Issue 140

Newsletter – Issue 140, September 2002


Our publication, Fast Castle Excavation, has been chosen as one of the finalists for the Pitt Rivers Award 2002. The winner(s) will be announced at the Presentation Ceremony at Liverpool Town Hall on Thursday, 7th November 2002.

Cramond Post Excavation

Much headway has been made with the cataloguing of the many finds, but there still remains a con-siderable quantity to be dealt with. We will again be working at the City Archaeology Department at Broughton Market during October. Once completed, the assemblage will be assessed to ascertain which categories of finds require which kind of specialist examination and report.

Edinburgh and East Lothian Archaeological Conference

The first conference, run jointly by Edinburgh and East Lothian at the Brunton Theatre on 7th September, was a considerable success in the quality of the archaeological papers presented and the number of attendees (at least 17 of whom were EAFS members).

Recent Outings

1) Daer Reservoir
The trip to Tam Ward’s excavation on 11th August was a bit of a disaster in that the weather was appalling. Tam and his volunteers were hidden under an ingenious plastic shelter trowelling away at the foundations of a bastle house. They have made considerable progress with the building and, though it was relatively small, it had walls on the ground floor that were at least 1 metre thick. The cobbles on the floor were well preserved and a wall ran through it. This would fit in with the pattern of cattle being stalled below while the farmer and his family lived above. At the western end there was a rectangular stone extension to the building but the nature of this is still under investigation. Also of interest was a midden containing vast quantities of pottery from the Late Medieval and Post-Medieval periods. Judging from these the farmer must have had a considerable amount of wealth.
Another feature of interest was one of the ubiquitous burnt mounds. Their high prevalence there could be due to prehistoric practices in the area, or the enthusiasm, sharp sightedness and skill of Tam in spotting them. Also in the area was a cremation circle consisting of a circular ditch with stones filling the whole of the enclosure. The site of the cremation has not been identified yet.

2) East Coldoch Homestead
On 23rd August members of the Society visited an excavation near East Coldoch Farm. The director was Dr Woolliscroft from the University of Manchester. He has been instrumental in establishing the importance of Roman installations in this area as a system for defending Southeast Scotland. Currently he is investigating native settlements for evidence of any interaction with the many Roman units that were in the area.
The homestead at East Coldoch consists of a timber round house 13 metres in diameter with walls of wattle and daub. A particular feature is that the roof caught fire so that there is a lot of material on the floor for analysis. Around the house there was a turf rampart held in place by timber posts on either side of it. Underneath one side of the rampart is a circle of stones with an empty cist for a child at the centre. Also running underneath is a larger rampart suggesting an earlier settlement. At an interface between earlier and later ramparts there are some features that may be the remains of an earlier house.

Resistivity at Pittencrieff

Our endeavours to complete the survey in Pittencrieff Park have been frustrated due to choosing days on which it rained continuously – so it was at the end of August. However on 3rd September the sun shone and with our new equipment we romped through over 1400 sq. metres. Despite being away early in the week Ian produced the printout within 24 hours of receiving the data. More high resistivity lines (walls?) run north-south and disappear of the edge of the plot so it looks as though we must set up one more visit to confirm where they go.

Gilmerton Cove Excavations

We were invited to join an excavation at Gilmerton by Tim Neighbour who offered the bait that the preliminary investigation was being done with ground penetrating radar.
The cove is a network of passages and rooms cut into the carboniferous sandstone – adjacent to limestone and coal seams that have all been worked – it was reputedly made by a blacksmith, George Paterson, in 1724.
Bruce Hobbs, who else, conducted the radar survey and produced an apparent anomaly some metres along the main passageway which we excavated and found a vertical shaft filled with earth and rubble. Whether it was a well, as reputed, or just for drainage is far from clear. The intriguing thing is that there is a circular hole cut immediately above the ‘well’ now sealed with concrete – but it does indicate that the ‘well’ was cut before the passageway.

Proposed investigation at Penicuik

We have been invited to survey a possible castle-motte site to the west of Penicuik. It stands on a very defensible position at the end of a small ridge that could have had protective ditches cut across it. No record exists in RCAHMS so it will be a matter of topographic survey to plot the major humps and bumps followed by resistivity to see if this reveals anything in the bumps and then selective digs. Starting hopefully early next year.