Saturday 14 August 2010

DAY 10 - 13th August 2010

Law of Dumbuils

It has been awhile since we have updated you on the progress of the excavations at the hillfort.  There has been a lot of earth moving and stone moving.  We have defined the three ramparts, where the outer two appear to be composed largely of earth and stone.  The innermost rampart has large stone (quarried bedrock) facing - with the N face completely or deliberately collapsed.  Within the innermost rampart the spread of large stone that defined only one side of the trench was interpreted as a possible structure.  In order to get a better picture of what was going on we added an extension to this area and on initial cleaning the stones looked to be in a circular pile - but today the interpretation is back to uncertain (that's the nature of archaeology).  Nonetheless, as Colette was cleaning over these stones today she found a circular shale/cannel coal object - perhaps the rough out for a piece of jewellery!

View of possible structure and extension

 Colette's cannel coal/shale object


Trench 5A
Hi, I’m Nicola from Glasgow University and I’m working in Trench 5A. Today, at last the sun was shining, the sunscreen was on and it was a glorious day here at Forteviot with no rain. Trench 5a was busy with the planning and excavation of various slots through the inner and outer ditches of our double ditched feature, the deepest of which I’ve been working on for what seems like forever.

Slot 1 of the outer ditch, nearly 1m deep.

We’ve been able to get into the centre of the enclosure now that parts of the baulk have been removed, no treasure yet but we live in hope. We did have a nice piece of metal, possibly Roman lead that came out of the inner ditch this afternoon. This was found by one of the volunteers on her first day, some people have all the luck!

Other highlights of the day include being buzzed by the remote control hovering camera (boys and their toys)  and of course the fact that today, being Friday, was PIEDAY! Unfortunately the doughnuts did lead to an invasion by the wasp army which in turn caused an overenthusiastic spraying of the Jungle Formula from some quarters, we’re lucky we can all still breathe!

Trench 5B

Today in trench 5B, people were mostly drawing up the cross sections of the features that they have been excavating, which resulted in an absence of drawing materials and sanity (standard!)

Vivienne started the day rather upset as despite starting to excavate the other side of her pit feature yesterday, she was told this morning that she had to wait a while for some geophysical testing to be done on it, so she has to move on to another feature in the meantime. Gutted!

Drew had to move back to his feature, as although it was previously dismissed as nothing, the DELIGHTFUL weather conditions today (not actually sarcastic WOOHOO!) made visible something which appears to be a posthole. à

Charlie has found a flat working stone with circular holes on either side, which Dene, Gordon and Kenny have deemed “the greatest thing we have ever found on site”, but we weren’t sure whether or not they were trying to be funny or not! à

On top of all this excitement, which we all thought couldn’t get any better, there were a couple of technicians operating a remote controlled helicopter-camera over our trench today. Don’t lie, you want one for Christmas too...

I’ll leave you with this riddle: how many archaeologists does it take to retrieve a pencil?

That’s all for today lads! This groundbreaking (that’s right, I went there) news came to you today from Ailsa J xx

Thursday 12 August 2010

DAY 9 - 12th August 2010


Trench 5

Today began with a glorious group photograph of Team Awesome. Voila.

As the weather remained fine for most of the day good progress was made with Vivienne and volunteer John finishing their features.
Andy has been working hard on his post-hole feature for several days now. Due to the great depth of this post-hole feature a necessary invention of the Taladel was made. This involved high tech implements such as ladels and masking tape in order to create an instrument which would reach and clear out soil from the post-hole bottom.

Thanks go to everyone for the particularly delightful, high standard of conversation, especially Dean ‘Awesome’ Paton for his manly lifting of people and Nick Window, simply for his name really.
Finally a massive HAPPY BIRTHDAY to our team member Ailsa.

The Birthday girl herself looking fabulous.

Ciao, Charlie x

Trench 6
Hi – I’m Giles, your blogger for today for trench 6. I’m a desk-based archaeologist currently working for the Highland Council. I’m here at Forteviot this week, as the chance to explore a Neolithic site in Scotland, particularly one with such great evidence from the timber side of things is a chance not to be missed.

Progress has continued well today, and only a few showers to slow us down!

I am working with Sandi in the ditch, which is now shaping up as a re-modelled terminal for a henge. This ditch is filled with a number of silty fills, and whilst there has been little of artefactual interest from the lower deposits, it certainly has been interesting to try and untangle the confusing, if not complex, stratigraphy!

The key task today was ensuring that these deposits were fully recorded before excavation could be undertaken of the basal orange sand within this feature, potentially a primary henge fill.  The ditch is in places nearly 6m wide, and is now about 1m deep. Numerous examples exist in Britain of ‘special deposits’ being recorded at the terminals of Neolithic ditches – such as the recently discovered Bluestonehenge at Stonehenge - so hope has not been abandoned of finding an interesting cache or assemblage!

Elsewhere in the trench, the heavy work continues apace in the pit which dominates the interior of this henge. We yesterday recorded a number of very large stones which seemed to be deliberately placed. These have now been removed, and probably represent rubble fill of this feature. 

Again, this has produced very little in terms of artefacts. However, the large pit recorded during the previous season at Forteviot,  within the henge, contained fragments of Iron and lead, Roman amphora and sherds of medieval pottery, so I don’t feel hope should be abandoned here either.

Lighter work continues on the posthole which has now been almost completely excavated by Alistair– and his ladel. Work also continues on the two potential grave cuts which have to date produced a number of sherds of All Over Corded beaker – dated to 2400-2350BC. No more Early Bronze Age pottery today but a number of fragments of burnt bone isn’t too bad!

A newly opened feature is a potential pit or post hole cut into the inside edge of the henge ditch. This is going to be a key relationship to explore in the next few days – particularly if this new feature produces any datable objects.

Trench 7
So the day started with only 3 of us on site! We are pleased to announce that Robbie’s posthole is the deepest feature on site measuring 1.6m and has reached the water table at 1.4m. Elaine continued to excavate her tree throw which is getting deeper and when Corinna  arrived later on in the morning we both made section drawings of our two features and then filled out the context sheets...not to mention getting another heavy rain shower in the process. The paleochannel is now thought to be far more modern than it was before since some tarpaulin was found. Unfortunately, Robbie’s  ‘trowdel’ didn’t make an appearance today but hopefully it will again sometime in the near future!

Robbie's Posthole 

DAY 8 - 11th August 2010


Trench 5

Hi i’m a french student from Paris. I’ve come to Scotland to improve my English and to experience  Scottish archaeology as i’ve previously excavated mostly  in France. This morning i was on the same feature that i have been on since the beginning of last week – this was a post hole within the sondage. A sondage is like a trench within a trench for getting a better and quicker  understanding of what’s happening within the feature. Other people have been getting deeper and deeper into their
features. This most important thing i’ve found so far has been some charcoal. 

Trench 6
Today we dug up the “pit of death”  a bit deeper, it’s now about  1.40m deep. I found a sherd of corded ware pottery in it. All of the people who excavated that particular bit looked like bob the builder as we had to wear safety helmets. Mattocks,  shovels and wheelbarrows completed the picture.
Also a few big stones were uncovered causing lots of excited noises from our supervisors. Then in a grave pit excavated by Shuhei ( apologies if I got the spelling wrong, which I most probably did) a big piece of beaker showed up and our trench was filled with uuuch and ooochs of our superviosion team.
Apart from that I discovered we have voodoo doll attached to a pole on one of the spoil heaps which no doubt has a purpose of destroying all of our enemies whoever they may be.  I also learned that a soup ladle is a very serious piece of archeo-equipment as are sponges apparently!

Trench 7
After the rain of yesterday we made good progress on continuing to excavate the features. Jim and Jackie continued with their excavations of palisade postholes, reaching several different fills and taking samples.

Meanwhile Anne and Laura continued excavating the two possible posthole slots at right angles to the line of the palisade enclosure. As the day went on Ann reached what looked like a nice coherent fill with some packing stones and a fill that was the consistency of concrete, and just about as hard to dig! After some rigorous chiselling Anne was ready to photograph and draw the section, Laura will be reaching a similar stage tomorrow.

Robert completed excavation of the semi-circular, amorphous deposit and then went to assist with the section drawing of Robbie’s posthole.

Robbie completed the half-section of another palisade posthole today, stretching a respectable 1.6m into the ground. To accommodate this and stop Robbie from falling headfirst into it, some more breakthrough tool designing took place. The 11th of August 2010 will for ever more be known for the invention of the ‘trowdle ©’. An aesthetically pleasing, functional piece of equipment, this new invention tops even the likes of the “Planinator ©.” Combining the digging power of a trowel and the scooping potential of the ladle this is a unique and exciting opportunity to get your hands on one. Units are available for a mere £21.78, orders for multiple units accepted. They are also good for spinning at speed around your head. Please contact Clancy and MacIver Ltd. for more information

Trench 8
Hi there, this is Fi again. Today was my last day at trench 8 and it proved to be a very successful one. In the morning I continued to excavate the grave in the larger of the two barrows and came across some human tooth enamel at the western end. It was badly preserved but it’s the first human remains I’ve ever found so I was very excited. The teeth were gently removed with some of the surrounding soil due to their delicate nature and placed in small finds bags. A small circle of finer soil above the teeth was identified by Ewan Campbell  as a soil mark created by the brain cavity of the human skull that had once been there slowly becoming filled with silty sand before finally rotting away in the acidic soil. Lewis continued work on the smaller grave and we both managed to get our recording finished.  

Wednesday 11 August 2010

DAY 7 - 10th August 2010


Trench 6

After a nice wee skive yesterday it was back to the hard graft again today. So far I’ve been a trench 8 man but as trench 8 is all but complete I was shipped off to whomsoever wanted me and was claimed by trench 6. After a quick look round to get my bearings, I was thrown into ‘ The Pit of Death’, sadly not because there are any remains within it but because of the amount of time its taken. Our orders for the day were to go down a metre but remove as much as possible, as soon as possible, so as to get the complete section of the pit. Our starting point can be seen in the picture to the right. By lunch, after what had felt like a hundred barrow loads, we had removed a large portion and began straightening the edges, with even Kenny and Gordon lending a hand. Just as lunch began the heavens were opened by a solitary crack of lightning when everyone took refuge in the buses. After an hour the rain was still persistent so we waited for a break in the cloud before venturing back to our nicely soaked trenches.  Luckily the rain had cooled us all down and mattocking and shovelling became a little easier, didn’t last long though as the clouds parted and we were bathed in sweltering sunshine. We archaeologists are rarely satisfied by the weather! By the end of the day we had removed a massive amount of earth(see left), but sadly had no significant finds, perhaps tomorrow as we remove the bottom we will hopefully unearth something, anything.                                              


Trench 8
Day eight on trench eight and work continued with enthusiasm as the final stages of excavation and recording proceeded steadily. Our team was reduced to a hardcore collective of four (almost) competent individuals allowing for a close knit communal cooperative to carry out and collate the days work.

I was delighted to discover that I was continuing the excavation of the central grave in the smaller, adjacent and almost certainly later additional square barrow where only a few days earlier the recovery of tooth enamel from a several teeth caused a ripple of excitement amongst the Forteviot team.  Although it is highly unlikely to be able retrieve a date from the finds further examination of the teeth by an individual well versed in the skills of the odontologist may illuminate several physical characteristics allowing us to edge closer to an understanding of the individual who now only remains in the most fragmented and indistinct form.

This was a thought that plagued my thoughts during my days graverobbing,  doubts on the moral rights to impose on the long cessated persons own request and wishes was balanced by a desire to discover and better understand the previous occupants of our fine country.

After excavating the remainder of the westerly half of the grave, where the head once resided, I took a sample from the bottom of the grave fill which with a bit of luck will contain enough charcoal or other material to retrieve an accurate date for the burial. It was in this area that I discovered what looked like a worked stone tool, which as it transpired turned out to be merely natural.

This co-incided with Ewen’s discovery of the largest piece of agate, a workable silicate rock type occasionally used to produce stone tools, ever discovered within the Forteviot cropmark sequence, which fairly delighted our resident Mesolithic expert Dene.

Fiona continued her planning and excavtion of the central grave in the main Square barrow which continues to throw up more questions and answers. The possibility of an outer ditch or palisade was an idea bandied about today as well as the suggestion it may be a rare example of an Iron age square barrow. With a bit of luck these questions will be answered in the remaining days. The grave itself appears to be stone lined and hopefully more information will come to light as the top half, where the head resided upon burial is uncovered.

A torrential downpour and occasional lightning halted work for a couple of hours, as the others clambered into cramped and steaming vans and containers we relaxed in our on site tent and engaged in some extended tea drinking and banter.

Lewis Prentice

Monday 9 August 2010

Day 6 - 8th August 2010


Trench 5

Hello, I’m Dimitra Mexis  - an archaeology student from the University of Glasgow. Today is the second day of my feature (the big rock!) being excavated and not just being cleaned.  We’re beginning to see the bottom of it at one corner.  The size of the rock was deceptive - as it now appears to be a lot bigger than it looked pre-excavation. 
Almost everyone’s features are becoming deeper and deeper by the day (including those over in 5B).  Kirsty has been shunned by the group for attracting wasps with her perfume!
These three points have been the highlight of day 7 at Trench 5A.

My big rock!!

Directors’ Update
Trench 5A is coming along nicely.  The double enclosure is showing up really well as are the other features in and around it.  We have started sections across the outer enclosure ditch, half-sectioning the pit with our big stone (fingers crossed for carved stone!!) and started sectioning two large pits or post-holes, too.  The team is working really hard (even when having a major gossip session), no one has been stung (yet) and Heather and I are looking forward next week to really getting into the features and finding out what is on the underside of that buried standing stone. – Meggen Gondek (University of Chester) – Co-director, Trench 5A

Trench 6 - The ‘henge’

Dr Gordon Noble standing in the large central pit explaining discoveries at Trench 6 to members of the other teams

Excavation and discovery continued at an encouraging pace today. Work on the ‘henge’ ditch progressed and clues are emerging regarding whether this site is a prehistoric ceremonial henge (or hengiform) monument or a funerary barrow – or both, with the former transformed into the latter at some point, perhaps in the Early Bronze Age. All Over Corded (AOC) Beaker pottery continued to be found in the northerly (N-S aligned) rectangular feature and hopes are high that it may perhaps be an early (earth-cut) Beaker grave. Moreover, a sherd of AOC Beaker was also discovered in the westerly rectangular feature (also N-S aligned and similarly sized). If so these would be exceptionally rare finds – but only time will tell. Excavation of the large (and deep!) central pit was also further extended and we are coming ever closer to discovering what (if anything) is at its centre. Some of the team are hoping for an impressive Medieval kingly burial! Others are less certain. It appears similar in size, profile and fill to the pit excavated in the centre of the henge monument excavated in 2009. The day and week was rounded off by Dr Brophy and Dr Noble giving all trench teams a guided tour of the trench discoveries of the last six exciting days. Today we also said farewell to volunteer Jim – his sieve-fixing, hard digging and hard-boiled sweets will be missed!


Trench 7

Robert here today from Aberdeen University. First impressions of the trench this morning were good. Many of the features were showing up clearly, with evidence for new features that hadn’t really been visible before. We began the day by towelling back the final area of the trench, cleaning it up ready for it to be planned. After the area had been cleared the tape measures where brought out and set up so that the area could be planned. As the day went on everyone set about their own individual tasks. This included continuing with the planning of the trench and its features, carrying on with the excavation of features (such as post holes and the ditch cut). We even got onto starting excavation on some new post hole features and a possible tree throw. But its early days working on these and no finds as of yet. The post holes already under excavation continued to yield more charcoal.

Trench 8

Natalia here from Glasgow Uni, or at the minute the tropics of trench 8. Today in the glorious sunshine at trench 8 we continued excavation of the ditches leaving various baulks and fully excavating the corners. I dug the entirety of the North West corner of the western barrow (the big one!) so that we can see the cut in plan and notice any anomalies. Thanks to differential drying we noticed a band of dark silt running along the outer edge of the ditch cut leading me to wonder if it were possibly a palisade... too far fetched? The afternoon was much less fun for me as it entailed looking over all the context sheets and various other boring paperwork. Paddy however had a fantastic last day in the interior grave of the Eastern barrow where he found tooth enamel- much more exciting than it sounds due to the poor survival conditions in this soil!! Euan says that it looks like a young individual who was buried here. Hopefully Fi will find some in the interior grave of the western square barrow!!!

Paddy excavating the tooth enamel from the grave in the eastern barrow.