Issue 149

Newsletter – Issue 149, July 2004

Visit to Haddington

A small band of masochists visited Haddington on 16th June, but our gloom was lifted by the warm welcome we received at St Mary’s Church, the largest church in Scotland. Though built in the Early Medieval Period it suffered a lot from the attentions of the English, but, after extensive reconstruction in the 16th century, it emerged like a phoenix out of the fire. Unfortunately events leading up to the Reformation left it a ruin until the dedication and energy of the people of Haddington restored it again in the last century. Even its fibreglass ribbed vaulting looks superb.
We then set off (in the rain) across the medieval Nungate Bridge with its iron hook to St Martin’s Church, the only remaining part of a medieval convent. Apart from the fact that it had no roof it is still in pretty good condition. Lastly we went to Haddington House. This attractive 17th century building, with a period garden around it, was the base of the Maitlands who played an important part in Scottish politics in the reign of Charles II. We tried to find where John Knox lived as a wee boy but no one we talked to knew where it was – and it was still raining…

Proposed Trip to Dreva Hill Fort on Saturday, 28th August

There will be a visit to this hill fort on Saturday, 28th August. Access is via a well-maintained stile, and then a short rocky walk on level ground. It has inner and outer ramparts of stone and the entrance has an interesting layout. To the south there is a chevaux de frise. An even more remarkable feature is that there are settlements to the north and the west containing round houses, round and rectangular enclosures and carefully laid pathways.
If anyone has enough energy after this we can go to the fort at Tinnis near Drumelzier. This is unusual in that a medieval castle was built on top of an Iron Age fort until someone who didn’t like the owner blew it up, leaving the Iron Age fort undamaged.

Excavation at Penicuik

Our second six month spell of investigation has now come to an end with the pheasant season due to start soon. Work has concentrated on excavation within the trench opened last year and on the stone revetting that curves round the NE end of the promontory overlooking Cornton.
The NE of the trench, which should underlie the ‘castle’ shown on the Ainslie plan of 1796, is composed of almost pure sand and has been confirmed by Mike Browne of British Geological Survey as natural and probably water-laid. This would have been under, or in the rear of, a glacier moving in the direction of Musselburgh some 14000 years ago!
A paved area was found in the SW end of the trench but, like other areas excavated, it produced no finds. The NE end of the trench has now been backfilled over the natural sands, conveniently removing a spoil heap on the south side where we could well excavate next year.
The revetting consists of a mass of stones on the N side of the promontory with a line of smaller stones curving up and round to the south but then increasing in size again and ending in a paved area on the south side of the trench. Robin has completed the E.D.M. topographical survey and this, when drawn, could make more sense of the layout.
The lack of finds means we still cannot date the site; the original idea of an early medieval motte and bailey is still possible but Iron Age or earlier – who knows? All will be revealed – maybe – restarting 6th February 2005.

Ground Resistance Survey in Dalmeny Village, 18-19 September

This survey is the EAFS contribution to Scottish Archaeology Month and will be published through the Council for Scottish Archaeology. These events attract a wide public interest and we need not only members to conduct the survey but also people to explain what is going on to the visitors, show printouts of previous surveys and answer questions. All members who would like to lend a hand please give me a ring.
The survey is being done in cooperation with John Lawson, the City of Edinburgh Archaeological Officer, who will be doing a topographical survey.
Historic Scotland are interested in, and are sponsoring us for, this survey, which should hopefully give some indications of the layout of the medieval village by detecting wall footings. Medieval pottery was found in an excavation last year at Wester Dalmeny Steading just to the west and the church with its Norman origins lies just to the east so there is every hope of finding something of interest.

Dig at Dalmeny

The spring barley has not yet been harvested and the Factor cannot yet give us a starting date. We will have to re-layout the field we walked in order to identify where the highest concentration of lithic finds were made. The Edinburgh University team will then join us (with wet sieving equipment that we do not have) and choose the sites for test pitting.

Survey in the Borders

This is still planned for September but no firm dates are available yet.

Survey at Cramond

The majority of the survey has been completed but the linear array measurements are still on hold. Dr Bruce Hobbs of the University of Edinburgh Geology and Geophysics Dept. has not yet been able to confirm a date for this final session but we will arrange it as soon as possible.

Ground Resistance Survey at Corstorphine

Everything is ready to go here. If Dalmeny is delayed we could do Corstorphine in mid-August otherwise it will follow the Dalmeny dig.

Ground Resistance Survey at Ingliston

A park and ride area is likely to be made at Ingliston and Robin Murdoch, wearing his professional archaeological hat, has become involved and has asked us to conduct an area survey. The survey, coupled with trenching (in which we would not be involved) would form the ‘watching brief’ before the site is developed. The survey is likely to take about five days with gaps in between but we don’t have any start dates fixed yet.

Traprain Law Excavations

Several members had the opportunity to participate in the recent excavations on the Iron Age hill fort on Traprain Law when Fraser Hunter of the National Museums of Scotland, Ian Armit of Queen’s University, Belfast, and CFA Archaeology Ltd were examining the effects of last autumn’s fire on the monument. The first coal jewellery workshop in Scotland was identified, when waste from cannel coal bangle-making was found in the Iron Age hill fort. Excavation of the medieval building, first identified following the 1996 fire, was completed. Also found were stone balls, a small piece of stone with an incised geometric design similar to rock art destroyed by the quarry, beads and pottery. As in previous years, people returned home with a suntan enhanced by the ash adhering to the sun cream!

Scottish Archaeology Month

Cramond Heritage Trust is running its SAM event on Saturday and Sunday, 18th and 19th September. Guided walks around Historical Cramond, the Riverside Iron Mills and Archaeological Cramond will take place each afternoon. Patrick Cave-Browne will be offering hands-on Ancient Technology. The Maltings Exhibition will also be open. Full details via the SAM website or via www.cramondheritagetrust.org.uk nearer the time.

Dates for your Diary

August (exact dates not known yet). Dalmeny dig.
Saturday, 28th August. Society outing to Dreva Hill Fort.
Saturday and Sunday, 18th-19th September. Dalmeny Village ground resistance survey, with City of Edinburgh Archaeological Service, as part of Scottish Archaeology Month.
September (exact dates not known yet). Eddleston survey.
Wednesday, 20th October. First Society lecture of the winter. Dr Anne Crone on Coming out of the Woodwork – Dendrochronological Work in Scotland.
Tuesday, 16th November. Society lecture. Trevor Cowie on Clues to the Past – The Eddleston Project.
Wednesday, 15th December. Society AGM followed by EAFS 2004 Projects Updates.