Yesterday we completed our fifth full day excavating at Leadketty, and the results so far have been tantalising. As yet, we are not sure exactly how old the site we are excavating is: it could be Neolithic, or Iron Age, or even medieval. A complete sense of what is in the massive trench we are working in is also not clear because, believe it or not, the weather has been too good! The dry conditions mean that the gravel subsoil and the archaeological features are more or less all the same sort of beige colour, with only charcoal-rich features easily apparent. Yet we know there is a lot of archaeology in the trench, as for about 2 hours on Tuesday morning, just after an overnight rain fall, we saw dozens of features including several palisades and ditches, and lots of pits and possible postholes. Today we gave up planning for the time being as we simply cannot see the archaeology, and we may have to resort to spraying the site or doing a highly risky rain dance over the weekend.
|Palisade trench visible on Tuesday morning for about 2 hours!|
The main objective of this trench is to investigate a cropmark enclosure, measuring about 100m and defined by a segmented or causewayed ditch. We have found the ditch in our trench, but we have also discovered a previously unknown external fence line that seems to define an even bigger enclosure, perhaps 140m or so in diameter. We have not started to excavate the boundaries of these massive concentric enclosures yet, but we have over the last few days commenced work on some of the features within the enclosure.
So far we have not had any exciting artefacts, other than a sherd of 19th-century pottery which seems to have found its way into a large posthole! Inside the big enclosures are a series of features, including one defined by a shallow fence slot, and containing a lot of rather small postholes. Again, this could be Neolithic, or much older. Next week the objective will be to start to investigate the two enclosure boundaries and work out how old they are, and how they relate to one another. Then we can start to piece together how this fits in better with the discoveries of the SERF Project to date. All we need now is a little rain!
Kay CraigAs part of the hillfort excavations programme this year we are tackling Kay Craig, a low hill directly across from Castle Craig (the broch site we excavated in 2011 and 2012). The site commands great views up Strathearn and over the local area, pointing towards its strategic location. This part of the study area contains several hillforts in close proximity around Coul (meaning corner glen) including Ben Effrey, Ogil Hill and Castle Craig so we are hoping to find out when this site has been in use and whether it is contemporary with any of these other sites.
A tantalising piece of information was provided by the landowners and locals who have told us about an historical structure being inhabited on this site until 1695. It is not marked on any of the historic maps or in any documentary sources we have come across so far but we are keeping a close eye out for any evidence of medieval or later occupation. The discovery of pottery today which is possibly from the early Iron Age suggests we have a prehistoric element to the site as well so we may be looking at an area which has been in use over several periods. Some of our students share their experience so far:
Veronica: We're now on Day Five of the excavations at Kay Craig and things are progressing nicely. So far the activities have included de-turfing the trenches, trowelling off the top layers to reveal a spread of stones in the ditch and some much larger stones on the bank. These were then planned and photographed so we are now excavating in earnest! Trench 1 is 2m by 20m and cuts across the ditch and up over a large wide bank while Trench 2 is 6m by 6m and is placed across part of the platform on the top of the hill. We are a much smaller crew than the other sites but that is just fine up here, great views across to Castle Craig and great company are making this a very pleasurable experience indeed. Also, NO RAIN! Yet.... :)
Andrew: How best to summarise the last five days at Kay Craig? The name itself means 'Rock of the Jackdaws' and although we haven't seen any of those yet it is easy to imagine a crumbling, bird-infested tower on the hill. The discovery of plenty of tumbled rubble in Trench 2 suggests a possible structure of decent size, surrounded by a ditch and bank further downslope. An unfired clay loomweight was our first find although we have heard tales of more grisly things buried on the site...thankfully the deposited placenta (shudder) that we were told was there remains undiscovered!
|Exposing the foundations of the churchyard wall of St Serf's reveals the foundations of earlier stone structures.|
The St Serf's crew have been dealing with a very different kind of archaeology than those at Leadketty or Kay Craig. Our trenches outside the churchyard of St Serf's parish church, Dunning are all into archaeological layers now after removing the overburden, which contained incredible amounts of largely Victorian pottery and glass as this area was used as the village rubbish tip until the early 20th century. Trenches 04 and 05 have revealed the foundations of the churchyard wall and earlier drystone buildings similar to those found in this area during SERF 2012. In the closing hours of Thursday, however, a single sherd of Scottish White Gritty Ware, dating to the 12-14th centuries, was found in Trench 05, so we may be getting down to medieval layers.
|Carolyn and Kirk, two of our students from the US, play it safe in Trench 06|
Trench 06, which extends from the churchyard to the Dunning Burn, has had the deepest deposits anywhere, so much so that our students have had to take safety precautions! The river embankment now stands to 1.5m and the infill seems to consist of made ground, reclaimed in the improvements of the modern period. There are some undisturbed deposits in the area nearest the churchyard wall, and we will be investigating these more in the following week.
Trench 07, a narrow architectural trench at the base of St Serf's medieval square tower, has finally exposed the original base course of the tower and this is set into a layer containing medieval ceramic, so we are coming close to revealing the earliest stages of the church in Dunning - stay tuned for more details!