Issue 139

Newsletter – Issue 139, August 2002

Cramond Excavations (from Val Dean)

It’s finally happened – the EAFS site at Cramond has been backfilled, de-fenced and generally tidied up. It is rapidly disappearing beneath a forest of sprouting vegetation. Some of us have vivid memories of trying to clear enough space to lay out the first trench in 1988. Over the years, we have been extremely fortunate in having so many people willing to spend their leisure time digging out more than 250 cubic metres of earth and stones – and then putting it all back! And they also had to clean, number and bag all the bits of pottery, glass, iron and bones, etc. A heartfelt thank-you to all those people.
We are now assessing the 40,000 finds – minus the heaps of shells and pantile chunks which were counted, recorded and then reburied. A comprehensive catalogue has to be compiled, and specialists sought to report on the various finds categories. This will inevitably incur expense, leading to applications for grants, etc. A group of members is meeting at City Archaeologist’s premises on a regular basis to tackle this work.

Planned Outings

1) A Cremation Circle, Burnt Mound and Bastle House at Daer Reservoir
Tam Ward and his associates from the Biggar Museum Trust have been busy over the last six months excavating several sites on the high ground to the west of the Daer Reservoir. Amongst the finds have been an extremely well preserved cremation circle and a burnt mound, adding yet further to the plethora of Neolithic and Bronze Age material from this part of Lanarkshire. They have also uncovered a bastle house (a small fortified building associated with 16th century Border Reivers).
A visit has been arranged to this site above the Daer Reservoir for 1400 hrs on Sunday, 11th August.
2) East Coldoch Excavations
Dr D J Woolliscroft, a prominent excavator of Roman and Iron Age sites, will be investigating an Iron Age settlement in Stirlingshire in the near future. Arrangements have been made to visit the site at 1400 hrs on Friday, 23rd August.

Recent Outings

1) Trimontium
Members of the Society were given a guided walk round Melrose, Newstead and Trimontium by Donald Gordon on 8th June. There is little to see of the fort itself although its shear size with its annexes must have been impressive seeming to cover the whole landscape. It has all the features of the main assembly area that armies used as a springboard for invasions of the northeast. The most remarkable feature is the recently identified amphitheatre – the only one found in Scotland. It is quite small in Roman terms with only up to 2000 spectators and it is likely to have been used for training and ceremonial occasions – none of your gladiators here. After refreshments at Newstead we returned to Melrose.
2) Torwood Castle and Broch
On 13th July members of the Society visited the area of Torwood near Falkirk. We were privileged to have Falkirk District Archaeologist, Geoffe Bailley (to whom many thanks) with us as our mentor and guide.
Resistivity at Cramond
We have performed two ground resistance surveys at Cramond alongside and to the west of our last excavated Trench H. The permission to conduct geophysics in the Scheduled Monument area was implicit but not clearly defined in original correspondence with Historic Scotland but this has now been rectified. Four further areas appear worth examination and hopefully the results will add something to the understanding of the extent of the vicus to the east of the fort and to what might be in the extreme northwest corner of the fort itself.
Geophysics at Standingstone/Mainshill, East Lothian
The survey in the field at NT 5659 7325 duly took place over the weekend 25-46 May – in distinctly showery weather. Durham University had made a magnetometry survey of ten 20×20 metre squares with a partial survey of a further five.
East Bonhard – the end
Our two day dig on 22-23 June went some way to giving that explanation – it was all geological.
Trench 1 was eight metres long east west and a metre wide; it was laid out to cover the centre of the ‘tadpole’ cropmark and extended eastwards over a point that showed a resistivity high and a magnetic anomaly. The topsoil was a mere 30cm deep and the subsoil appeared to be a mixture of glacially deposited material. The western end of the trench, under the cropmark, consisted of a compacted sandy gravel, much better draining than the reddish and grey clays that formed the subsoil to the east – an explanation of the cropmark? Trench 2 was over a resistive and magnetic anomaly with no cropmark and it again showed shallow topsoil and glacially deposited subsoil with
a mixture of erratic boulders – the igneous ones could well be responsible for the magnetic anomaly.

SCOTTISH ARCHAEOLOGY MONTH (from Val Dean)

The Society will again be joining forces with Cramond Heritage Trust to offer activities at Cramond on Saturday, 21st and Sunday, 22nd September. As usual, there will be guided walks on various aspects of Cramond, Patrick Cave-Browne will run the ancient technology workshop, and a geophysical survey demonstration will be given. Full details will be on the website nearer the time: www.eafs.org.uk