A day of archaeology, in the life of an early career academic.

photo 4

There is a method to the madness, and structure in the stratigraphy of notebooks!

Hello! I’m Dr. Ryan McNutt, a University Teacher (adjunct professor to American readers) in Archaeology at the University of Glasgow. Today I’m going to talk a bit about a typical day in my work as an early career archaeologist within academia, and also tell you a bit about how I got here.

Anthropologizing Abroad—Or, an American in Glasgow

Like many archaeologists, and in fact, like many of my colleagues at Glasgow, I’ve had a varied journey to reach the desk I’m sat in front of today. My undergraduate was a B.Sc in Anthropology from Middle Tennessee State University, where the majority of my interest was in the prehistory and protohistory of the Mississippian civilizations of the American Southeast. Even within that, I was always interested in conflict within and between groups, and the archaeological and anthropological investigations of the effect of conflict on human behavior, and indeed, on the landscape.


Castalian Springs Field School 2006. My last field school prior to graduating.

After a few years doing commercial archaeology in the United States, this interest in conflict, coupled with my desire to return to postgraduate study, saw me pack up and move across the Atlantic to Glasgow to pursue an Mlitt, and latterly a PhD, focused on conflict and battlefield archaeology with Glasgow’s own (and the only one in the world!) Centre for Battlefield Archaeology.  My postgraduate study through the Centre was phenomenal, opening doors and providing some amazing opportunities for fieldwork in France, Poland, and on some of the most historically significant battlefields in Scotland, as well as participating in TV documentaries.


Archaeo-archivists* unite!

*Archaeolivists? Archivaeologists? Neologise your own preferred term here.

I am one of four trained archaeologists currently working in the University of Glasgow Archive Services: two as researchers and two who also trained as proper archivists. I would be put out at not being the quirky, cool odd one out if I didn’t like my colleagues so much. In fact, the longer I work here, the more interdisciplinary intersections I see, from archaeologist colleagues visiting the archives to do research, to archivist colleagues who do archaeology.

Digging in the archives

For the Day of Archaeology 2015, I want to celebrate some of the particularly archaeological highlights that I have (sometimes literally) stumbled upon in the archival collections at the University of Glasgow.

I particularly like the oversize scrapbook of the Glasgow Archaeological Society. The correspondence and minutes of the society date back to 1866, but items in the scrapbook date to the 17th century.


Noted antiquarian Charles Whitelaw’s drawing of a sword found at Cathcart, Glasgow, in the scrapbook of the Glasgow Archaeological Society, (University of Glasgow Archives Reference: DC066/14/1).

The University Archive includes a collection of posters for past events, including lectures like A.O. Curle’s 1922 talk on Traprain Law. Curle was not just the excavator of some amazing sites, but also served as Secretary of the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland (1908-13), and the Director of the National Museum of Antiquities (1913-9)  – what would become today’s National Museum of Scotland – among other posts.

2014-05-13 10.45.33

Another highlight is the papers of Leslie Alcock, formerly Professor of Archaeology at the University of Glasgow and Honorary Keeper of the Archaeological and Anthropological Collections of the University’s Hunterian Museum. Alcock specialised in Early Historic Britain and the University Archives hold records on some of his excavations.


Reports from Alcock’s excavations of Dundurn, Perthshire, Scotland

It goes together like beer and archaeology

In addition to the various records of the day-to-day business of the University, as well as papers of past students and staff, the University of Glasgow Archives is home to the important business collections. My personal favourite is the Scottish Brewing Archive.

It is handy for finds research, like this bottle, uncovered by the Strathearn Environs and Royal Forteviot (SERF) Project, the University of Glasgow’s annual field school in Perthshire, Scotland.


WB Thomson Superior Waters Codd bottle

Thanks to the Scottish Brewing Archive (Newsletter No. 7, 1986), I learned that WB Thomson and other brewers struggled during the difficult economic conditions of the First World War: the company was liquidated and ceased to exist early in 1915, with its aerated water and bottling interests being bought out by Perth-based John Craik & Co. Suddenly a seemingly mundane artefact could be linked more widely to dramatic socio-economic events.

Perhaps the promise of discovery is what makes archaeologists and archivists such kindred spirits. In autumn of last year a student cataloguing project unearthed previously unseen photos of St Kilda, much to the delight of archaeologists at the University of Glasgow and the National Trust for Scotland. The photographs were snapped by Thomas Patterson, the first Gardiner Professor of Organic Chemistry at the University of Glasgow, while on holiday in the 1920s. The photos offer a glimpse of life on the island of Hirta before it was evacuated in 1930.

St Kilda

DC431/8/14 The St Kilda Post Office, photograph found in the personal papers of Thomas Patterson, the first Gardiner Professor of Organic Chemistry at the University of Glasgow.

Thus, the University of Glasgow archives are a vibrant source of research for a number of archaeological projects, from ground-breaking (excuse the pun) research into the history of Glasgow’s allotments, to the Heritage Lottery Funded project Digging In, which will recreate First World War trenches in Glasgow’s Pollok Park.

OTC trench Bowman notebook

Using a wealth of archival material like this photograph from the collection of the University of Glasgow Officers Training Corps (DC099/5) and the notebooks of AA Bowman (DC077), Digging In will compare how troops were prepared for trench warfare at home with data gathered by the Centre for Battlefield Archaeology on excavations of trenches on the Western Front to create a dynamic learning environment in the heart of Glasgow.

So for this year’s Day of Archaeology, I am enjoying being an archaeologist in the archives – discovering the past … just with less dirt.

Jen Novotny is an archaeologist employed as a Research Assistant in History who is based in the Archives at the University of Glasgow. She works on Glasgow University’s Great War, a WWI centenary project. Follow the project on Twitter @GlasgowUniWW1 and keep up to date on research via the project blog.

First World War Friday


I am a research assistant at the University of Glasgow. Like all archaeologists, I’m an individual of many talents: I have degrees in archaeology, I’m based in the University Archives, and I’m technically a staff member in the Department of History.

I am the project officer for Glasgow University’s Great War, a research project led by well-known fellow archaeologist Tony Pollard that looks at the experiences of the university community during the First World War. The project is part of the university’s WWI centenary commemorations. I specialise in conflict archaeology and I’ve excavated on the Western Front, so the Great War Project is a good fit for me.

On a normal day I mostly do research, with a bit of admin thrown in (though there is the occasional day when that balance is reversed). Today I’m looking at material from Capt JAC Macewen RAMC, son of the famous Glasgow surgeon Sir William Macewen. I’m particularly interested in the younger Macewen’s letters home to his parents. Letters to his mother are cheerful:

I have written to Mary regarding Sydney coming to France. Of course he is in danger, but, at the same time, I would not be despondent. Of our total casualties, a big percentage are sickness of one kind or other – often slight gassing & a very large percentage of wounds are really not serious. …[T]hings are not as bad as they look. So try to cheer up generally.

I am surprised to learn that Capt Macewen was put in charge of treating German POWs. I’m particularly keen to pass along this info to another archaeologist at the University of Glasgow, Iain Banks, who is researching European POW camps. Capt Macewen wrote to his father describing the medical cases he saw:

I see all cases, including fractures, head injuries (I have operated on 4 of these today) & abdomens…. …[T]he Germans are much tougher than we are & survive the most appalling injuries. One man I did today has half of his face blown away & a large hernia cerebri of his frontal lobe – so that I see very much worse cases than the others do. Truly the suffering in this war is not all on one side.

One of the letters even includes seashells from Paris Plage sent home in May 1918.

macewen seashells

Wandering around the repository is always an adventure. I don’t have the honed knowledge of the collections like my archivist colleagues, so my trips to the shelves to pull material are usually more meandering, sometimes resulting in dead ends (I haven’t set off the alarm by going through a fire door in MONTHS). Exploring the stacks in this haphazard way is occasionally fruitful, discovering something I didn’t know I was looking for. Sometimes I come up empty-handed. Even if I do, the journey is always interesting.


Wandering past a shelf, I spotted an over-size album of the Glasgow Archaeological Society. It’s full of photos, clippings, notes and drawings like this sketch of Rough Castle Roman Fort.

plan of rough castle

There are plenty of artefacts kicking about, too. I spotted a few from the Scottish Brewing Archive.

brewing archive

I also meandered past the (very large!) glass slide collection of Sir John Harvard Biles.

Biles slides

That’s my Day of Archaeology. Until next year, you can keep up-to-date on Glasgow University’s Great War Project by following us on Twitter and checking out our newly-launched blog.

How to Tell Scotland’s Stories in Just Twelve Months

It’s a busy day here in the Dig It! 2015 office and we can’t wait to share it with you. Just because we’re in an office and not knee deep in mud, doesn’t mean that our jobs are any less exciting! Trust me.

OpeningIn case you haven’t heard of us, Dig It! 2015 is a year-long celebration of Scottish archaeology, co-ordinated by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and Archaeology Scotland. Two fantastic organisations, which are definitely worth checking out.

From kids taking over museums, and people exploring the story of their own local area, to digs, festivals, competitions, there are so many ways for people to get involved. We will also be exploring our past through song, art, performance and story-telling. It will be exciting, fun, grassroots and messy – just like archaeology and archaeologists.

But somebody has to set it all up! This means that the Dig It! 2015 team is always running around, meeting with organisations and individuals and coming up with fantastical new ideas to celebrate Scottish archaeology. Yup, “fantastical”. You heard me.

Today, wGlasgowe started off by catching up from yesterday’s meeting in Glasgow. Two members of the team met with a Scots Language Development Officer at Education Scotland to discuss how they could get involved in Dig It! 2015.  The resulting idea was the “Archaeology of Language” using two of our themes – Identities and Arrivals – to explore how the people who have settled in Scotland have left their mark on our language, through the words we use, the placenames we have and even our own surnames. 

We also have a very interesting meeting next week, where we will start to combine archaeology with gaming, so we made sure that everyone was caught up on all of the details. This could be a great way to engage with young people who might not have thought about archaeology before now. What will come from the meeting? A game? An app? A lecture? Who knows!?


For lunch, we walked through the Meadows to Summerhall, which is a creative hub for the arts. We’re currently working with various artists and theatre companies, and we are always looking to add something new to the programme. Again, this is a great way to engage with new audiences. After all, archaeology is for everyone!

Finally, we booked our tickets to Orkney. Orkney is pretty much bursting at the seams with Scottish archaeology, so we can’t wait to visit! We’ll be meeting with various organisations in order to find out what we can do for them. By helping them to raise awareness of their efforts, these organisations should be able to reach a wider audience, which will enable them to continue their important work.

Then it was time to head out, but even on our days off, we always have our eyes open for any potential project tie-ins. On Sunday, for example, one of our team members will be hosting an archaeology Wikipedia Edit-a-thon. An archaeologist’s work is never done!

If any of you would like to get involved with Dig It! 2015, please do not hesitate to contact us at It’s going to be a great year!

Martin Conlon (RCAHMS) – Glasgow

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

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

I’m Martin Conlon, Education Trainee at RCAHMS. The archaeological site that I’ve chosen to write about is that of the Govan Iron Works in Glasgow. The site is one of many surveyed as a result of the construction of the extension to the M74.  The extension passed over a dense locality of hidden industrial gems, each site a memory of our relatively recent past. With the large- scale of the motorway development, it was important that archaeologists took advantage of the opportunities to survey and record key areas prior to them being potentially lost. It was also crucial that no archaeological remains were damaged or removed without proper records being made.

Digital image of watercolour dating from 1899, inscribed "Dixon's Ironworks". Copyright RCAHMS (DP009088)

Digital image of watercolour dating from 1899, inscribed “Dixon’s Ironworks”. Copyright RCAHMS (DP009088)






The excavations by HAPCA (a joint venture between Headland Archaeology Ltd and Pro-Construct Archaeology) uncovered the foundations of the old premises of Caledonian Pottery in Rutherglen, established around 1800 and closing in the mid 1870s, including remains of kilns (ovens used to dry and harden pottery). Also unearthed were signs of the massive urban development that took place in the area several hundred years ago, with the foundations of early tenements found just off Pollokshaws Road, amongst a dense network of remains of 19th century tenements, pubs, churches and shops.

Located on Cathcart Road, the Iron Works was the first of its scale to spring up in Glasgow, founded in 1837 by William Dixon.The Iron Works was known as ‘Dixon’s Blazes’ for the propensity of the blast furnaces to illuminate Glasgow’s smoggy industrial skyline. Drawn by William Simpson in the late 1890s, the illustration above shows the Iron Works from the South, with a row of single-storey houses in front known as ‘Collier’s Raw’. The last working blast furnace ceased operation in 1958 and the site has since been re-developed.

Martin looking through the collection. Copyright RCAHMS

Martin looking through the collection. Copyright RCAHMS

Around 15 boxes of photographs, drawings and notes of the M74 project have now reached RCAHMS where they have been catalogued and housed as part of our collections. Using other material held at RCAHMS, like the RAF National Survey (Air Photographs 1944-1950) image below, the site’s history can be very clearly understood. The M74 collection is an important reminder of the importance of post-medieval archaeology and the idea that archaeological investigation is not strictly confined to our ancient history.


RAF National Survey (Air Photographs), 1944-1950 Scanned Image of RAF oblique aerial view showing part of the Hutchestown district with the Govan Ironworks (Dixon's Blazes) Copyright RCAHMS (SC1024381)

RAF National Survey (Air Photographs), 1944-1950 Scanned Image of RAF oblique aerial view showing part of the Hutchestown district with the Govan Ironworks (Dixon’s Blazes) Copyright RCAHMS (SC1024381)

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.


Peter McKeague (RCAHMS) – East Dunbartonshire

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

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

My name is Peter McKeague and I work in the Data and Recording team in the Survey and Recording group at RCAHMS.  As Data and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) project manager, I am involved in a wide range of projects documenting Scotland’s rich heritage and presenting it online through Canmore. I am interested in how developments in information technology help our public and professional users discover more about the historic environment around them.

In 2008 I was involved in helping colleagues research and prepare maps supporting the successful nomination of the Antonine Wall as part of the Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site.


‘To the NE of Glasgow, the Antonine Wall snakes through the modern landscape of Bearsden.  Two short stretches of the wall are visible at New Kilpatrick cemetery and visitors may also explore the remains of the Roman Bath House at Bearsden, part of the Roman fort now buried under houses.’ ‘Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2011’

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

To the NE of Glasgow, the Antonine Wall snakes through the modern landscape of Bearsden.  Two short stretches of the wall are visible at New Kilpatrick cemetery and visitors may also explore the remains of the Roman Bath House at Bearsden, part of the Roman fort now buried under houses

Built under the orders of the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius in AD 140s, the Antonine Wall formed the north-western frontier of the Roman Empire for a generation. Cutting across Scotland, between the Firth of Forth at Bo’ness and the Clyde at Bowling, the frontier is 37 miles long. The Antonine Wall has a turf-built rampart, in front of which is a flat area, or berm, separating the rampart from a deep ditch with a further mound beyond.  A series of forts occur at intervals along the Wall and those at Rough Castle, Bar Hill and Castle Cary may be visited.  The outline of a fortlet is set out to the west of Kinneil House. Bath houses may be seen at Bar Hill and at Bearsden. About a third of the Antonine Wall is still visible with stretches at Callendar House, Seabegs Wood and  Watling Lodge and by Rough Castle and Castle Cary Roman Forts.

However, I have chosen the two short sections of wall footing on display at New Kilpatrick Cemetery, Bearsden to illustrate the frontier.  Although closely spaced, the two sections mark a change in direction of the wall as it skirts round the contours of the hillside.  The exposed sections show the stone base, on which the rampart was built providing a rare insight into the construction of the rampart. The rampart base consists of carefully dressed kerbstones with rough boulder infill punctuated by stone-lined drainage culverts.  These two short sections present a very different view from the upstanding earthworks surviving elsewhere along the wall.


The stone footings of the Antonine Wall, New Kilpatrick Cemetery, Bearsden, viewed from west. Copyright RCAHMS (SC1340570)

The stone footings of the Antonine Wall, New Kilpatrick Cemetery, Bearsden, viewed from west. Copyright RCAHMS (SC1340570)

Beyond the cemetery wall, the frontier survives as a very slight earthwork and infilled ditch.

Culverts through the base of the wall helped drainage and prevented ponding of water against the rampart. Copyright RCAHMS (SC1340589)

Culverts through the base of the wall helped drainage and prevented ponding of water against the rampart. Copyright RCAHMS (SC1340589)

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.

My life as an archaeologist in a Criminology centre


The Homepage of of Trafficking Culture

Friday 26th July, 2013.

Hello. My name is Suzie Thomas, and I’m a Research Associate at the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research, at the University of Glasgow. I work on a really exciting project, so exciting that the European Research Council  decided to fund it for a whole four years (we are well into year 2 at the moment). Our project is called Trafficking Culture , and as is stated on the website’s home page: ‘Trafficking Culture aims to produce an evidence-based picture of the contemporary global trade in looted cultural objects.’ It’s interdisciplinary, which makes for a rich and informative working environment.

We work at a global level, with regional research taking place in parts of South America, South East Asia and Eastern Europe, to name but a few areas. We have PhD students attached to the project, all of whom have really exciting research topics planned. We also disseminate useful information through our website, such as an ever-growing resource of relevant publications, and often previously-unseen or previously-unavailable data (which we hope fellow researchers can use in some way). My favourite section by far though is our Encyclopedia, in which we present better (and also less well)  known case studies of looting, theft and trafficking, and also some useful terminology. We all write entries for the encyclopedia, and sometimes guest writers provide entries for us too, like this interesting piece on the Everbeek Roman Silver Hoard in Belgium. Some of my own entries include pieces about the thefts from, and recoveries to, the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, the saga of the  Salisbury Hoard, and definitions of looting-related terms like Tombarolo.


Me, during my Visiting Fellowship at the University of Helsinki in March/April. I like cold places, and I really like finding out about cultural object issues that are less well known.

So, as you can see, we have a pretty cool project here. In fact, two of my colleagues are in Cambodia and one is in Bolivia on fieldwork as we speak. And what about me, on today the official Day of Archaeology? I’m in Glasgow.

I had visits to Finland and Estonia (I’m interested in the Baltic region) earlier in the year, and I even got to be a keynote speaker, for the first time in my career, in Brussels back in May. But right now, I have a very quiet office and lots of transcribing to do. I can’t tell you the content of the transcripts, and our informants are completely anonymised. But let me assure you, it is really interesting stuff. Which makes up for the fact that it is still transcribing.

Later on today, I will probably review a draft chapter for a new book which I am co-editing with a Criminology colleague from Loughborough, which will be all about Heritage and Crime. This book will cover some of the issues around global trafficking of looted cultural objects, but will also explore other types of crime that can affect heritage, with some very interesting case studies from different parts of the world. I am excited about this, too.

I’m also primarily responsible for our social media presence on Facebook and Twitter, so it would be remiss of me not to ask you to ‘Like’ us (, and to follow us (@CultureTraffic). For Tumblr fans, we even have one of these (

In what I optimistically refer to as  my ‘spare time’, I am also one of three Editors (joined recently by two Assistant Editors) for a brand new Journal – the Journal of Community Archaeology and Heritage. This also has Twitter (@CommunityArchae), a blog (, and Facebook (

This is my other passion, you see. As well as trying to understand and maybe even suggest solutions to the global problem of smuggled and trafficked cultural objects, I also really love community archaeology. It’s just such a great idea, and it gets more and more interesting as you start to explore how it is developing in different ways and to different extents in various cultural, socio-economic and legislative settings across the world. We’re all very excited for the papers that will appear in the journal to reflect this rich diversity, and are looking forward to its official launch in 2014.

Later, I’m away for the weekend. This has nothing to do with ‘the day job’ or even JCAH, but I am excited about it.

Alex Hale (RCAHMS) – West Dunbartonshire

Alex Hale, RCAHMS

Alex Hale, RCAHMS


Six places, in six kilometres, for six million people


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

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

Imagine time travelling along the River Clyde from Erskine Bridge to Dumbarton Rock, from the 19th century to prehistory and back again. The sights, sounds and smells would be mind-blowing. Without Dr Who’s tardis or Captain James T Kirk’s Starship Enterprise we are a bit stuck in today. So what is it about time travel that makes us want to do it?

Places from the past give us glimpses that we can enjoy, ignore, smell, touch and feel. But more than that, we can use places from the past to discover where we came from, make up stories about where we are going and look at the lives of people who have gone through similar and different experiences as us.

Here are six places along the River Clyde, within six kilometres of each other and right on the doorsteps of six million people (roughly the population of Glasgow). From East to West along the River Clyde in West Dunbartonshire:

  1. Bowling Basin at the West end of the Forth and Clyde Canal –DP011643 (also see the Scottish Canals website)
  2. Bowling HarbourSC124627 (harbour in 1927) and DP011642 (now in 2005). A vital harbour and ship-building yard, at the sea-canal interface.
  3. Dunglass Castle and memorial to Henry Bell, who built the first ever steam-driven vessel, the Comet – DP014231. The memorial was erected by the Lord provost of Glasgow who had been on the Comet’s maiden voyage and he wanted to commemorate Bell’s amazing achievement.
  4. The Lang Dyke- the massive wall that runs down the middle of the Clyde from Bowling to Dumbarton. Built in the 1770’s it allowed bigger vessels to make the journey upstream to Glasgow, rather than having to stop at Port Glasgow. For a good picture see: and more information see:
  5. Dumbuck crannog– a 2000 year old wooden building, with wooden dock and log-boat!-DP046361
  6. Dumbarton Rock and CastleSC602891. Not only a 16th century garrison castle, but the at the highest point on the rock were found the remains of the Early Medieval fortifications of the power centre of the Kingdom of Strathclyde. (see also
    Dumbarton Castle, Oblique aerial view from SW. © RCAHMS

    Dumbarton Castle, Oblique aerial view from SW. Copyright RCAHMS (SC602891)

    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.


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!

Working on the Scottish Archaeological Research Framework (ScARF) pt 3

Well into Friday afternoon now and I have been working on the Bronze Age. The Bronze Age panel are holding their workshop next month and we have been putting together a draft of the document to circulate beforehand. The Bronze Age as a whole has been given short shrift in research frameworks so far, normally divided up between an earlier Bronze Age tacked-on to the Neolithic period, and a later Bronze Age viewed as a precursor to the Iron Age. ScARF has decided to approach it as a period like any other (indeed, radiocarbon dating is starting to put a lot of sites into the Bronze Age, and commercial archaeology is uncovering a lot of settlement evidence recently). As well as co-ordinating the sections coming in, I have to organise the venue – we have gone for a location in Glasgow’s Merchant City.

My next task is to work on our Science in Scottish Archaeology panel report. This panel recently met and are fairly far on with their report. The panel itself is slightly unusual in that the majority of people on it would not describe themselves as archaeologists. All panels have involved people from other disciplines – including historians of various types, architects and environmental scientists – though this is the only one in which archaeologists are in the minority. We have a few sections and illustrations to organise, so I have to contact various people and get that underway. The panel documents will provide something of a ‘rough guide’ for those undertaking archaeological work, pointing to further sources of information, and helping provide a context for those making archaeological decisions. We’re also hoping that there will be interesting and relevant material for those in neighbouring disciplines.

The old school way of electing Fellows: put your hand in and drop a ball into either 'admit' or 'reject.' Things are done differently now!

With this done, I can have a quick visit to the newly refurbished museum. The Society offices are located in the same buildings that form the NMS, which is no accident – you can read more about their intertwined histories here. The Society itself was formed in 1780, we have around 3,000 Fellows (many from abroad), and actively promote research into Scotland’s past. As well as publications, the Society also has a lecture series (including the marathon 6-part Rhind lectures), funds research, runs conferences, and has a vibrant north-east section. The Museum also has a library, to which the Society sends books and journals that are received in swap deals for our Proceedings. As such it holds some interesting material that is difficult to find elsewhere. We are now recording and publishing our lectures – again, free to download. Recent highlights have included the annual Archaeological Research in Progress conference, jointly organised with Archaeology Scotland, and the 2011 Rhind lectures by Prof. Stuart Needham. The Society is also on Twitter: @socantscot and Facebook.

And so to the museum – which is really fantastic. The main hall is beautiful and incredibly light, even when the weather is overcast (which very occasionally happens in Scotland). The refurbished museum contains everything, from natural history to art to archaeology. Highlights include the first colour television and a cast of a T-rex skeleton. A lot of the Scottish material is housed in the Modern wing (the Early People’s gallery is a particular favourite) and both museums are linked. It is nice to be able to spend time in such an interesting space.

The main hall