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.

Monday 13 August 2012

For the first time during the SERF project began one week ago, the skies were cast over with grey clouds when we arrived at the foot of Castle Craig. The wind was crisp and no one had to slather on sun cream before “digging in”.

            At Trench Nine, the wonder Dr. Tessa Poller joined the usual four workers and, immediately, finds of all sorts began popping up. Beginning with some disintegrating bone and the enamel tooth caps from a pig, the finds began growing more and more interesting. There were a number of bronze fragments, folded, and parts used for casting. A small piece of silver was found and a Roman coin, barely recognizable from the small stone chips. Some lead weights were also found in
Trench Nine. Finally, we found some slag, changing the hypothesis that the walls we have found in the trench were from the guardhouse to a possible work area for metal workings.

            “On top”, the team found the inner and outer walls of the broch which they celebrated with a ritual cheer. The broch floor has also been completely revealed in Trench One.

            The day ended with the teams from all the sites of SERF field school having a tour of the work done at each site. Everyone was appropriately impressed with Castle Craig.

Hello out there, Hilary here! Yet another day of lovely weather for SERF.
Shall we have a little introduction to Dunning, where my team is? We are digging next to St Serf’s churchyard wall in hopes of finding an older boundary to the churchyard and possibly some dating evidence to tell us when it was constructed. Over that past few days we’ve been clearing off the modern junk that has accumulated over the recent years. In the upper rubbish we did find a few treasures in the form of two bullet shells, a 17th century coin, and some painted window glass.
Our potential Jacobite burned building quickly became a circa 1950’s coal shed when we realized we were digging up coal rather than charcoal. Today we finished recording the excavation of that feature and moved on to other things; a nice big pit with clay at the bottom for instance. From said clay we constructed a makeshift trench-deity during tea break.  

We also have several sondages (a trench within a trench) cut into the bank that abuts the churchyard wall; all of them are showing different features and there is consequently much head scratching going on.  But in the sondage I was digging I found a ditch-like feature than just keeps going down. We are hoping it is the older boundary we are searching for but more excavation is in order before we can be confident about that. Unfortunately tomorrow is my day to learn standing building and topographic surveying so I will be unable to continue to excavate my cool new feature. On the other hand, tomorrow I get to learn standing building and topographic survey!

I’m Chris, and I’d like to take the time to tell you about the goings-on at the site I’ve been working on at SERF over the last week! I’m a second year student of History and Archaeology at Glasgow, and this is my first excavation, so it’s been pretty exciting, and also a definite learning experience. Friday night was a heavy, heavy night, so 9AM Saturday morning archaeology at Leadketty was, it has to be said, the best way to clear fifty-odd hangovers.  Last night’s booze was replaced by thoughts of rings of postholes as we carried the tools to the three trenches through the bracing Perthshire morning, bright eyed and all fresh to a man.  Almost.
 The Leadketty site itself is a really interesting area – cropmarks had revealed to us the presence of what looked like several monumental circles, so trenches were opened up to investigate them. I’ve been working in Trench 1 (of 3, imaginatively named Trenches 1, 2 & 3), dug to investigate the presence of a possible timber circle, with four exciting huge postholes in the centre. Possibly a structure!  There are also a couple of medieval ploughstrikes. The other trenches also held postholes, and one of them, Trench 2 also contained an earthen circle, with a large, suspicious dark mark in the centre – it’s been affectionately named the Treasure Pit. Of course, Trench 2’s features are all clustered to one end, the other having a prehistoric stream running through it, so they say.
Starting off excavating a posthole after a brief warm-up Trench Dance to appease the twin deities of Leadketty (The Sunburn God, and the Irn Bru God, see picture below.), our Trench found possible Neolithic pottery within five minutes. Excitement mounted, as below this and amongst it was a layer of charcoal and charred bone. Just when we thought the Trench had no more to offer, another posthole revealed large sherds of Grooved Ware, the first found in six years work at SERF. The discovery moved seasoned archaeologists to dance for joy, creating, in a move that will live in infamy, the “Groovy Ware Dance,” which will not be dignified with further comment.
Trench 3 had already thrown up a beautiful example of a lithic the day before, close to the surface of one of its huge postholes. Today, once again it began to produce pottery, and even a piece of jasper, along with samples of charred bone and charcoal, just like Trench 1. Trench 2, for so long barren of finds had also thrown up a small sherd, but then again, the Treasure Pit is only just being opened. Who can tell what may lie within? With so much found so close to the surface of so few postholes, we can only guess what Leadketty is going to surprise us with.

I’m Greer, a nineteen year-old archaeology student from Glasgow University. I have loved being outdoors and looking at really old stuff for as long as I remember. And that’s what I’ve been doing today. I’m working in trench 1 of the Castle Craig excavation, an archaeological project which is part of SERF project, and which intends to assess the suitability of undertaking a total excavation of the site. So far this site is known to contain the remains of an Iron Age  broch, but also a later fortification around the edge of the hill thought to date from the twelfth century.
In trench 1, we finally reached the floor in the inside of the broch, thus completing a job that has occupied us since the beginning of the week. Reaching the floor of trench 1 was the highlight of my day but not our only accomplishment. We also extended the southern and western edges of our trench as a health and safety measure, because the previous edges were highly unstable and we needed to remove some of the weight of stones and earth from the top of them. These sides of the trench now have a stepped edge, which facilitates access and prevents any large stones falling on the heads of unfortunate diggers. We ended the day with new, safer edges of our trench and were finally able to lift the tarpaulin and contemplate the entirety of the bottom of the trench, which consists of the interior floor of the broch.
In the other areas of the excavation, progress was also made. Trench 9, on the southern side of the hill, extended their trench edges as well and the diggers there were able to conclude that the stones revealed over the last couple of days were indeed part of a wall. Trench 9 also revealed some interesting small finds, including a piece of Roman glass and a Roman melon bead. In Trench 6 the broch wall continued to be exposed, and half an iron knife was found next to one of the wall stones. Trench 8 continues to be a confusing jumble of loose stone and rubble, but today was drawn carefully by the people there, hopefully introducing some sanity into the madness.
Once in a while, I come to the end of a day and feel like I have finally finished a long, drawn-out job. Today was one of those days; after five days of mattocking, shovelling, bucket carrying, stone lifting and earth sieving, I came to the end of the road. I arrived at my destination. We reached the floor of the broch. From a wider perspective, the excavation at Castle Craig seems to be progressing happily and continues to challenge those involve with new questions every day. As structures are revealed and small finds appear amidst the dark earth, the mist is lifted and the picture clears every day.