Issue 143

Newsletter – Issue 143, May 2003

Lectures

Nothing now until we start again on 15 October with Ian Suddaby on Ballyproir Beg, an Unenclosed Platform Settlement in Ireland.

Recent outings

1) Prestonpans
2) Borthwick Castle

Leith Excavation

The appeal for helpers to assist with the finds processing met with an excellent response, with no less than 12 members queuing up to come and sit in the middle of a building site and scrub bits of pottery. By working on two days per week, we were able to keep up with the supply of excavated objects and to take the load of recording them off the team of archaeologists. Our assistance was very much appreciated.

Castlehill, Penicuik

The good weather in April resulted in five successful ground resistance measuring days in which over 4500 readings were taken in metre squares and a considerable amount of timber was moved so that we had a clear run across the area. The plot of the readings shows a vague high resistance circle with a significantly lower resistance centre at the northeastern end. This aligns nicely with the circle drawn by Ainslie in the Castlehill plantation in the 1796 plan of the estates and confirms that there are some remnants of a structure existing. Some 85 metres to the southwest the still existing ditch that cuts right across the promontory appears, as expected, as a low resistance area with a considerable ‘high’ in the bank on the inner (N.E.) side and a more irregular ‘high’ in the outer bank. Both of these areas would seem to be candidates for excavation. Before doing so we will have, hopefully, a final session of resistivity, but this time, using the linear array to give a section view to a depth of 4 metres through both of these features. This is planned for Sunday, 25 May, and should be followed in June and July by the excavation. No date has yet been fixed for the start of the excavation.

Cobble Cottage field, Dalmeny Estate (from Dave Jones)

Our fieldwalking in 1997-99 in search of a possible shell midden observed from the air did not find a midden but did produce a variety of lithic artefacts comparable to those that emerged from the raised beach level during our dig in Cramond. The density of the lithics in some 20 by 20 metre squares suggest that there could be a ‘floor’ site in Dalmeny that matches the Cramond site (dated by carbonised hazelnut shells to about 10,000 B.P.), and this summer we will, at last, have look for it. Early Mesolithic excavations are distinctly specialised and we could have missed recognising features had we proceeded without expert cooperation. That cooperation is now in place and we will dig with the University of Edinburgh Department of Archaeology this summer.

Ground Resistance Measurement at Cramond (from Dave Jones)

The survey conducted beside the church hall and in the walled garden at the end of last year is now written up and printed and should be with Historic Scotland by the end of May. The area surveyed produced little that was identifiable other than the paths and tracks that were part of the early 20th century garden features. A linear array measurement within the walled garden failed to show anything except local geology suggesting that there were no solid vicus buildings that close to the fort. A further linear array measurement beside the church hall did show the two Roman ditches and wall quite clearly indicating that had anything existed down to 4 metres in the walled garden the array would have ‘seen’ it. The next area that we have permission from Historic Scotland to survey is the area to the east of Cramond House and Tower. Those who have purchased (or have borrowed form our library) a copy of Nick Holmes recently published ‘Excavation of Roman Sites at Cramond’ will note that his trench VII intersects a ditch that heads eastward in that area. It will be worthwhile seeing whether we can follow it to see where it leads and what it might enclose.

Cramond Campus

Prior to housing development on the site of the former Dunfermline College of Physical Education, further excavation will be undertaken by a professional unit in the near future. However, the contract has stipulated that there should be a voluntary participation element, and it is likely that our services may again be required to assist with the finds and possibly at open days. As there will be heavy machinery operating in the area, it is unlikely that we will be able to assist with the actual excavation.