Saturday 6 August 2011

Day 6 - Haly Hill

Hi all, Kayleigh here reporting for Haly Hill, which got off to a great start on day 6 with the sun splitting the sky. First on the agenda was an extension to Trench 4 (which now holds a fantastic cobble floor). The boys took the hard job of troweling some stones and left the girls to the easy task of mattocking the rest of the new trench, with the usual laughing and joking from the group.
Cobble floor in Trench 4

After lunch the small extension of Trench 4 has grew into a 7m x 4m beast, which meant the group had our first shot at de-turfing the nettle patch. Our tip, jumping on your spade as if it’s a po-go will get the job done but be careful you don’t cause yourself any ‘male related’ injuries. Elsewhere on site the lovely ladies in trench 2 found another coin, a great find, but the greatest discovery of the day was seeing even some top dogs in the hierarchy of Haly Hill breaking a sweat (see below).

Friday 5 August 2011

The Manse Trench Day 5

Today has been a good and productive day in the tench of the Manse's backyard. Since the trench is located on the lawn of a private property, we try very hard to keep everything neat and tidy using loads of plastic and planks.
Yesterday we had uncovered a stone feature in the southern side of the trench. It consisted of stones and boulders and was running all along the edge of the trench, into which it disappeared. It didn't seem to be a wall because the stones were not neatly stacked and there was no distinctive facing. Geophysics and an 18th century map of the Manse's backyard show linear features, and on the map it appears to be a garden path.
To find out more about this feature, it was decided today to extend the trench south. That meant more deturfing and more mattocking, until we reached the level in which the stone feature was standing.
Although we have uncovered numerous finds, none of them are really remarkable. Most of it is modern material, consisting of pieces of pottery, glass and coal. Among the more interesting finds are an iron knife (with missing handle) and some herbivore molars, possibly sheep.
When the other side of the feature was uncovered, it became clear that this could not have been a paved pathway, it is too narrow for that. After we uncovered more, we were surprised to see that the other (southern) side was very neatly stacked and had a clear facing.

Close up of the wall, showing the north side on the right. The south side is obviously much neater and has a clear facing.

View of the trench with stone feature, the modern Manse in the background. On the left there is Robbie, a retired topographical surveyor that volunteers for the SERF project, and to the right Eva Hopman (author of this blog entry).

It's possible that the feature might have been an 18th century retaining garden wall with a path leading next to it. The loose boulders and stones on the northern side of the wall could have allowed better drainage into the garden soil. For now though, this feature is as good as any! We will uncover more of the wall in the next days and hopefully find out exactly what it's function was.

Written by Eva Hopman, 22 year old intern at the Archaeology department of Glasgow University

Day 5 at the Church

Hi, My name is Ildiko and today I have been excavating in the Churchyard. In the morning we cleaned out trench 1, took some measurements, allocated coordinates to the trench edges, made a plan drawing of a cut in one of the contexts and filled out context sheets.

The main part of the day, however, involved slowly troweling back layer after layer of an extended sondage that had previously been dug in the trench. In the process of this we came across a cobbled looking surface. Hopeful, we kept going, excited to see what this feature would show to be. Eventually, it turned out to be a very complex and complicated array of features (cobbles, gravel, stones set in clay, irregular pebbles and a rather stoneless area which we assumed could be a fill). This startled us greatly and we decided to take some photographs before we investigated the matter further.

After a lot of speculation and confusion we laid out some string over part of the cobbled and the “empty” area and started excavating. The idea was to see the relationship between these two features. In the meanwhile two members of our team troweled back the rest of the area hoping to find some promising clues beneath the other features, but all we found was natural soil and no finds whatsoever. So we stay bamboozled.

                                                        Trench 1 at the end of the day
Day 5 – 5th of August 2011


Hi! My name is Christina and I am just about to enter into Junior Honours Archaeology (Third year) at the University of Glasgow.

Today has been a very exciting day for the Castle Craig Hillfort crew, as, after a long time digging and de-turfing, we are starting to find evidence!!! There was a bit of joyful dancing and whooping involved – nothing more exciting than progress! We were lucky enough to have some fantastic weather after yesterday’s torrential rain – so this really helped speed up things.

Myself and Cameron opened up Trench 2 more fully, which is situated over the ramparts within sheltered rock clusters, and we have managed to mattock this trench to death in a bid to catch up with Trench 1. As it is filled up with lots of rocks (a lovely endearing feature of the Hillfort), we are aiming to get down to the bedrock and (hopefully) find some interesting artefacts or structures along the way.

Meanwhile, up in the main trench, Colette found our first significant find: a thumbnail scrapper. You can see that someone has chipped around the edge of the stone to create a blade. Our in-house prehistory expert Dr Brophy believes it may indicate Bronze Age activity! Cue more dancing and whooping!

We also have some evidence of a post-hole in our rampart trench, thereby indicating some kind of wooden post used, perhaps within a structure. Things are certainly heating up and we are looking forward to investing this further tomorrow!

Day 4- Ben Effrey

Greetings from the high hillfort! I’m Tom and I’m entering honours Archaeology at Glasgow this year. I have been assigned to what some may want to call the most hardcore trench, at a probable Iron Age fort on Ben Effrey, a hill overlooking Auchterarder. We have opened up a 30m x 2m trench cutting through the three visible ramparts and over an outer ditch. Today was a wet and windy day, and the summit was misted up when we gained the summit. The rain fell and fell and fell and our trench turned into a bog briefly….

Never mind the weather, we got a load more mattocking done and the mist lifted enough to take this picture! We are having a great time up here, I hope you all get a chance to come up and see us sometime….

Thursday 4 August 2011

Day 4 - Haly Hill

Heya, my name's Leah and I'm studying Classical Civilisation and Archaeology at Glasgow. It was an exciting morning at Haly Hill as when we arrived on site we were met by two rather unusual finds in Trench 1 and Trench 5. A couple of adorable hedgehogs had decided to take an evening stroll along the site and fell into the trenches. Rebecca was their saviour while the rest of us were thinking of making them our mascot.

Trench 4 was most exciting as we have found, to quote the proffessionals, a pre-post medieval wall. I discovered a clay Victorian doll missing it's head and feet. I think the owner of this toy was a little sadistic. The rain made excavating a little more difficult but on the plus side, no one can complain if you're covered in dirt, we're all in the same boat! Trench 4 is being extended tomorrow so the excitement about what we may discover just keeps building.

Day 4 - The Paddock Trench

The Trench Progresses: Jamie in green, Andie in black, Carol in lilac and Fiona in red.

Hey, Jamie here. I’m about to enter into junior honours Archaeology at the University of Glasgow. This is my first time attending the SERF field school and so far I’m learning lots and having a great time, even in the rain. Today in the paddock we continued to strip back the orange brown context layer. We didn’t find as much as we had done in the topsoil, but that was to be expected. However, something interesting did pop up; another piece of pottery. We showed this to Dr Ewan Campbell, and along with the other interesting piece that Alison found yesterday, he came to the conclusion that they may be from the same item, and also that they may be Roman! Whilst this went on Fiona continued to excavate her sondage deeper and she found a few pieces of medieval pottery. The weather could have been better, but all in all a very productive day.
Churchyard – Day 3

Hi my name is Scott from New Jersey. Over the past few days my team and I have been excavating the centre of the churchyard at Forteviot. In a short time we have made a good deal of progress, digging about 1-1.5 metres into the ground. So far we have found mostly modern pottery sherds, bits of metal, glass, pipe pieces and bone fragments. We still need to dig deeper in order to access a medieval layer. Today we enjoyed good weather, a rare treat in Forteviot, and decided that our gravel area of our trench was indeed a proper feature. This feature could possibly be a sort of path through our excavation area, however we are still deforming this. We have had some luck with our find of green glaze potsherds, which indicate that we are getting closer to our goal. Most of the day was spent mattocking, trowelling and clearing the loose soil from the trench. While it is hard work at times the results are rewarding. The section that was taken of the gravel path revealed nothing underneath indicating that it was cut at some point. Tomorrow’s excavation promises to reveal further finds as we continue digging, hopefully providing us with some sort of material from the medieval period.

Lesley recording the gravel path feature in Trench 1

Flagstones of the earlier church building in Trench 2

Over in trench 2 by the church building Megan and her team have found flagstones outlining what looks to be the walls of an earlier church building with lots of rubble.

Wednesday 3 August 2011

Day 3 - 3rd August 2011

Second day up at Castle Craig Hillfort which brought us to the end of the de-turfing and a rare glimpse of sunshine.

We worked hard all morning in our 3 teams of mattock wielding, turf pulling and spade cutting trio’s and the rest of the turf was cleared just after lunchtime, job well done!

After lunch the sun came out from behind a cloud and we all set about cleaning the trench of grass and any loose. Everyone worked hard and the area was cleared in time to take our first photographs of the trench.

Although it may not seem like much when it is written down seeing the turf finally removed and the area cleared ready to get to work tomorrow gave me a real sense of achievement.

Good day today, excited to see what tomorrow brings.

Day 2 – 2nd August

Hi my name is Charlie, I am a 4th year student at Glasgow University studying Archaeology and taking part in the SERF project this year as a supervisor. Second day of this years SERF and a brief introduction to the excavations and the beginning of the 2011 season of investigation of Forteviot and the surrounding area. This year the SERF project is concentrating on two hillforts in the nearby area as well as the excavations in Forteviot itself. Both hillforts are suspected to be Iron Age and reside in the parish of Dunning. The lower of the two hillforts called Castle Craig is accessible by a rough road and is being directed by Heather James. The higher of the two, Ben Effrey, is accessed from the same point but requires a 45 minute walk or an off-road vehicle to access it. This hillfort will be directed by Tessa Poller. By opening various trenches across the Castle Craig site, to include ramparts and the enclosure at the summit, it is hoped that we can determine if there is any evidence remaining of occupation from the Iron Age or any time after its original construction. The site was originally looked at in the 1970’s by John Sherriff when it came under threat from nearby quarrying. The discoveries at the time included several stone slab covered pits and several small finds including a piece of a jet armlet.

At the higher site at Ben Effrey hillfort the plan is to open 3 trenches, one of these stretching down over all the ramparts and ditches. The aim of both of the hillforts is to deduce a chronology of the each site which can also be compared with other hillforts in the area and build up a coherent picture of the area.

It is hoped that there will be many more exciting finds to come from both of these sites! We will keep you updated as the events unfold.

Hi, my name’s Nicola. I’m a 4th year student at Glasgow University and am assisting supervisors Megan and Adrian in the Churchyard of St Andrew’s Church in Forteviot village. Two trenches have been opened up in the churchyard, one at the south eastern corner of the church building hoping to find evidence of earlier church structures, and the other in the only unused area of the churchyard itself. Day one was spent marking out trench 1 in the churchyard and de-turfing this by hand and then on to day 2 where the topsoil and underlying subsoil from this trench were removed with a lot of hard labour, mattocking and shovelling in some seriously wet weather! In trench one by the end of day two we had shifted a fair amount of soil and had begun to see the beginning of a possible gravel feature in the south east corner of the trench so it will be good to see where this leads.

Trench 2 by the church building was opened on day two around an area on the wall where some of the foundation stones for the wall were thought to be earlier in origin than the rest of the building. Just under the surface here the team found a row of stones running under the wall which could relate to the earlier building and also signs of other stones lying out from the church wall so we’re looking forward to clearing this area up and seeing what the stones reveal. All in all a good first couple of days with the promise of lots more interesting things to discover!

Welcome to SERF 2011!

This year we are mainly based in the village of Forteviot and have trenches open in the Church Yard, Halle Hill,  Manse Garden and Paddock. Our main objective in the village is to find the ellusive Pictish Palace where the first recored King of Scotland, Kenneth McAlpine, is reputed to have died.  Archaeologists Tessa Poller and Heather James are up on the hillforts of Castle Craig and Ben Effrey hoping to gain a window into life in the Iron Age.

The Paddock Trench, Day 3

Above: Steven and Supervisor Alison get stuck in to mattocking!

Hi there, my name's Fiona. I'm a third year going on fourth year student at the University of Glasgow and i'm helping to supervise the Paddock trench. So far our team has deturfed and stripped back the upper topsoil to reveal an orange brown context flecked with coal. The finds from this level have mostly been from the 17th century onwards and include glass and pottery fragments, but we have found at least one piece of medieval pottery and we hope there is more to come! Other interesting finds have included stamped pipe bowls and a small perforated cone of copper alloy with mineralised wood inside. Today i continued to excavate a sondage i'd been working on which runs along the edge of the trench. This will be taken deeper tomorrow, hopefully giving us a better idea of the site's startigraphy. So far the weather has been good with not too much rain and this afternoon we had brilliant sunshine.