Newsletter – Issue 159, August 2006
We visited this ancient estate south of Cramond on 27th June. It was developed by the eminent horticulturalist, arboriculturalist and agriculturist Sir John Clerk in the late 17th century prior to him inheriting his father’s estate at Penicuik. Many of the features on display in Penicuik were developed here and the estate is of particular interest to those interested in the evolution of estate management in Scotland. Like Mavisbank it has a water feature, but the banks are badly eroded and much work remains to be done to restore it to its former glory. Other features of note were a standing stone, a water tank built as a round tower and the rather spooky ruins of the ‘big house’ burnt down in the last century. We are very grateful to Hamish Bell, the ranger, for the time he spent in making this such an informative and enjoyable afternoon.
ii) Outing to Torphichen and Cairnpapple
We shall be visiting these two particularly interesting monuments in West Lothian on Saturday, 26th August starting at 2.00pm. The first monument, Torphichen Preceptory, was the monastic centre of the Knights of St John, a warrior order that was involved in the care of pilgrims and fighting Saracens in the Holy Land. The tower and transepts of the church and the footings of the priory are still extant. It is a relief to say that it has NO connections with the Holy Grail – so far! We shall then be driving to Cairnpapple, a henge which contains burials that was developed over several millennia. Reconstruction after an excavation means that it provides a particularly vivid impression of its evolution. Visiting involves a short walk up a hill and visitors should wear a stout pair of shoes.
We start again on Wednesday, 18th October with Ian Paterson on The Demise of Knossos: A Stratigraphical Problem.
The digging season finished with a final session on 16th July which concentrated on Trench 3 on the inner bank at the SW end of the site. The southern side of this trench contains a lot of sandstone, possibly collapsed or partly robbed out walling of unknown date, but nothing to match the stone packing round a possible post hole which was found on the N side of the trench. A one metre wide section has been cut on this N side down into the ditch between the inner and outer banks. Having reached a fine sandy gravel the thought was that we were down to the natural but, just in case this was downwash from the banks, we went a little deeper. A one by half metre sonde, half a metre deep, appears to have a sandstone paved bottom, but not enough is yet exposed for us to be sure. From the top of the inner bank to the paving we measured a vertical difference of 2.45m; this compares well with the printout from the resistive linear array measurement that was made in 2003 along the line of the N edge of Trench 3, which shows a small rise in resistance under the centre of the ditch. The measurement taken from the linear array print from this resistance to the top of the bank is about 2.5m.
An ever interested and tolerant Sir Robert Clerk has said that we can return for our fifth season in February 2007 so we should be able to find out what is at the bottom of that ditch – in February of course it could be snow. Once again we record our thanks to Sir Robert.
The guess that the oil seed rape crop might be harvested early was correct and the Farm Manager has given a date of Thursday, 10th August when the field will be clear and available to us. We are likely to work Thursday and Friday, take the weekend off and then work ten consecutive days. The first Thursday is an early start for us as we have to relayout the 20 by 20m grid before the Edinburgh University squad can start to do anything. The square L12, in which the highest concentration of lithics was found, is 60m from our baseline and at the River Almond end of the field so there is a lot of triangulation to do before we dig. Our lithic fieldwalking finds from 1997 and 1999 were assessed by Dr Catriona Pickard and with her particular Mesolithic experience she will supervise the project.
Ground Resistance at Chapelgill Burn
Tam Ward has been excavating at Chapelgill in Glenholm south of Broughton. The site appears to be a late medieval farm – buildings, enclosures and sheep buchts but no main farm building yet. To date four buildings have been investigated. One of these had plastered walls and ceilings, with large ceiling fragments on a floor of packed or puddle clay. A second building had an area of high quality cobbled flooring while a third was a byre with a gruip and well paved floor. Midden deposits have yielded large quantities of glass from wine bottles, medicine phials and window panes. Abundant potsherds and iron objects have also been recovered but none of the artefacts can be dated to earlier than the beginning of the 18th C. although records show that the site was occupied from the 15th C.
Tam’s request to us was to survey an embanked enclosure that lay just up the slope from the excavation sites. The eight 20 by 20m squares surveyed on 22nd July show the bank as a very high resistance suggesting it includes a stone wall. Within the enclosure there are linear high resistances that, in the printout, suggest a group of buildings. After the survey was made, Jill was in West Register House and found an estate map showing farm buildings within the enclosure apparently round a central yard! Trenches have since been cut across the most promising anomalies but no archaeology was found – the very dry ground may have caused problems for the ground resistance measurement.