Issue 153

Newsletter – Issue 153, May 2005


Members will be pleased to know that the vacancy on the Committee has been filled. Colin Wallace has accepted an invitation to join the Committee where his experience will be of great use to all.
Lin Wilkinson and Colin have become joint librarians and will be persuading members who attend our lectures at Fettes Row to make more use of our extensive library.

Outing to St Mary’s and Abercorn Churches

On Friday, 20th April seven of us visited two churches of historical interest. The first of these was constructed in South Queensferry as part of the Carmelite Priory of St Mary the Virgin. It was funded by the Dundas family in the 15th century. The nave and priory buildings have gone and extensive renovations were made about two years ago. Apart from this the fabric is more or less as it was when it was built. Features of interest are a chancel and south transept with barrel roof and an aumbry, piscina and sedilium set into the walls of the chancel. There is a low but large tower that must originally have contained a considerable amount of accommodation linked to the priory. All in all it must be one of the best-preserved churches of its kind in Scotland.
The main feature of interest at Abercorn was a collection of cross slabs and hog backed gravestones. The former date to the 7th century when the Northumbrians extended their influence to Lothian and established Bishop Trumwein at Abercorn. He had a short incumbency since the victory of the Picts over the Northumbrians at Nechtansmere forced him to flee. The hog backed stones are of Norse design and date to the 10th and 11th century. It is unlikely that the site was occupied by the Norse and more likely that the design was copied by the local populace.

Two Forts and a Souterrain

On Wednesday, 15th June we plan a trip to two local forts – Castle Law and Braidwood.
Castle Law is surrounded by three well-defined ramparts, but its main attraction is that it is linked to a souterrain. This has been reconstructed so that it is possible to explore its passages just as the Votadini did 2000 years ago. To get there leave Edinburgh on the A720 towards Biggar but turn right at a sign to the fort about two miles beyond Hillend. There is a car park close to the site.
Braidwood is a settlement that also has multiple ramparts but inside there is a trench that represents an earlier palisade. To get there go further down the A720 and turn into a small car park (large lay-by) on the right about ½ mile beyond Silverburn where there is a right of way sign. We shall then walk a short distance up a farm track and up a slope to the left to reach the settlement.
We plan to meet at the Castle Law car park at 2.00pm.

Early Technology Workshop for Members

Patrick Cave-Browne is going to hold an early technology workshop for members on Friday, 17th June.

Visit to St Kilda in June

It is hoped to arrange a visit to St Kilda for 4-5 days, to and from Tobermory, spending at least two full days on the island, provisionally leaving pm Saturday, 18th June and returning am Wednesday, 22nd June. The vessel would be the ‘Elizabeth G’ which takes National Trust parties out every fortnight during the summer. In between work parties it is available for charter, and owing to a cancellation, it is available at relatively short notice. Target cost – not more than £400 per person.

CSA Scottish Archaeology Fair Perth City Hall, 30th April 2005

Four EAFS members attended the CSA Fair on Saturday, 30th April. The EAFS table had a regular stream of visitors and a lot of leaflets were handed out. There was some interest from potential new members and we also had questions from present and future archaeology students about participation in excavations to gain practical experience. The Fair was well attended, other attractions including the Antonine Guard displays, Trimontium Trust, Scottish Crannog Centre and RCAHMS.

Historic Scotland/AOC Archaeology excavations at Auldhame

AOC are currently excavating an early Christian/mediaeval cemetery site threatened by ploughing at Auldhame Farm south of Tantallon on a small promontory. The site is close to the cliff edge and is enclosed by a ditch. Foundations of a chapel, possibly linked with St Baldred who lived in a hermitage on the Bass Rock, showing two distinct construction phases and a possible third phase have been uncovered. Some 200 inhumations have been located around the church in various alignments including one crouched burial associated with Iron Age pottery. We were invited to assist with the excavation on Saturday, 21st May 2005, Seven EAFS members attended and following a brief intro we were asked to clean the area surrounding a long cist. This proved to be extremely disturbed, as the long cist had been inserted through the earlier burials. Many fragments of bone were located, mostly disarticulated. Unfortunately at lunchtime the weather intervened and quickly rendered the site unworkable, but there is a possibility we may be able to go back again on various dates in June.


The next Shorewatch date is provisionally Tuesday, 12th July.

Excavation at Castlehill, Penicuik

There has been much activity at Penicuik since the last report when we had only got as far as removing dead wood and blue polythene covers, and taking EDM measurements on the NE face of the hill.
The wood removal allowed us to survey, using the ground resistance equipment, two 20 by 20 metre squares, albeit one square was rather curtailed by the sharp drop down to the burn.
The ‘lip’, that is an alteration of the angle of the slope down towards the cottages at Corton and was thought to be defensive, showed no high resistance – that guess proved to be wrong. However a N-S linear low resistance line crosses both squares and then turns at a right angle to the east. It appears that we will have to put in a small trench across it to try to find out what it is. It is roughly parallel to, but not collinear with, what appears to be a field wall on the Ainslie map. If our plan scaling was wrong it could be collinear and the low resistance might be a robbed out wall.
The Trench 1 paved area with curbs has been half sectioned and more cleaning up and drawing has been done. The paving that appeared in the revetment on the south side of Trench 1 has been further excavated and has become Trench 2. The extension of the area has brought to light another paved area with side curbs similar to that in Trench 1.
A start has been made to two further trenches. Trench 3 crosses the inner bank at the SW end of the site and Trench 4 is over an isolated high resistance that lies between Trenches 1 and 2. There are still no finds to give us any clue to the date when the paved areas were constructed.
On removing the topsoil from the top of the bank in Trench 3 we are in to a sandier soil with larger, more angular stones than the pebbles in the topsoil. A lot more excavation is needed before we can see a cross section of the bank to compare with the resistive linear array measurement made along that line. It could be that we have a wall running along the top of the bank but it might be more complicated than just one wall.
Trench 4 is producing almost pure sand below the topsoil so the source of the high resistance could be geological. Dry sand, and this area dries out very quickly, is a very poor conductor of electricity.
Digging continues every Sunday, meeting at the entrance to the estate at 10.15 am.

Dates for your Diary

Saturday, 11th June. Peeblesshire Archaeological Society outing to Buried Treasure Exhibition in Newcastle.
Wednesday, 15th June. Members outing to Castle Law and Braidwood.
Friday, 17th June. Early technology workshop for EAFS members.
Saturday, 18th June – Wednesday, 22nd June. Possible members trip to St Kilda.
Tuesday, 12th July. Next Shorewatch date (provisional).
Thursday, 25th July. Last date for contributions from members for inclusion in the end July Newsletter to be received by Newsletter editor.
Saturday, 3rd and Sunday, 4th September. CSA Archaeology Month – EAFS ‘open’ weekend at Cramond (dates to be finalised).
Saturday, 10th September. Edinburgh and East Lothian Archaeology Conference
Saturday, 1st October. CSA AGM at Melrose.