Issue 141

Newsletter – Issue 141, January 2003

Pitt Rivers Award 2002

Following on the Stop Press announcement in the last Newsletter that we had been chosen to be one of the four finalists, members will be aware from our Annual Report that the Society was in fact the winner of the Pitt Rivers Award 2002 for the publication Fast Castle Excavations 1971-1986, by Keith L Mitchell, K Robin Murdoch and John Ward. At the British Archaeological Awards Presentation Ceremony at Liverpool Town Hall on 7th November last, in the presence of Lord Montagu of Beaulieu and the Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Sir Neil Cossons of English Heritage presented the award (an inscribed stoneware plate, certificate and cheque) to Keith Mitchell and Hugh Dinwoodie on behalf of the Society. Denis Smith also attended in support. The publication was described in the citation as ‘academically valuable’ and in the literature handed out as ‘an excavation report of which the Society can be rightly proud. It will be a lasting contribution to Scottish archaeology.’

Hugh Dinwoodie clutching the cheque, Keith Mitchell with the certificate and Denis Smith with the trophy

On Saturday, 15th February the Society will be fieldwalking the area surrounding the Iron/Bronze Age fort/settlement of Blackchester, 2 miles NNW of Lauder (map reference NT508504 and Feachem’s Guide to Prehistoric Scotland, p113 of 1992 reprint).

The Penicuik Project

Arrangements are progressing (hopefully) for a start in February/March for a survey within Castle Hill Plantation at Penicuik. The Royal Commission has no record of this site so nothing is known about its use or date. It is possible that it was the site of a motte and bailey and, if so, it could date from the early 13th century. The naturally defensible position and a ditch cut across the only possible approach certainly suggest something of this early date. After a topographic survey we will probably do some ground resistance measurement before some test pit excavations.

Ground Resistance Measurement at Pittencrieff

Since the issue of the last Newsletter we have hopefully completed the survey in Pittencrieff Park. Our efforts on 29th October were aborted due to rain all day but 3rd December was fine, and four 20 by 20 metre squares were surveyed. It had rained quite heavily on the previous day and part of the area surveyed, adjacent to some interesting high resistance patches recorded previously, was somewhat soggy but resistance contrasts were still clear even in the waterlogged areas.
Squares to the north and south of the previously surveyed area give some east-west high resistances that complete a rough rectangular high resistance shape albeit with ‘bumps’ at the north and south ends. This is the nearest we have to matching the parch marks shown in the original aerial photographs.

Newhailes Water Garden

A century ago the estate of Newhailes had a magnificent water garden with streams and glades intermixing with plants, trees and small bridges. Since then a drop in the water table due to mine workings has drained the ponds. There has also been a long period of neglect and the site has become covered in undergrowth and trees.
Abigail Daly, the local National Trust archaeologist, is currently working to define the more permanent structures of the gardens in order to give a more clear idea of their original appearance. The next stage, funds permitting, will be to attempt a limited reconstruction of the site.

Lithics from Dalmeny

On looking back through previous Newsletters I find that Dalmeny fieldwalking and lithics appear first in Issue 116 precisely five years ago. It seems a long time, but possibly not that great in comparison with the 10,000 years since the lithics, and the comparable ones from Cramond, were struck. The lithics, hammer stones and quartz are all currently in for study in far greater detail than they have been in the past five years.
A joint project has been proposed between EAFS and the Edinburgh University Archaeology Department that will involve survey, more fieldwalking and test pitting – but not until after the present crop of winter wheat has been harvested.

Cramond Geophysical Survey

We have permission from Historic Scotland, because the Scheduled Monument area around Cramond is quite large, and from the City of Edinburgh Council as the landowners, to survey four areas around Cramond. The first two of these, within and just to the north of the walled garden, were first surveyed in September last year. The results, when printed out, show many features that align with Victorian garden paths shown on the 1893 map, but nothing that looks Roman. Was there nothing Roman to find or is anything Roman deeper than the 0.5 to 0.75 metres that the survey recorded?
With the cooperation of Dr Bruce Hobbs of the Department of Geology and Geophysics of Edinburgh University two resistance linear array measurements were made in December, which clarified the situation.
A transect across the walled garden showed only geological features down to a depth of 3.5 metres so in this area there appears to be nothing other than the Victorian paths – maybe the Roman vicus buildings were all wooden and are undetectable. Between the garden and the church hall again nothing was visible until the line was extended to the northwest and the fort ditches appeared – apparently dug to a depth of at least 4 metres.