Our first lecture of the 2008/09 winter season is on Wednesday, 15th October when we have Helen Bradley on Adopt-a-Monument – 7.30pm at 23a Fettes Row.
Excavations at Cramond Roman Fort
Excavations are now well under way at Cramond under the direction of Martin Cook of AOC Archaeology. These have been very well supported by EAFS members throughout. After removal of the marker setts and gravel, and initial machining to remove the overburden, re-excavation and cleaning of A & V Rae’s trenches of Room B and part of Room A has proceeded well. In Room B (nearer the church) it was found that the Rae’s had excavated to well below Roman floor levels but the surprise here was the discovery of a small quantity of lithics, including flint and chert blades and cores. Roman finds were sparse except from the adjacent Via Principalis, where some pottery was recovered, and the W end where a stamped mortarium handle and a small bronze scent urn were found. There was also part of a bread oven in this area. The tank in the floor of the W doorway was re-excavated.
The areas of Room A excavated had not been dug to similar levels, resulting in the recovery of significant quantities of Roman material, including stamped samian ware. A further stone-lined box was found set into the floor and its contents have been sampled. A series of small hearths, one with a small scrap of lead, were also found. A major find was an iron knife blade.
Part of the East Granary was machine excavated with no trace of Roman structures, although a large amount of disarticulated human bone came to light, indicating a possible medieval or earlier burial site. Excavation is ongoing and has revealed a possible stone-flagged floor. Some remains of Cramond House stables comprising stalls and a cobbled surface were also uncovered.
The excavation is now in its final phase and will continue until Sunday, 28th September. Following completion of the excavation there will be large quantities of finds to be processed. It is intended that finds washing will be carried out at the Maltings, Riverside, Cramond at times to be arranged.
As reported in the last Newsletter the dig season is now completed but there are three related items that are worth recording.
Firstly we now have the result of the C14 dating of the charcoal that was in the lens of the dark sandy material overlying the hearth in Trench 2. The radiocarbon age is quoted as ‘BP’ where ‘before present’ is defined as prior to 1950. The date given by the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre is 2150±30; the error figure is at a confidence level of one sigma. Using the Oxford Radiocarbon calibration programme, which has some peculiar peaks in the Iron Age, gives a wider spread of dates with the two main peaks at about 350 and 200 B.C.
Fraser Hunter suggested that the stone tools found close by were late Iron Age; we await his comments on whether the site might span 400 years or whether the tools might be earlier.
Secondly, a soil sample taken from beside the Trench 2 hearth at the end of the season is now being wet sieved, courtesy of AOC. This sample was dark/sandy and could contain charcoal and burnt bone. We await the sieving report and must then decide what action is required.
We did not expect to return to Ogilface but the report that the dig, by Armadale Academy, some years ago, had uncovered steps leading downwards had left us wondering whether they had been detected in the resistance survey. The area survey we carried out would not indicate that a particular patch of raised resistance headed down. With the cooperation of Dr Peter Morris using his resistive linear array, that does indicate depth, a transect was made across the middle of the ‘tower’ outline shown in the area resistive survey. The printout of the section showed a high resistance angled downwards but apparently going nowhere.
A possible interpretation is that the high resistance square detected in the area survey is the outline of a tower house that had a semi-basement room into which the steps led. Cramond Tower is virtually the same dimensions as the high resistance square at Ogilface and had a semi-basement room 5 feet below ground level with stone steps leading down into it. Was there a standard design for Scottish tower houses?
The ground resistance survey over the abandoned farm, scheduled for 9th August, was rained off but took place the following day. The two printouts of the surveys over the same area but with different probe spacings (0.5 and 1.0m) differ and could indicate by their deeper foundations which parts formed the older part of the building. We hope the survey will add useful information to the Scottish Rural Past project.
The field to the west of the River Almond has now been cleared of its crop and Dr Catriona Pickard is in contact with the estate factor to arrange access. No date for the start of the Mesolithic dig has yet been agreed, but it will be soon.