Tag Archives: SRP

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

Scotland’s Rural Past New Publication

The Scotland’s Rural Past project is coming to end at RCAHMS and they have just released a second publication which is ‘A Practical Guide to Recording Archaeological Sites’. This new guide has developed out of training courses and contains practical, hands-on advice on the techniques used for recording archaeological sites, it is an invaluable tool for anyone who would like to discover more about the rich history and heritage of this country.

I’ve just got my hands on a copy and don’t know how I’ve managed without it! You can access a free pdf copy here.

 

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 – Brian Wilkinson SRP

Happy Day of Archaeology to everyone! RCAHMS blog contributions will be filtered out over the course of the day so make sure to check back for more videos, photos and information from what our staff get up to.

Below is the video contribution from Brian Wilkinson, SRP Education Officer at RCAHMS, for Day of Archaeology 2011. Here he discusses his current work involving the Scotland’s Rural Past Project, including visits to schools, the recent publication and how to find out more information.

You can visit the Scotland’s Rural Past website for more information including training videos in Using a GPS, Creating a field Sketch, Measured survey using a plane-table, and measured survey using tape and offset.

The recent publication ‘Scotland’s Rural Past: Community Archaeology in Action’ is currently being given away for free. You can either pick up a copy from reception at RCAHMS in Edinburgh or email Kirsty at Kirsty.MacDonald@rcahms.gov.uk for your copy.