Friday 24 August 2012

Castle Craig - Ewan's Birthday

    Greetings from Castle Craig; we had quite a busy morning between visits from Historic Scotland (our wonderful co-funders!), Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust, and children from Dunning Primary School. The local interest in our work is exciting and it's great to get the chance to share our brand-new finds with the community.
    After our visitors left, we were able to get back to excavating briefly before being interrupted by rainshowers. We took shelter in our storage tent and took the opportunity to celebrate Dr Ewan Campbell's birthday - he turned a very youthful 27 today - with some cake and chocolate biscuits.
    We continued extending Trench 1 to the north to give us the opportunity to excavate deeper along the outer edge of the broch wall, and after lots of rock hauling we managed to reveal a strange gap in the stone low down in the wall. This may have served as a drain from the interior of the broch, possibly removing water and other undesirable material from ground floor. A small stone-lined posthole sitting atop the broch wall was also excavated, likely contemporary with the medieval palisaded enclosure and possibly part of a no-longer extant timber structure.
    Trench 6 saw a lot of progress excavating the outer edge of the broch wall as well, with the discovery of some new contexts and a possible paved area just outside the wall to the north. A possible Roman potsherd was uncovered by Mackenzie in this area. Stacey and Alex were hard at work sampling contexts, filling out context sheets and making section drawings (a task which they were quite happy to find out will be taken over by Greer tomorrow).
    Trench 8 was the site of some important planning today, as well as lots of photography and section drawing. Jules's section into a possible posthole outside the broch has led to its reinterpretation as a burning layer. Excavation continued on a large stone-packed posthole in the centre of the trench which likely relates to the medieval occupation of the site.
    Further excavation in Trench 9 by Ewan, Tessa and Joss reached the bottom of the outer defensive wall, and the presence of burnt and compacted contexts beneath it will provide us with excellent material for dating the wall's construction. Excavation began on another stone-packed posthole just outside of the wall.
    Looking forward to another exciting day tomorrow!


Open Day blog from Castle Craig

The Open Day began with busily preparing ourselves to welcome guests to ‘Heather’s Broch’. We were cleaning trenches, putting up signs and learning impressive broch facts to wow our visitors with. By 12 o’clock the site was looking ship shape and we were all excited to share our broch with the local community and those from further a field. The day was a complete success with a stampede of people making their way up the hill to Castle Craig. Tours were carried out by supervisors, students and volunteers and the majority of guests commented on how impressive and exciting the broch is. Not only was the Open Day an opportunity for the visitors to learn about Castle Craig but it was also a learning curve for the archaeologists. We were able to understand more about the broch itself and hear interpretations from the guests which helped shed a new light on various aspects of the site. Although the majority of the day was focused on the Open Day it was still a working day and some discoveries were made to help us understand the mysteries. Another defensive rampart revealed itself on the north face of the hill and more of the broch wall was uncovered. Finds from the day included animal teeth and burnt animal bone. Overall the Open Day was a success as Castle Craig got the attention it deserved and the public had a good day out.


Leadketty trench

Hi its’ Daniel from Leadketty here. I’ll be giving you an account of the days’ work at Trench Three, which I am trainee supervising.
Work has been progressing after the couple of days' bad weather, and we had a full trench of people digging, planning and surveying. We had Alan, Martin, Sabine, Sarah and Vesa in the postholes of the avenue and palisaded enclosure and some volunteers uncovering the Eastern most palisade post holes, so the pre excavation drawing could be completed. This was a great find by Lawrence and his two sons, as this has allowed for the missing postholes of the palisade to be projected as, our hypothesis that the palisade post holes in this area of the trench are as close to 2.6 meters in distance apart. Hopefully we can find a couple more in the horrible silty layer of soil that has washed through the middle of the trench.
Myself and Aoife were supervising the students and helping in the recording process. Also, pre-ex planning a particularly awkward area of the trench, with some hard to see linear features and some shattered ploughed stone, which has been very very very tentatively spoken of as a possible ploughed through cairn!
However the most exciting news on site was the discovery of Grooved Ware, a type of Neolithic pottery, in the avenue postholes, which called for the Groovy Ware dance to be enacted! In terms of the wider research aims of the project this is very significant, as in the previous palisaded enclosure excavations at Forteviot in 2010, no pottery whatsoever was in the avenue or palisaded postholes, which suggests that something very different was going on in the structure at Leadketty.
All in all, this was a fantastic day on site, with some great laughs and ridiculous four seasons in one day Scottish weather. Tonight is the Archaeology Quiz, compared by the venerable Jeremy Hugget, which should provide a couple of hilarious moments. Hope to see you at the open day on Sunday at Dunning, where we’ll have some of the amazing finds from not only Leadketty but the broch site at Castle Craig as well!! What a treat.

Wednesday 22 August 2012

August 21 2012

Alex from Aberdeen Uni here with today’s update from Castle Craig! To start with I must say that it feels insane that we have now been here 16 days and has less than a week to go!  Will really miss everyone once this is over! Especially my trench buddies. Never thought I could get this attached to a trench haha! Also must add that never been so proud to present something as on Sunday during the open day! Trench 6 <3 span="span">

  The weather today really couldn’t make up its mind, sunny really warm one minute and then pouring down with rain the next! Despite this it has been a very nice and calm day! Planning and section drawing for all the trenches has taken up most of the day! Must admit that to start with I was not really enjoying drawing, especially as the rain constantly destroyed it! But as the day went on and the weather got better I actually learned some tricks and got quite alright at it!

Oh and more evidence for medieval occupation was also uncovered in the form of pottery! Tomorrow we will have students from the local schools coming to view the site and we will guide them and show them how we do things! All really exciting!

Saturday 18 August 2012

Open Day Tomorrow

Sunday 19th of August (tomorrow) is the SERF Open Day, 12-4pm (weather permitting).  Come along and see what the SERF team has been up to this year.  Meet at St. Paul's Church Hall in Dunning (Perth road) see the exhibit and finds display and get directions to the digs.


Adrian here, with some pretty amazing news from the St Serf’s Churchyard site in Dunning village which I’m directing. We’ve been looking for traces of the medieval churchyard boundary, but frustratingly, all our finds have been pre- or post-medieval. We have certainly clipped a ditch feature in our trench, but it seems severely truncated by later activity. So we opened a second smaller trench along the churchyard wall, which did not look terribly promising at first. After cleaning off the topsoil, we revealed the foundations of a large but not terribly old looking building, with horrible clay packing on either side which Meggen and Nicola spent all day bashing out.

After a good rain this morning, the site looked less inviting than ever. But I noticed among the clay an odd-looking stone, or possibly a stamped modern brick. Upon closer inspection, this was no brick – it was a delicately carved chunk of stone!

This chunk is nothing less than corner of a Pictish cross slab, bearing what looks like a saltire-cross key pattern interlace like that found on numerous Pictish crosses in Perthshire, including the Dupplin Cross from Forteviot, now housed just across the wall in St Serf’s Church! Its size means it was from a much smaller monument than that, and it comes from modern demolition layers, meaning it may have been reused in the building revealed in trench 02. But this is basically the greatest thing I’ll ever find, and I should probably retire right now.

Greetings from Castle Craig. My name is Mackenzie Cory, a sophomore at the University of Wyoming, and it is my pleasure to be writing the blog update for day ten of the SERF project.  The weather was cool and a bit breezy when we arrived at the top of the towering hill that has become our place of both work and study.  During the afternoon we had a few sprinkles that always seemed to stop as soon as we put on our waterproofs
            Today at Castle Craig we opened up a new sew section in trench 6.  Within two hours of cleaning and excavation we uncovered what may or may not be a smaller exterior wall that could have been associated with the broch.  There are a great deal of “maybes” and “coulds” in the last sentence because so far we have only excavated a small portion of the area and have very little evidence to support any theories.  All we know for sure is that we have an unusually straight and level line of similarly shaped rocks and that generally means something. 
            Business continues as usual at the other three trenches.  Some members of the crew are sketching out the different contexts while others are cleaning and excavating.  Although the each day brings new experiences and finds to the members of the crew two things stay certain: every day we gain a better understanding of how the inhabitants of Castle Craig lived and there is always more to learn tomorrow.


How are you? How has your day been?  Today has been quite fun and lovely at SERF field-school. Because I and a couple of people signed up for ‘walkover survey’ for our portfolios, we went to the area around Baadhead farm and Rossie Law fort. If you do not know what ‘walkover survey’ is, it is one of the techniques archaeologists use to identify features in the landscape. It involves walking over the surface of the land in groups of people with the gap of certain meters from each other and advance through the landscape at a manageable speed to allow time for the identification of potential archaeological and/or historical importance. I chose walkover survey because it makes me feel like I am part of a crime investigative or search and rescue team. It is a pleasure to examine and explore the landscape and to record and draw those which are of archaeological importance. Since not many people signed up for this, there were only four of us who took advantage of the knowledge of our supervisor/ trainer hence, we inquired and further asked him. Today’s weather was not really pleasant. It was rainy, windy, and very wet. This made the area to which we surveyed very boggy. Further, there were so many manures all over the place as the area is a farm and pasture land. However, do not worry, do not be put off just because I have told you we practiced in a pasture land. I am sure there are differing places to do walkover survey depending on the research goal.

Spending time with the other three people today was also a great opportunity to get to know them and work with them. Drawing and recording the two features we thought should be of significance at the height of the rainy day is quite an experience! Also, doing the  toilet on the way was quite an experience which I shall never forget as it taught me not to drink too much water before walkover survey as you will tend to move away from civilization. On the positive side, this is one of the reasons why you should do walkover survey as it will take you to areas not occasionally visited by people. Consequently, we had a fantastic view over Rossie Law hill and had a break at a farmstead ruin which is irreplaceable! I hope I have convinced you about doing walkover survey sometime in the future! My advice would be to always have waterproofs and check weather forecasts. Moreover, be prepared to do the toilet in the middle of a field, hill, etc. ^-^

Warmest Regards,
Sophia C.

Hello everyone, it’s Zane who’s giving an update on Castle Craig today. It was great to get back up to the broch again after being away for two days (Mondays are our days off and yesterday was my turn to do a walkover survey).

A short step aside here: although there are many aspects and tricks to learn of excavation itself, we do and learn more than digging and recording here. Alongside the excavations as such, SERF is a credited fieldwork for students, so we also learn, for example, how to do topographic and standing building survey, data entry and processing into the database; we have fieldtrips and lectures on various aspects of archaeology. Tonight’s lecture was on conservation of different materials, for instance. Thanks to all the organizers and teachers!

Back to Castle Craig now. It was a really productive day today, and I saw a lot of smiley faces, despite the wind and Scottish mist which were really loyal companions of ours, not leaving us unattended even for a moment. Alex in the Trench Eight was our star today. She was the first one to get into her trench in the morning and two seconds later her excitement draw all of us around (most of us hadn’t even managed to set up for the work at that point!). Similar episodes repeated themselves over and over again all day long, adding to our small finds list a sherd of decorated Samian pottery, an animal bone fragment and a tooth, a wooden bowl-shape object with brass studs and others.

Meanwhile, quite a lot of photographs were taken, a plan and a section drawn (hinting that we have, at places, got quite deep down) – a rather slow, but at times tricky and very crucial recording work which has to be done in order to go farther and be able to reconstruct the trenches later on. Trench Eight is the only one where we still have not revealed the inner edge of the broch’s wall. Maybe tomorrow?

Also, we had some visitors at the Castle Craig today, including members from the Historic Scotland. As I said – a productive day! Let’s keep it up!

Hey Stuart here from Aberdeen University and I am part of the trench 2 team at Leadketty (the best trench)! Leadketty continues to reveal the secrets of the past with the exciting discovery of grooved ware pottery in trench 1. Trench 2 however, may be short on material culture finds but possesses some of the best features at Leadketty (quality over quantity!).  We currently have an excellent example of a Neolithic/ Early Bronze Age Henge. This is identified by the presence of a ring shaped ditch feature with an opening about half a metre wide as well as a circular feature inside.
The day started off rather overcast which was a welcome interruption from the scorcher we had last week. The banter of trench 2 was less intense than usual due to the fact that a couple of comrades had been enlisted to carry out a walkover survey at WesterKeltie. Nevertheless, the spirits of the strongest trench could not be broken and under the watchful and sympathetic eye of Professor Wrightwe eagerly continued excavating our features. I am really excited about my feature as this is my first archaeological excavation and I am curious to learn about what might have happened around the Henge monument. My feature consists of an outcrop of stones which cuts into the Henge Ditch. We are not entirely sure of its function but I am excited about excavating it as this will potentially reveal more about its purpose and will help towards understanding the site as a whole.
We had forgotten to carry out our daily routine of the ‘Trench Dance’ in the morning which wards off rain and evil spirits and is supposed to help us find things. Doing it in the afternoon when we remembered unfortunately did not ward off the torrential downpour and thunderstorm in the afternoon but it did help me to find a flint shard lying on the ground, my first find as an archaeologist!
Trench 2 has yet to reveal all of its secrets but patience is a virtue and the best trench team will be ready when it happens ;-)

The work at Leadketty in Trench 3 consisted only of cleaning today. All the people from Trench 1 came over to join us in the morning to get some moe of the topsoil off the trench surfsace using some hoes and mattocks. By eleven after a short hydration break, most of the the trench 1 guys returned and the few who stayed dissapeared after lunch. Leaving the regular guys behind. But in that time we all managed to get a huge amount of work done and most of the really annoying hard baked crust removed.
We finished up earlier today to go on a little “sightseeing” trip to the other trenches. One team is digging an impressive broch that seemed to have contact with the Romans, and at Dunning they’ve been digging alongsided St.Serfs church wall.