Issue 159

Newsletter – Issue 159, August 2006

Outings

i) Cammo
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.

Lectures

We start again on Wednesday, 18th October with Ian Paterson on The Demise of Knossos: A Stratigraphical Problem.

Castlehill, Penicuik

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.

Dalemeny Estate

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.

Luggate, Cousland and Newbyres Castle

The latest information from David Connolly is as follows (the listed order is likely to be the order in which the projects are tackled):-
At Luggate Church, Whittingehame the irregular area that has been defined for resistance survey is S of Luggate but N of the Luggate Burn and appears to require about 70 survey squares. The field is under crop that should be harvested mid to late September. If we started in mid September it is unlikely that the area would be completed before end October. We will have to wait to see what David’s priorities are – these could possibly be influenced by the initial results.
Cousland Nunnery is “hoped to be open and ready at the end of September/October”. The main area to the S of the Castle/Nunnery is of the order of 15 survey squares and could thus be done in two days. To the S of this is a slightly larger field area that may include the medieval village.
Newbyres Castle grounds are apparently rather overgrown and the area is due to be cleared by a local group – but not until October/November. The dimensions of the site are about 60 by 60m but tapering to the S end. It looks like just one days work but David is also asking for a topographical survey.

Traprain

A number of Society members were privileged to take part in the excavation on Traprain Law carried out in June by the NMS under the direction of Dr Fraser Hunter. This, the latest of a series of digs carried out in fire-damaged areas, concentrated on two Iron Age buildings, one above the S-facing slope, the other on the W. The first, opened up last year, is a rectangular structure, aligned parallel to the contours, that occupies a platform partly cut into bedrock. Near the E end of the building was a stone-built hearth. Midden material yielded numerous finds, including many sherds representing several vessels. A glass bead, of late Roman date, may not be in context. The most intriguing find was a cache of 74 cattle teeth that had been secreted in a rock niche. The second building was similar in structure and setting but yielded little in the way of finds. The site had suffered severely from the activities of rabbits.

Carriden Watermill

Work has now commenced with Geoff Bailey on the former water-powered sawmill in the stable block at Carriden (until 12th August). Early indications, after a severe session of ground clearance and the discovery of at least two nests of small but aggressive wasps, are that the site shows great promise. Sadly the wasps now have an uncertain future (if the foam spray we are going to use works). The wheel pit and the very large water wheel are now visible and the base of a retaining wall and a possible hearth area have been uncovered along with a number of metal finds. It appears that the site will be an excellent opportunity for some good quality industrial archaeology.

DATES FOR YOUR DIARY

Thursday, 10th August. Start of Dalmeny dig with Edinburgh University.
Saturday, 26th August. Members outing to Torphichen and Cairnpapple (see above).
Saturday, 2nd September. EAFS contribution to SAM – Kittochside – 10.30am till 4 pm.
September & October weekends. Luggate et al surveys.
Wednesday, 20th September. Public lecture by Magnus Magnusson – The Vikings and Scotland: The Northern World and its Significance for Scotland. Royal Museum, Lothian Street, 5.30pm, tickets required, 0131 240 5000 or www.royalsoced.org.uk or events@royalsoced.org.uk.
Thursday 21st – Friday 22 September. Conference The Vikings and Scotland: Impact and Influence. Details as above.
Till 24th September. Van Gogh and Britain: Pioneer Collections at Dean Gallery.
Saturday, 30th September. Borders Archaeological Forum (see above).
Wednesday, 18th October. Society lecture – Ian Paterson on The Demise of Knossos – A Stratigraphical Problem.
Till 5th November. Royal Museum, Chambers Street exhibition – Beyond the Palace Walls, Islamic Art from The State Heritage Museum.
3rd-5th November. Understanding Hadrian’s Wall – Arbeia Society and others, conference to mark publication of 14th edition of Handbook to the Roman Wall.

Editor’s Miscellany

There is a pleasant hill walk from Peebles to Broughton called the John Buchan Way. Although you may not want to walk all of it there are a couple of places on it which are worth a visit in their own right. The first is Stobo Kirk on the B712 from Peebles to Broughton. This has a stained glass window (modern) of Merlin and a fascinating lot of grave stones with unusual carvings, For someone wanting a bit of exercise there are two hill forts (NT 230375 and NT 224370) on Cademuir Hill overlooking Peebles (they are reached more easily from the back road connecting Manor Water and Peebles, parking near Cademuir farm). The larger one has easily seen traces of at least 30 timber-framed houses, well-defined ramparts etc. The smaller one (nearer to Manor Water) is only ½ a mile away and is more interesting. It has traces of timber-framed buildings as well but it has a much more substantial defences, subsidiary enclosures and a very good set of chevaux de frise (possibly better than Dreva) – worth a wander round on a pleasant summers day.

Editor, Brian Tait
4th August 2006