Issue 154

Newsletter – Issue 154, July 2005

Castle Law and Braidwood

Three of us visited Castle Law and Braidwood, two Iron Age sites on the southwest side of the Pentlands.
Castle Law is a standard medium sized fort surrounded by well-preserved ramparts and ditches.  It was probably built around the middle of the first millennium BC.  There are no hut circles inside, and as with many other forts this raises the question as to whether it functioned as a market or a meeting place with the walls giving added status to a tribal centre.  Although there are no signs of habitations, a souterrain has been built into the ramparts of the fort.  This has been excavated and restored and there is a layer of concrete between the walls and the roof making life a lot easier for those of us with stiff backs.  Half way along the passage there is a low entrance into a round chamber which has a low roof and is not for the claustrophobic.  The souterrain was probably used for storage and in this case there is no evidence that it was linked to a round house.
Braidwood is an example of the evolution of forts and settlements.  There are sections of a palisade trench that originally circled the site.  Inside there are a large number of well-defined ring ditch huts that were probably built and rebuilt over a long period.  At the time the site was abandoned the occupants had started to build a bank and ditch around it but this was never completed.  An early supposition was that this happened when they saw the Romans marching up the road but as the settlement dates to around the 2nd century BC this can be rejected and a more likely cause for moving may have been a crop failure in the area
Further outing to Roxburgh Castle – if at first you don’t succeed –
Earlier in the year two of us spent an interesting afternoon at Roxburgh Castle and found many tantalising remains of a castle that played a major part in the warfare between England and Scotland.  The Society Committee felt that members should be given another opportunity to visit the castle when the weather was likely to be more clement.  In view of this a visit has been arranged for 2.00pm on Thursday, 11th August.  To get there drive through Kelso on to the A698 and then immediately turn right on to the A699.  Travel along this road for just under a mile until you come upon the castle on the left hand side.  This appears as a long mound and the only parking is on the verge of the road.

Excavation at Castlehill, Penicuik

By the time this Newsletter is distributed our third season at Penicuik will be over, but, having found nothing in the previous two years to give us an idea of the date of the paving found, we can
now say Iron Age.  Two nicely rounded stone cobbles have come out of Trench 2, both with ends ground to a ‘V’ profile by being rubbed on something such as a saddle quern.  We will be getting further opinions on these artifacts.  The comments to date are that they look ‘later rather than earlier’ and from David Connolly, the Midlothian Archaeologist who visited the site on 3rd July, that the first of the two finds ‘is very similar to one found in a late Iron Age broch in Orkney!’
We have four very dark soil samples that may relate to hearths and these will have to go for analysis to see whether they appear to be domestic (pollen, seeds and charcoal) or possibly slag indicating some sort of metalworking.
Trench 3 across the inner bank at the SW end of the site requires a lot more work to section and the decision was taken not to proceed further this year due to the likelihood of a trench collapse during the winter.
Trench 4’s high resistance proved to be due to an area of well draining sand and has been backfilled.

Scottish Archaeology Month

Cramond Heritage Trust will be joining EAFS by holding SAM events on Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th September from 2pm till 5pm.  There will be two guided walks each day – one to the riverside iron mills and the other around the archaeology of the area.  Patrick Cave-Browne will hold an ancient technology workshop on the Saturday, and EAFS itself will be doing a ground resistance survey, as mentioned above.  The Trust’s exhibition will be open each afternoon. Full details will be available nearer the time on

Autumn Geophysical Programme

Four ground resistance surveys, one hopefully augmented by working with Edinburgh University Department of Geology and Geophysics to add a magnetometry survey, will be fitted into the next five months.

The Roman fort angles across the piece of ground that lies just to the north of Kirk Cramond, the small road that runs in to the Tower and the church hall.
Some small excavations were made by the Raes close to the Glebe Road wall and another across the line of the fort wall about 40 metres away.  The remainder to the west of the early EAFS trenches has never been surveyed and although it may be very disturbed by ‘operations instigated by the lairds of Cramond House’ it is however worth surveying.  This will be done over the weekend 3rd – 4th September as our contribution to Scottish Archaeology Month.
Cramond Tower
The owner found a Roman ditch when he excavated a garden pond adjacent to the Tower.  He has given permission for us to use a ground resistance survey to see whether the ditch proceeds to curve to the east aligning with the ditch, found in the 2004 survey to the east of Cramond House, that runs along the edge of the old raised beach.
To the north of Lauriston Castle grounds and to the east of the road to Cramond lies the reputed Roman cemetery.  John Wood in his 1794 book on Cramond writes of ‘a large sepulchre of flat stones’ on the site, adding ‘this monument is now completely destroyed’.  We will see what we can find and if the University Geology and Geophysics Department join us with magnetometry it could help find cremation burials.
The original plan was to ground resistance survey the site of Hoptoun Tower but the farmer has currently dumped material on the site and that prevents this taking place.  Trevor Cowie is looking at the possibility of a survey over another demolished tower house.
Edinburgh & East Lothian Archaeology Conference

This conference is being held on 10th September at the Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh. Tickets (£15, concessions £10) available on the day or by phoning the Brunton Theatre on 0131 665 2240 or via their website


During the period from 25th May until the end of the excavation on 15th July members of the Society jointly contributed almost 100 working days to this dig.  During this period the ‘body count’ rose from 160 to a final total of 260, largely as a result of the efforts of Society members.  Most of the bodies, adults, juveniles and neonatals, had been tightly swaddled and placed in shallow graves that commonly intersected earlier graves.  There were a number of cist burials on the site and a few coffins.  A few graves were marked by a thin spread of beach pebbles or of shell sand.
An examination of the stones used in the construction of the three phases of the chapel buildings and of the cists established that, with only a few exceptions, all the building materials – red and white sandstone and a few well rounded boulders of basic igneous rocks – could have been sourced on the nearby beach, in particular in the area NE of the ruined Seacliff House.  In this area of the beach there are also banks of shingle containing pebbles having a similar range of compositions to those found on the site, spreads of shell sand and a scattering of large rounded boulders of igneous rock types.
There can be little doubt regarding the importance of the site and EAFS members and the volunteers from other groups felt greatly privileged to have been invited to participate in its excavation.