Tag Archives: Canmore

Nora Edwards RCAHMS Day of Archaeology

I am a member of the Curatorial Group with the Skills for the Future Trainee Team. This is a four year scheme funded by Heritage Lottery Fund to provide 1 year of work experience for 34 individuals who are looking to work in the Heritage Sector. The curatorial skills trainees will undertake a range of tasks and learn about collections, conservation, digitising and access.

My childhood holidays were spent in Scotland and one of the most memorable and interesting places we visited regularly was the Isle of Lewis. There are a number of interesting sites on the island, and while the Standing Stones at Callanish are undoubtedly atmospheric, my most memorable site on the island is the broch at Dun Carloway.  I remember the sheer scale of the building and being amazed that it was so old and yet you could still climb in between the two sets of walls, solidly built to withstand war and weather.

Dun Carloway Broch

The building stands in the centre of a farming township, the remains of blackhouses are dotted around and the fields still show evidence of farming down the centuries. The site is fascinating in the way that it provides evidence of occupation for thousands of years in such a compact area.

If you want to find out more about this years Skills for the Future team, visit our blog or follow us on Twitter @SkillsRCAHMS.

Advertisements

Mike Middleton RCAHMS Day of Archaeology

My name is Mike Middleton. I am an archaeologist, specialising in mapmaking and survey, working on two archaeological mapping projects.

Out on fieldwork, getting a better view!

The first is the Defining Scotland’s Places Project which aims to defining the extent of monuments in the landscape so that people know where they are, where they are and who they need to contact if they need more information. (click here to see more about this project from last years Day of Archaeology)

The second project is the Historic Landuse Assessment Project, a partnership project with Historic Scotland, which aims to map the change in land use over time.

It is difficult to choose just one site as my favorite. Growing up in Shetland I could have chosen Mousa, Jarlshof, Clickimin or Scatness Brochs. Living on the east coast I considered choosing the Aberlemno pictish stones, the Abernethy Round Tower or Norman’s Law hill fort but instead I have gone for a site I visited on my recent field visit, Hut Knowe.

Knowe and the surrounding cord rig field system

Piers Dixon walks along a small track between fields of cord rig running in different directions

What is special about Hut Knowe is the amazing preservation of an entire prehistoric landscape. Not just the settlement but entire field systems. I’ve been lucky to visit many prehistoric sites over the years and, with colleagues, I’ve mapped and attempted to tease out field banks and boundaries. But, this can be frustrating with only tiny fragments surviving from which to interpret the whole.  What is so great about Hut Knowe is that the prehistoric fields of cord rig stand out so clearly. An entire c2000 year old landscape of rig, fields, trackways and settlement is there for all to see. A time capsule and one I recommend everyone to visit and certainly one for all students of Scottish landscape archaeology.

Georgina Brown RCAHMS Day of Archaeology

I am Georgina Brown, a surveyor and cartographer in the Landscape Section at RCAHMS. The site that I have chosen is the archaeological landscape around Inveresk. At this point, I had better admit to a slight bias in choosing this site as Musselburgh is my adopted home town. Very little of the archaeology in this area is actually visible on the ground; most is buried below the modern day land surface and has only been revealed when an excavation has taken place or when it shows up as a cropmark in the fields; however, when you put all the discoveries together, they tell a fascinating story.

Roman remains were first noted at Inveresk in the 1560s but the story of the fort and its environs is still being added to today. Parts of the Roman Fort were excavated in the 1940s and many other structures and artefacts have since been discovered around Inveresk during excavations preceding building work. The remains of houses, streets and wells of the civilian vicus were unearthed at Inveresk Gate, the base of a possible viewing stand for a Roman parade ground was discovered at Lewisvale Park and, close by, altar stones to Mithras and Sol were found during the construction of the cricket pavilion. Most recently, Roman and Iron Age skeletons along with the remains of an enclosure, possibly used for storing military supplies shipped in from the continent, were found at the former Brunton’s Wireworks site. The area’s outlying features – Roman temporary camps and field systems – have been revealed as cropmarks on aerial photographs. Add to this list Mesolithic flints, a 900m long Neolithic cursus, Bronze Age burials, Iron Age house remains and you have a very rich and varied “invisible” archaeological landscape.

Map of Roman Remains at Inveresk

Inveresk Cropmark remains

To have a look at these sites and a map showing where they all lie, try the following links.

Inverest Fort

Roman temporary camps

Westfield Cursus

Altars to Mithras and Sol

Skeletons at the former Brunton’s Wireworks site

Rebecca Jones RCAHMS Day of Archaeology

My name is Rebecca Jones and I’m a Romanist. My regular work at RCAHMS is as an Operational Manager in the Survey and Recording group where I am responsible for Data and Recording, overseeing a range of projects relating to the data in our online database, Canmore, and its mapping application, and working in partnership across the sector to deliver information to the public. Information Management is one strand of my research interests but another is very firmly placed in Roman military archaeology.

Scotland is one of the best places in the Roman empire to study the archaeology of the Roman army. Repeated attempts to conquer Scotland left a legacy of remains that are the envy of the rest of the Roman world. One of the places where this is most evident is the Roman fort of Ardoch in Perthshire.  This is the location of one of the best earthwork Roman forts in Britain, and the plain to the north of the fort was a marshalling ground for large armies on campaign through Perthshire to the north.

View of the eastern defences of the Roman fort at Ardoch (©Rebecca Jones 2008)

The fort itself was occupied several times leaving a legacy of multiple ditches still surviving as earthworks. I have accompanied several tours of the site and visitors never fail to be impressed by the scale of the defences. Some of these were excavated in the late 19th century by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and some of the photographs from those excavations are amongst the most fascinating early excavation shots held in the Collections at RCAHMS.

But not only is the fort an amazing site. To the north lie at least five marching camps. These were temporary structures occupied by invading armies who were housed in rows upon rows of leather tents. We are fortunate that they built ramparts and ditches around the perimeter of their encampments, for it is these that leave visible archaeological remains. Imagine a field of tents from T in the Park or Glastonbury: after the weekend is over and the tents have gone – what have you left? No doubt a sea of litter but the Roman’s did not live in our disposable culture. Once the litter is cleared you probably have a muddy field. But then six months later? Is there any evidence that those tents were there? But if a regular perimeter rampart and ditch with particular rounded corners and entrance protection is built, then that leaves an archaeological footprint that we can detect as Roman. The majority of the camps at Ardoch have been levelled through centuries of ploughing and only the perimeter ditch can be seen from the air through differential cropmarkings in dry summers, although stretches of three still survive as upstanding earthworks.

Rebecca Jones explaining the camps at Ardoch

A handful of other camps in Scotland have revealed internal rubbish pits and ovens through aerial and geophysical survey and excavation but for most camps, it is the perimeter which we can identify. The camps at Ardoch witnessed one of the largest Roman forces that ever took to the field in Britain, with the largest camp enclosing over 54 hectares / 130 acres.

It’s this combined evidence of the transient Roman army plus the troops stationed in the fort here for several years, that make these seemingly peaceful fields in Perthshire so fascinating.

Brian Wilkinson RCAHMS Day of Archaeology

Brian Wilkinson

Britain From Above Activity Officer

Sandwick, known locally as the Easting, is an east-facing bay with a gently shelving, broad sandy beach on the Isle of Unst, Shetland. Sloping up from the bay is a hillside where you can see the substantial remains of Sandwick township, comprising the unroofed and collapsing walls of dwellings, barns, byres, and enclosures that housed and sustained a community of farmers and fishermen in the historic past.

Sandwick Bay view E

I first visited Easting in 2009 with the Scotland’s Rural Past project to undertake field survey training with Unst Archaeology group, and begin a school project with Uyeasound primary school. Our initial recce visit revealed an amazingly rich archaeological landscape, with the footings of older, perhaps Norse buildings underlying several of the farmsteads.

Elsewhere there were signs of prehistoric occupation, including a reconstructed Iron Age building, the original eroding into the sea and excavated by the local community together with the SCAPE trust, and the low sub-rectangular turf and boulder bank of a previously unrecorded Neolithic dwelling. Clearly this fertile landscape had been valued as a place able to support a farming community over several thousand years.

A surprising piece of evidence for an historic farming economy could be seen in the remains of a Norse farmstead eroding out of the sand dunes down on the beach. Excavated in the late 1970’s and occupied during the 13th – 14th centuries it shows the same basic layout as the historic farmsteads further up the hill; with a dwelling at one end of the building, and a byre at the other.

Sandwick Norse house view N

This building leaves no doubt as to which end was which. The entrance into the north end is cow-shaped! The walls at the foot of the door are narrow and the doorway gradually widens as it goes up, just as the width of a cow increases with its height from hooves to belly. This discovery finally solved the puzzling problem of the dimensions of excavated Norse byre entrances being too narrow for cattle to pass through.

 
Sandwick Norse house view S

It can sometimes be difficult to look at an archaeological site and imagine what it was and how people used it. This doorway’s profile helped me make a mental picture of the Norse farmers of Sandwick and their cattle of long ago (as illustrated by my colleague Danny’s useful impression).

Danny interprets the door

Robert Adam RCAHMS Day of Archaeology

My name is Robert Adam and I am an Aerial Photographer with the RCAHMS and part of my photographic duties are to record photographically archaeological and architectural sites from the air and on the ground. In 2007, I accompanied a survey team to record sites in the Yarrows area of Sutherland and The Grey Cairns Of Camster was one of the many sites I was assigned to photograph.
 
 
I was lucky enough to accompany my colleagues to the Yarrows area a few years ago as part of an archeological survey team in 2007. One of the many sites I photographed, the Grey Cairns Of Camster stand out. Not only are they constructed beautifully, it is amazing that they have stood so long intact considering the desolate and remote area they are in. The weather for instance should have been a factor in their ruin. It was a tight squeeze to get in and quite difficult to light and photograph it to show of the fine features. I am no archaeologist, but it was a highlight of my field work trip to photograph the two cairns and learn about their history from my colleagues.
 

Susan Hamilton RCAHMS Day of Archaeology

I’m Susan Hamilton. I work in the Survey and Recording section at RCAHMS, and am responsible for a number of data-led projects, which include exciting work sharing our database with a number of partners, for example the National Trust for Scotland, the Orkney Council Archaeology Service and the Garden History Society in Scotland. 

General oblique aerial view in Inchkeith and its defences, taken from the SE.

I’ve chosen the Island of Inchkeith, in the Firth of Forth.  Located in a strategic defensive position in the middle of the Firth, it helped protect the important Port of Leith and the City of Edinburgh as well as the sheltered anchorage provided by the Forth.  As a result, it is covered in defensive structures, some of which date from the 16th century.

Today, some of the most visible remains are the concrete and brick shells of the First and Second World War defences.  I’ve been on fieldwork on Inchkeith and was struck by the evocative nature of the island.  It has been more or less uninhabited since the end of the Second World War, and in some parts it is hard to believe it is almost 70 years since up to 1000 service personnel were stationed here. In a number of the buildings, wooden rifle racks and shelves for helmets survive by the entrances. Observation posts retain painted regimental badges on the walls and small tables where maps and plans (or the daily rotas) may have been laid out.

View of N concrete lined sunken entrance trench to 9.2-inch gun emplacement Battery Observation Post, taken from the N.

For me, what is interesting about places like Inchkeith is that they demonstrate the massive changes that the infrastructure of the Second World War imposed on the Scottish landscape.  Although this island fortress may be an extreme example, it reflects the very real fear of invasion and the threat of aerial attack under which people lived.  Sometimes it seems easy to present a British view of the conflict coloured by ‘Dads’ Army’ and ‘Boys Own adventures’.  As we enter a period when there will be fewer and fewer survivors telling their stories, we need places like Inchkeith to remind us of the difficulties and folly of war.