Monthly Archives: July 2011

Day of Archaeology – RCAHMS Search Room Visitors

As well as our online resources, RCAHMS also houses a public Search Room where visitors and volunteers can gain access to our drawings, photographs and manuscripts, with members of staff on hand at all times to provide assistance. For Day of Archaeology we went along to ask visitors what they were working on.

A regular volunteer at RCAHMS Hugh Dinwoodie, was busy indexing documentation stored here from excavations at Fast Castle between 1971 and 1986 carried out by the Edinburgh Archaeological Field Society.  As a member of the Society, Hugh has been volunteering at RCAHMS and working on the results of these excavations for 4 or 5 years. With a keen interest in archaeology and now with knowledge of the RCAHMS cataloguing system, Hugh volunteers regularly.

 

Volunteer takes time out to explain his work in the RCAHMS Search Room.

 The Search Room is regularly busy with members of the public researching various projects and already today we have had two visitors in researching Urquhart Castle, Medieval Castle building techniques, Iron Age archaeology and the development and spread of Celtic culture across Europe to Britain.

Day of Archaeology – George Geddes Field Investigator

In the video below George Geddes, an archaeological field investigator at RCAHMS, explains a little about his most recent project involving one of the lesser known houses on St Kilda known as the Amazon’s House.

For more information and photographs why not have a look at the site record for the Amazon’s House in Canmore.

Day of Archaeology – Susan Dibdin IfA Bursary in Building Recording

My name is Susan Dibdin and I am on the IfA bursary in Building Recording at RCAHMS for 12 months. I’m actually about 9 months through my placement now.

For the first 6 months of my placement I was working on the Threatened Building programme and through that I visited a lot of different threatened buildings throughout Scotland. We do desk-based research before visiting a site, and during field work make a decision on what should be recorded and which way if best to do to – whether it’s by photographic survey or a graphical survey.

I’ve moved onto the Urban Survey program, and I’m currently working on an urban characterisation study of Bo’ness. This involves sorting the town into different character areas based on historical development and topography as well as current day characteristics.

As part of the Urban Survey we’ll also update the Canmore record with new photography of Bo’ness – streetscapes as well as individual buildings. That’s actually what I’ve been doing today – I’ve put through 25 requisitions for individual building photography and I’ve also requisitioned general street views of the 18 character areas. That means that our professional photographers will know where to take the photographs!

Once the photographs have been taken and processed they’ll go into Canmore and I’ll work on captioning these. Today I also received a batch of aerial photographs from the photographers, which help to illustrate the street patterns etc. These will also form part of the characterisation study report to explain the character of the different areas of Bo’ness and how the towns developed over the centuries.

Day of Archaeology – Hannah Smith IfA Bursary in Information Management

Well it’s a bit of a cheat as ‘technically’ on the 29th I’ll be blogging all of the RCAHMS contributions for Day of Archaeology, so I’ve made my own contribution early!

I’ve been at RCAHMS for 5 months working with the Data and Recording section. I’m lucky enough to be here on a funded IfA/HLF bursary which allows me to get involved in a number of different projects to provide training and workplace learning. However at the moment I’ve been working on the Defining Scotland’s Places project (when I’m not blogging for Day of Archaeology that is!) which aims to create site area polygons for existing records. These polygons will effectively create an intelligent map containing attributes and information about the site itself. To create the extent polygons, a number of sources are consulted such as aerial photography, Ordnance Survey mapping both current and historic, RCAHMS 1:10,000 record sheets as well as information created from field surveys. All of these sources are taken into account to determine the most accurate site extent.

I’ve been working on polygonising the Western Isles and I’m currently focussing on Harris. The map shows the areas which have been polygonised already as part of the project (seen in pink).

Both RCAHMS and Western Isles local authority records are available so the project provides an opportunity for concordance between the two sets of records as well.

In essence the project creates a new intelligent map which has been digitised from a combination of other sources including the record summaries which give details of the site.

Polygons are a closed shape which define an area. They provide far more information about the site than a simple dot on a map. The polygons are also flexible enough to be created for any type of site. Even at a glance polygons allow for a much more understandable map of the sites already recorded in Scotland and can be further interrogated for more detail and information.

This new data provides a much more visual understanding of the sites and their surrounding landscape. I’ve been learning a lot about the landscape of the Western Isles during this project which will no doubt come in handy when I visit the area in a few weeks to give a download of the data created so far to the Western Isles archaeologist.

For more information on the specific details of this project see the RCAHMS website.

More examples of the work being produced by the project:

Defining Scotland’s Places Heritage Asset Map

Defining Scotland’s Places Heritage Asset Map 2

Defining Scotland’s Places Heritage Asset Map 3

Day of Archaeology – Historic Land-use Assessment

The Historic Land-use Assessment (HLA) is a joint project between RCAHMS and Historic Scotland. It is an analysis of the present landscape, recording the visible traces of past land-use across Scotland, and presenting it as a digital map. The Scottish landscape is not, and has never been, static and been managed, exploited and altered by past human activity over a long period of time. Evidence of some of this activity can still be traced on the ground today, though it is not always obvious to the untrained eye. HLA, therefore, aims to draw out this evidence from the present landscape and to provide a glimpse of the depth of time concealed within our landscape and immediate surroundings.

Paper and digital maps form the basis of the interpretation process and we consult a wide variety of materials to determine how the landscape has changed over time. The types of sources that we use include Ordnance Survey mapping, both current and historic, aerial photography, information from RCAHMS collections available through Canmore and any relevant written documentation. This information is used to determine the predominant current land-use of each part of the landscape and if there is any visible evidence for past land-use. In order to present this data, every part of the country has an Historic Land-use Type (the current land-use), of which there is a choice of 60, and up to three Relict Land-use types, of which there are 70. Each type is characterised by its period of origin, as well as its form and function. This data is collated, digitised and edited, and then made available via the HLA mapping website. Here a digital map of the data generated by the project can be viewed. The website also contains a number of supporting documents should anyone want to find out more about the project.

 HLA Officers Chris Nelson and Kirsty Millican at work. Kirsty is currently working on editing maps from Dumfriesshire, while Chris is busy interpreting the Lanarkshire area specifically Abington and Crawford.

Currently around 71% of the country is available to view and another 5%, the Galloway area, has been made available specially for Day of Archaeology!  We work by council area: Lanarkshire and Dumfriesshire are ongoing at the moment, work will then move into the Scottish borders, Angus, Perthshire, Argyll, Invernesshire, Skye and finally finishing in Orkney.

Ultimately, the HLA project provides a valuable tool for interpreting and understanding the landscape. It helps us understand the historic dimension of the landscape, from traces of prehistoric settlement and agriculture to the more recent effects of intensive agriculture and industry. This historic landscape holds evidence of the distant past inaccessible to any other means of research and gives voice to aspects of life that do not usually figure in written history. This makes it invaluable as a resource for learning and education.

Day of Archaeology – Amy Gillespie CBA Community Archaeology Placement

RCAHMS also hosts placements from the Council for British Archaeology (CBA) and at the moment Amy Gillespie is working as a Community Archaeologist. Below is her contribution to Day of Archaeology as she explains her placement, work she’s currently undertaking particularly with the Scotland’s Rural Past team at RCAHMS as well as her plans for the future.

As I’ve described in the video clip I’m here at RCAHMS for one year as a trainee community archaeologist. I recently completed an MSc in Scottish Studies and I was working part time at the University of Edinburgh as an e-learning resource developer when this opportunity came up. There are quite a few ‘on the job’ training opportunities out there at the moment and I think they are a great way for newly qualified people like me to gain lots of skills and experience.

Today I’m working on Gairloch estate maps, using our online database to catalogue and link each map to relevant sites on Canmore. Once this is completed the maps will be available to the public online. The maps came to be digitised following an SRP training session in Gairloch and so I’m sure the SRP groups in the area will be keen to see them.

One of the great things about my placement is the variety of projects and activities I can get involved in: I have been working with the SRP team validating records sent in by volunteers before uploading them to Canmore; I’ve been to conferences, including one on the Isle of Man where we held a training session in survey and recording techniques; I’m spending time at East Lothian Council and Archaeology Scotland in the run up to East Lothian Heritage Fortnight and Scottish Archaeology Month; I’m in the process of starting up the Edinburgh branch of Young Archaeologists’ Club; and I’m preparing for a two week survey trip to Rum! Phew.

I hope you have a good Day of Archaeology! For more information on the Community Archaeology Bursaries Project go to the CBA website and visit out Facebook Page.

Day of Archaeology – Iain Anderson Threatened Building Survey Project Manager

Hello I am Iain Anderson and I am the Threatened Building Survey Project Manager at RCAHMS.

At the moment I am writing up an article for the Architectural Heritage Society Journal which is a comparative study of the recent RCAHMS survey work done at Lochindorb Castle and a much earlier 1982 survey which RCAHMS carried out at Inverlochy Castle in Fort William.

We’d never had the chance to undertake such a detailed survey before, because Lochindorb Castle is on an island in the middle of a loch in the Highlands. Both sites are 13th century enclosure castles built by the same people.

The article is investigating the similaries and the differences between the two sites, how the slightly different forms of courtyar and round tower have changed the way that the castles functioned and what these can show about the importance and sophistication of each castle.

Examples of the recent survey work carried out by RCAHMS at Lochindorb showing the floor plans.

And an example of the earlier survey at Inverlochy Castle.

Day of Archaeology – Susan Casey Data Upgrade and Liaison Officer

Ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of Canmore at RCAHMS? Below is the video contribution from Susan Casey, Data Upgrade and Liaison Officer at RCAHMS, for Day of Archaeology 2011 explaining her work with local authority archaeologists, the Forestry Commission and the National Trust for Scotland and the developments of the RCAHMS internal database that feeds into Canmore.

For more information about the local authority SMR and HER services visit the links page on the RCAHMS website and scroll down to Local Authority Archaeology Services.