Friday Fun and telling the world about some of the work we have supported recently. Over the past few months, ScARF has provided student bursaries to attend archaeological conferences. In return, each student had to submit a short report to us about their time there as well as a promise that ScARF can use their research, if appropriate, to help update the framework questions and recommendations. The reports received so far can all be found at http://www.socantscot.org/category/student-report/ and cover a diverse range of topics including prehistoric beekeeping, iron age object deposition, re-evaluation of insular metalwork from Pagan-Norse graves, Medieval cetacean consumption and Iron Age equestrianism, so something for everyone! I have a few new reports to put up this afternoon from the 14C and Archaeology conference (http://www.c14archaeology2016.com/) that recently took place in Edinburgh, so if science and archaeology is your thing then take a look at the reports section later today. After that, I need to write to all the bursary recipients and see if they want to take up the offer of Society Fellowship (you can find out more about that at http://www.socantscot.org/join-us/ ).

I plan on spending some time towards the end of the day working on my papers for the European Association of Archaeologists conference, which is at the end of next month. If you are interested, then ScARF and the Society have papers about digital publication and archiving in session TH3-11 , and open access in session TH3-03.   In a previous life, writing papers usually took place in the evenings and weekends. However, now I’m in my thirties and have responsibilities other than work, so paper writing has to take place during the working day. This is a good example of how, four years on from my first #dayofarch post, how I can/have to spend my day at work has changed even if some of the actual work is the same.

An aside: Writing this post has also made me realise how my views on working in archaeology have changed over the past four years since the first post. In those four years, I have had three different jobs (not all archaeological, and none until now more than a 12 month contract) and become a parent. Archaeology (and therefore work) used to be the all consuming thing in life, and I was quite happy to give all my hours/life to it (Hello Silchester!) but life happens and things change. Some of the best posts from previous years are those that truly reflect on what a job/career archaeology is about and how it is rarely a smooth ride (I particularly like http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/once-an-archaeologist-plan-b-careers-in-archaeology/, http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/a-career-in-ruins/, http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/working-hard-or-hardly-working/ and recently http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/a-transition-period-in-life/). I think #dayofarch is a great way for people to reflect on archaeology as a career (whether they are already working in archaeology or not) and provides an invaluable and real insight to a world that, despite what some would have you believe, isn’t all Lego, Minecraft, or easy digging in the sunshine. </endrant>

The very last hour or so of the day of archaeology will be about planning the next few months. We are working in our plans for Orkney and Aberdeenshire museums visits as well as updating panel reports and working with commercial units to keep on top of the current archaeological picture in Scotland. This is the first time writing for #dayofarch that I’ve known I’ll still be working on ScARF for the next one, so I love the opportunity to really get stuck into the work and planning is a big part of that. It’ll be out with the diary, fix some dates and then head home – to read lots more #dayofarch posts en route!

Digitally recording land use across Scotland

I’m Mike Middleton and I work as an archaeologist for Historic Environment Scotland in the Data and Recording team, with specific responsibility for mapping. I work on two major projects; the Historic Land-use Assessment – a map of the current and relict land-use of Scotland – and a project looking to map the records in the National Record of the Historic Environment.

In my work I use sources such as historic maps, aerial photography and field survey data to try and map the known extent of sites and historic landscapes. I also work with and train colleagues so as to build mapping into their field projects.

One of our most exciting developments this year has been the completion of the Historic Land-use Assessment to give us full nationwide coverage for the first time. This has allowed us to work in partnership with the National Library of Scotland to produce a Land-use Viewer showing the change in Scotland’s land-use since the 1930s.

Showing the change in Scotland’s land-use since the 1930's.

Showing the change in Scotland’s land-use since the 1930’s.

The maps highlight changing land use and in particular the urban and forest expansion during this period, as well as the impact of infrastructure projects such as hydro schemes and bridges.

Having a nationwide land-use map allows us to quantify and monitor land-use change. By understanding what land-use change is happening we can start to think about how it impacts on the historic environment and this is turn can inform how we manage and target resources.

I got into archaeology because I grew up in Shetland – an area particularly rich in archaeology. As my career has developed I’ve come to see how archaeology is a finite resource, susceptible to land-use change. By working in archaeological mapping I feel I’m contributing by mapping the scale of the resource and by attempting to understand how land-use change is impacting on our historic environment.

Links:

Scotland: Land-use Viewer

http://maps.nls.uk/projects/landuse/#zoom=7&lat=56.7000&lon=-4.0000

HLAmap

http://hlamap.org.uk/

Canmore: The National Record of the Historic Environment

https://canmore.org.uk/

Monuments and Maps – A day working with the SMR

Having recently re-joined the world of traffic lights and bustle from my four years spent on Orkney studying archaeology at the University of the Highlands and Islands, I find myself working from an office on the outskirts of Aberdeen where I work in the Archaeology Service at Aberdeenshire Council as Sites and Monuments Record (SMR) assistant.

2016 Aberdeenshire Council Archaeology logo2

Click the logo to see the full spread of what the Archaeology Service does and offers.

Studying archaeology allowed for a time of fairly self-indulgent research where there was usually enough wiggle room that I could find a way to write about things I wanted to look at. Coming out of that into the world of working in archaeology has been exciting, as I have been forced to move beyond my comfort zone of Neolithic Orkney and into the full spread of archaeology in the North East of Scotland. While I work at Aberdeenshire Council, the Service covers Angus, Moray and Aberdeen City, as well as Aberdeenshire, so we have a large and varied area to cover. Once I had got over the idea of recumbent stone circles (I mean, really?!), discovering the archaeology of a new area has been hugely exciting and rewarding.

Whole area GIS

The full spread of sites and monuments that we cover (each coloured dot represents a unique site)

So what is it I actually do? Well the Archaeology Service has a wide ranging role, from answering enquiries from members of the public and getting involved in local community digs, to working with developers to ensure that  any archaeological remains are dealt with appropriately. Whatever we are doing, the focus is always on providing the best protection, management and promotion of the historic environment for the benefit of all. An important part of this is knowing what archaeology there is in the area we cover, and where it is, and this is where I come in. What I do most days is ensure our publicly available SMR is as up to date and accurate as it can be.

At desk

Today, I am working my way through the records for listed buildings in Moray. I check what is entered on the digital SMR against the Historic Environment Scotland listed building description, and make sure any discrepancies are checked and any additional information is added. I also aim to make the descriptions of the monuments as user-friendly as possible. Finding the balance between technical descriptions of specific aspects of monuments, and language people might actually understand, is always tricky, but I hope it helps enable those without a background in archaeology to get an overview of what there is out there, as well as being of use to those with a more specialist background. I also make sure that the monument is marked in the right place on the map, and that the mapped  area covers the whole monument. Looking at old maps is something I have always found great joy in doing, and checking these to see the evolution and origins of a site is always a highlight.

Elgin cathedral

GIS map showing Elgin Cathedral. Click on the image to go see the publicly available SMR details of this fantastic site.

I have found working within archaeology from an office side of things to be very fulfilling. While sitting in a cold muddy hole for several hours a day will always be my first true archaeological love, this job has similar aspects to it that can make it just as exciting. Like anything within archaeology, the unknown and unexpected is always just around the corner, and there is always something new that we will suddenly have to respond to. The various specialisms within the team mean there is always something to learn and discuss throughout the day, discussions can go from a Mesolithic flint scatter to an 18th century farmhouse in a flash. The job has also highlighted to me the importance policy effecting archaeology, and how imperative it is that, as archaeologists, we are engaged in this and ensure our voice is heard and consulted at every stage of the process.

Allan Kilpatrick – Historic Environment Scotland

As I stood on the rain-sodden hillside, soaked, surrounded by two-metre-tall ferns and being bitten by a biblical plague of midges who viewed me as a three-star Michelin meal, I wondered: Is archaeology really worth it? However, once I’d brushed myself down, killed a thousand or so midges and began to move again, I realised I wasn’t finished with archaeology yet. Sometimes you have to remind yourself that there is almost no other job like it. Where else can you find yourself walking across a bit of countryside discovering the history of the landscape? This particular day, I was an archaeologist with a mission. I was looking for something not from our ancient past but rather more recent: I was seeking the archaeological remains of the First World War.

The field work is part of a HES project to survey and record the defences of the Clyde from both wars, as part of the Discover the Clyde programme (http://discoveringtheclyde.org.uk)

The sites I was looking for were military blockhouses. These are timber buildings which housed soldiers and were surrounded by an earth and sandbag wall providing a fighting position or strongpoint to defend an area of ground. I had with me copy of a map from The National Archives on which was drawn the position of a number of blockhouses on the hill. I had many questions to answer: were the blockhouses actually built? What did they look like? How accurate was the annotation on the map? Had they survived or had forestry ploughing destroyed them? So many variables and combined with the new trees and suffocating ferns, it was going to be a challenge to find them.

With the start of the Scottish version of a monsoon, I made my way upwards to a low summit which I thought might be my best chance.  For me, the thrill of fieldwork is the finding of archaeology, be it a cairn or rig, a hut circle or blockhouse.

As I reached the summit I found a small square concrete hut base which was not quite what I was expecting, but I recorded it and moved on. I carried on through the undergrowth and stumbled upon a large, square enclosure with a partial earth wall measuring about 5m by 5m.

The first Blockhouse found © HES

The first Blockhouse found © HES

Was this what I sought or was it something else? Indeed it was close to the position on the map.  I needed a comparison. Some more scrambling and two thousand dead midges later, I found a second rectangular enclosure on the edge of a steep slope covered in dense ferns and fallen trees but measuring the same internal size. Success!

The second Blockhouse built on the edge of the slope covered in dense tall bracken © HES

The second Blockhouse built on the edge of the slope covered in dense tall bracken © HES

As it turned out, these were indeed the sites of two blockhouses. We discovered two almost identical sites about 2km to the north later that day (see https://canmore.org.uk/site/331613). We have now found six of these blockhouses which defended Ardhallow Coast Battery on the Clyde from landward attack. The quest will continue as somewhere in the dense forestry lie three more.

A blockhouse was in there somewhere © HES

A blockhouse was in there somewhere © HES

Is archaeology worth it, on a day like this one it really is!

A transition period in the life of an archaeologist

The career of an archaeologist usually has its ups and downs and is not a straight forward road. No surprise that I am again somehow between 2 jobs. Well, okay, I started my current job at the Research Centre of the “Keltenwelt am Glauberg” nearly 3 months ago (http://www.keltenwelt-glauberg.de/en/research-centre/the-research-centre/) – the museum is a must-see if you are interested in the Early Celts and if you want to see the rich burials of three Early Iron Age men with bronze flagons, gold rings and necklaces, prestigous brooches and many other things more, not to forget the life-size sand-stone statue of one of the buried persons).

But my past job as a stand-in for the Assistent Professorship for Digital Geoarchaeology at Bamberg University (https://www.uni-bamberg.de/ivga/) still needs my contribution: In my Bamberg time I had organised this summer’s student field trip to Scotland.

Bamberg University Archaeology Fieldtrip 2016

Bamberg University Archaeology Fieldtrip 2016

On the Day of Archaeology 2016 we will visit the Corrimony Chambered Cairns (https://canmore.org.uk/site/12256/), Urquhart Castle (https://canmore.org.uk/site/12547/)

Urquhart Castle

Urquhart Castle

Dun Telve Broch

and the Glenelg Brochs (Dun Telve: https://canmore.org.uk/site/11798/  and Dun Troddan: https://canmore.org.uk/site/11797/) – definitely not the worst places to spend one’s day!

Dun Troddan Broch

Dun Troddan Broch

We will travel around Scotland with it’s rich and fascinating heritage to show the students places with a highly interesting landscapes and with sites from the Neolithic to the modern era.

This trip ties in to my research plans for investigations in Scotland, comparing indigenious societies and ‘their landscapes’ in the light of the Roman occupation in areas in Scotland and in the German state of Hesse. Meeting various Scottish colleagues to talk about this project idea will be part fo the trip as will be the preparation of a special exhibition we plan at the Glauberg museum (more to come as soon as our ideas become more ‘stable’). So it’s a great opportunity to combine old obligations with plans in my new job (and of course with enjoying Scotland, its landscapes, its archaeology and last but definitely not least its people and their various [cereal] products).

As I will most likely not be extensively online (and not in the mood to work online) too often during that trip I will use the images of a previous trip to Scotland to illustrate this day in the highlands. I might however – depending on my mood – use Twitter (@posluschny) every now and then.