Issue 168

May 2008

Society Activities

Nothing more now until Wednesday, 15th October when we have Helen Bradley on Adopt-a Monument.

Archaeomagnetic Dating at Castlehill, Penicuik

After being referred to us by David Connolly, Sarah-Jane Clelland, a PhD student at the University of Bradford, agreed to visit our site at Penicuik and to take samples of hearth areas for possible dating as part of her project. Sarah-Jane visited the site on Tuesday, 13th May and was able to sample two areas in trenches 1 and 2. The sampling consisted of inserting a series of small plastic capsules aligned to present-day magnetic north into the subsoil under the paving of the hearths. The samples hopefully have retained the direction of magnetic north after their last firing and can be checked with a magnetometer and assigned a date calculated from that alignment. This is possible as magnetic north moves by 0.2 of a degree per year, subject to some irregularities such as the Roman Iron Age where a deviation in magnetic north is referred to as the “Roman Hairpin”. Archaeomagnetic dating can go as far back as the late Bronze Age – about 1000 BC – so the estimated late Iron Age date assigned to the site by stone tool typology should fit in. It is not certain if the dating will work as the preferred substrata is clay rather than sand, but we should have results one way or the other in about two weeks.
Many thanks to Sarah-Jane for her assistance and we wish her well in her PhD project.


The final session at the castle/nunnery site took place on 3rd April when four 20 by 20m squares were ground resistance surveyed at the extreme southern side of the site. (Those taking part in the survey left at the end of the day feeling totally convinced that all the survey would show would be geology – now read on! Ed.)
Our first survey on this site took place on 23rd September 2006, and, in all, we have surveyed 10,800 sq. m. since then. It seems a long time since we started but we have also surveyed the Cousland pottery site and the two sites at Ogilface, near Armadale in the same period.
The surveys adjacent to the castle showed very few features, probably due to ground levels being changed by the excavation of limestone for burning in a kiln close by.
The survey of the final eight squares that lie in the field to the south of the castle field (completed on 3rd April) shows a large number of very clear, high resistance lines running approximately N-S and E-W that, by their alignment, suggest we might have found ecclesiastical buildings – it would be great if they turned out to be the nunnery which has been lost for a long time. A draft copy of our report on the survey is currently with David Connolly (who may have to organise a dig to determine what we have found).
Alongside the road to the south of Cousland lies Windmill Plantation. The O.S. name book from 1852 records that cist burials had previously been found on the site. In 1957 a farmer inserting fence posts also came upon burials some of which were excavated by Audrey Henshall and recorded in D.E.S. for that year. David is looking at the possibility of investigating this site further.
The pottery site field is sown with cereal which will not be harvested until Autumn so the completion of the ground resistance survey (and possible dig) will have to wait. Our thanks are due to David and the Cousland History Project for grant aid to cover our expenses on these sites.


Our dig at Castle Hill is now closed down for the season.

Cramond House East Park

In 2004 we ground resistance surveyed 9,200 sq. m. to the east of Cramond House with permission from the agents for Cramond and Harthill Trust and from Historic Scotland (as part of the site is within the Scheduled Monument area). In conjunction with this, some small areas were magnetometry surveyed by a student of Edinburgh University Geosciences Department.
A magnetometry survey over the full 9,200 sq. m. has always been our aim and weather permitting (and with renewed permissions obtained) this should have been completed by the time that this Newsletter is published. The twenty three 20 by 20m squares will be relayed out on Monday, 19th May and Peter Morris will walk the area with his Bartington Grad 601-1 fluxgate magnetometer the following day. Kilns, ovens or sites of metal working would only show up as high resistance areas, not differentiable from roads or paving, in the area resistance survey but they have a far greater magnetic signature. Comparison of the magnetic survey printout with that of the 2004 ground resistance results should be very interesting.


Plans are under way to excavate parts of the fort this summer. John Lawson, Edinburgh City Archaeologist, is setting up the project and the excavation will be directed by Martin Cook of AOC Archaeology Ltd. There will be a large community involvement, with input from students, schoolchildren and other volunteers. People will be required to assist with excavating, processing finds and giving site tours. The six-week excavation is expected to commence on 16th August. More details will appear in the next Newsletter.


Training in archaeological survey and recording methods is available through the Scotland’s Rural Past (SRP) project. This can be either to a group or society anywhere in Scotland. All the equipment is provided and, if necessary, accommodation arranged together with meals and transport. A small fee may be charged to cover travel etc but the main thrust of the training is gratis. It does not have to be all practical as courses are also provided in historical research. Where a society is concerned, the SRP team are prepared to travel to the home ground of that society to provide the training and for individuals they will arrange group training at the most suitable location for all concerned.
Where does Arran come into this? Well, a recent group training session took place in Arran over the period 16th thru 23rd March. Those attending came from various parts of Scotland – Dumfriesshire, Mull, Bute, Moray, Fife, West Lothian, Arran, Glasgow, and Aberdeenshire – to make up a group of only 11. The accommodation was at the National Trust for Scotland (NTS), Shore Lodge Training Camp, Brodick (in the grounds of Brodick Castle). Apart from the SRP team of three, we were joined, part time, by three more from the RCAHMS and two from the NTS – almost one-for-one training at times by professional archaeologists.
We covered training in the use of maps, aerial photography and historical documents. Site identification and interpretation of ruined farms, ancillary buildings and shielings took up the majority of the time with site sketching, photography and location by GPS to follow. Having completed the basic interpretation, detailed survey techniques were introduced including the use of the plane table/alidade, choice of scales and drawing conventions. The final task was the preparation of a Field Recording Form to be submitted to the RCAHMS for entry/update of CANMORE.

Brian Tait,
31st March 2008
(Views and opinions expressed in this Newsletter are not necessarily those of the Society, its Committee and Members, or the Editor).