Living Lomonds Big Dig: East Lomond Hill (Day 6-7)

At last some fine weather for our dig on Saturday and Sunday!

Signage to greet visitors to the dig with East Lomond summit in the background.

Signage greets visitors to the dig with East Lomond summit in the background.

Dig site from the hill summit.

Day 6

We welcomed the first of our local community volunteers on the 20th September. Turned out to be a small team due to a few last-minute cancellations. A small team but highly dedicated with good cheer all round. Amazing what a bit of sun can do for the mood. šŸ™‚

Good weather at last.

Some great finds were uncovered too. John, Nicola, and Mike helped reveal more of our stone wall, in which John discovered a fine stone pounder tool.

A prehistoric stone pounder found amongst the wall stones.

A prehistoric stone pounder found amongst the wall stones.

A slot was also dug through an earth bank feature at the north side of the trench. This was revealed to be made up of simple earth and overlays a subsoil with bone and charcoa inclusions that extends across most of the site. So we think this feature is most likely quite recent and may simply be an undulation in the unimproved ground surface, which is backed up by the modern finds embedded in its surface. No Pictish turf building then – can’t win them all I guess…

Stone wall emerges.

Day 7

Bigger team today and we welcomed back Joe FitzPatrick who helped produce the geophysical survey of the site we are digging and has been a stalwart of many of our archaeology events. Good to have you back on the team Joe!

Joe and Joe doing an excellent job cleaning back the wall.

Joe and Joe doing an excellent job cleaning back the wall.

A small extension was added to the trench today in order to reveal whether our wall arced round to the north as expected or carried on out of the trench eastward. Predictably enough it potentially seems to do neither of these things! Rather there appears to be a smaller stone feature extending out from the main wall to the south-east and a gap, possibly an entrance to the east.

Site photograph at the end of day 7. Nice work!

Site photograph at the end of day 7. Nice work!

Beside this the large set upright stones of a possible box feature or internal setting were uncovered. Is this the robbed terminus of the return wall or a domestic feature inside a large building? Join us to find out next week.

John revealing a stone setting or robbed section of wall...

John revealing a stone-setting or robbed-out section of wall…

A great end to our first week with a bonny Fife sunset and satisfied smiles all round.

(L-R) Pete, John, Joe ('A'), Joe ('1'), Nicola, Oliver and Mike.

(L-R) Pete, John, Joe (‘A’), Joe (‘1’), Nicola, Oliver and Mike.

Fife secondary school visits, kite photography, a storyteller, a new trench and more, all next week. Stay posted folks.

 

 

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Discovering the Ancient Lomonds

Hello and welcome back to the Living Lomonds archaeology blog.

First of all, I must apologise for the extended gap in posting about the project. Happily the main excuse for this is that I have been very busy exploring the archaeology of the Lomond hills with lots of very nice people. I will now try my best to regain your interest in our little blog with a short summary about our recent community archaeology activities.

Living Lomonds Logo

These last couple of months have been non-stop with activities for the Discover the Ancient Lomond Project. Our programme went into full-throttle this Spring with a major walkover survey for volunteers and the first in our schedule of heritage-themed guided-walks and talks. Its been a packed calendar of great days out in some beautiful local landscapes with up to 14 separate events in our April to June programme. All the events were summarised for ease of booking in our printed programme booklet. Excellently designed by Claire Hubbard of Falkland Centre for Stewardship.

Front page of the Living Lomonds archaeology programme for Spring 2014.

The back-bone of volunteering events for the start of the programme has been a major walkover survey covering all of the upland regions in the project area.

Map of the Living Lomonds Project area with the location of Spring events

Map of the Living Lomonds Project area with the location of Spring events

This ‘Discovery Survey’ aimed to give volunteers the chance to find previously unrecorded archaeological sites, whilst at the same time learn some basic skills in how to read historic landscapes and record archaeological sites. After a quiet start due to some early poor weather, folk came out in forceĀ to take part from all over Fife, and from up the road in Dundee and Perth, from down in East Lothian, and a couple even from as far a field as southern England and Italy!

A team at Benarty Hill in Perth and Kinross.

(L-R) Chris Vlasto, Bill Wardlaw, Eric Wardlaw and John Hughes.

Rural skills team at Falkland

(L-R) Joe, Chris, Kaitlynn, Aaron, Adam and Oliver.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The volunteers gave up more than 90 days of their precious spare time to help us. They were from all walks of life: from a former Royal Marine, to district careworkers, civil servants, local lads with a story to tell, sprightly pensioners, students and many more.

At East Lomond Hillfort

(L-R) Alan, Amanda, Lorna, Mike, Joe, Barry, Alison and Mindaugas.

(L-R) Callum, Sam, Greggor and Gary.

The weather was better on some days than on others as you can see!

A rural skills team mark out a prehistoric hut circle in thick fog at East Lomond Hill.

A team of rural skills apprentices mark out a prehistoric hut circle in thick fog at East Lomond Hill.

(L-R) Marc and Jamie record an overgrown 19th-century shooting hide at Purin Hill by East Lomond.

(L-R) Marc and Jamie record an overgrown 19th-century shooting hide at Purin Hill by East Lomond.

But come rain or shine I can honestly say that I had a great time working with everyone. It can often be fun to share the experience of exploring a landscape, but I was genuinely impressed by the enthusiasm and good spirits that all our volunteers brought to each training event. AND we also found lots of interesting things. So a win-win situation all round. Well done everyone!

What did we find? Well a surprising amount of ‘new’ archaeological sites, in addition to improving the record for known ones. The new sites ranged from prehistoric burial cairns,to Iron Age (700BC-AD500) hut circles, to a possible standing stone, to pre-Improvement (?AD1500-AD1800) enclosures, to lost boundary stones. We found so much in fact that these new discoveries will need a separate post to do them proper justice. So I’ll come back to this if I may.

Bill Woods taking in the view from the summit of West Lomond Hill, which is the site of a massive prehistoric cairn and later stone structures.

Bill Woods taking in the view from the summit of West Lomond Hill, the site of a massive prehistoric cairn and later stone structures.

The walkover survey is now complete, bar taking a few GPS readings at certain sites to improve the accuracy of the recorded location. We will be continuing the programme this July with more of our popular guided walks, and a new schedule of geophysics training activities and the first of our big digs, which starts this year at East Lomond Hillfort during Scottish Archaeology Month in September! So plenty to get stuck into.

Watch this space for more regular posts. Next time I’ll be turning my keyboard to muse a bit more deeply on the rich array of sites and landscapes we have in the Lomond Hills. In the meantime why not take a look at our new and really rather fine website, which has just been relaunched: www.livinglomonds.org.uk

All the best for now,

Oliver

Dr Oliver JT O’Grady

Archaeologist with the Living Lomonds Landscape Partnership

heritage Print OJT Heritage Logo

Introducing (drum roll please)… Archaeology!

Hello! This Spring archaeological goings-on have been afoot in the Lomonds Hills. This is a quick update about some of the rather interesting and fun volunteer training events that we have already started doing out in the sunny Fife-shire countryside. Late last February and earlier this March the project launched a series of ‘Introducing Archaeology’ events targeted at getting the word out to new volunteers and raising the profile of the Living Lomonds Historic Landscape programme more generally. Over two weeks we’ve held a set of Discovery Survey activities, which in technical terms has meant training groups of between five and ten peoples in the basic skills of walkover survey, site recording and landscape interpretation. I am please to say there have been folk taking part from all walks of life, with people making the trip to the Lomonds from as far afield as Newburgh on the Tay and wider Perth and Kinross. Despite some rather brisk Fife Spring weather the volunteer teams have been just fantastically enthusiastic and have already started to make some fascinating new discoveries amongst the hills.

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The plan with the walkover surveys are to build on baseline survey work that has already been undertaken during the development phase of the LLLP; preliminary archaeological research that I was fortunate enough to oversee. The baseline work collated all previous information known about sites across the hills, including data from the local Sites and Monuments Records (more commonly known these days as Historic Environment Records) held by the good people at Fife Council Archaeological Service and National Monuments Records of Scotland maintained by the RCAHMS. It turned out that the last large-scale survey to be attempted of the Lomond Hills took place back in 1978. After some initial exploration and site visits it quickly became clear that there was good potential for new discoveries to be made in the Regional Park and that an up-to-date archaeological walkover survey would be a worthwhile exercise to form the basis for a scheme of community training activities. Thankfully the HLF and Historic Scotland agreed! So here we are on the threshold of an new programme of Discovery Surveys set to be launched this April.

What have we found so far? We’ve started by walking areas of moorland around East Lomond Hill, which is itself the site of an important Iron Age and Pictish period Hillfort (ramparts of which are just visible on the first photograph above). East Lomond has been our starting point as this area is part of Falkland and Balbirnie Estates, who were the first landowners to consent to access and are partner members of LLLP. Even the first ‘introducing’ events have thrown up new sites and objects that represent an extraordinarily wide breath of the landscape’s history, potential stretching from the Bronze Age to the early 20th century. Highlights include previously unrecorded prehistoric hut circles or roundhouses on Purin Hill.

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Lost boundary stones relating to the AD 1818 division of the Commonty (common pasture land) of the Royal Burgh of Falkland; an important process of change in this landscape that was overseen by a government surveyor called William Raye.

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Note the finely carved ‘W R 1818’ visible in this photo of one of the stones recently uncovered amongst the heather (apologies for rain on the lens). These carvings are seen on all the boundary stones relating to the Falkland commonty division and also have fine linear tooling marks down all four sides. It’s rare enough and quite handy to discover an archaeological find with its date and initials carved onto it. There is exciting new research currentlu underway by LLLP which is looking into the history of how the divisions were surveyed and has uncovered an original plan of the stones layout held at Falkland Estate. I’ll post more details about theseĀ fascinating stones on a future occasion, but suffice to say its clear there are many stones that are at present totally unrecorded in the archaeological records. Our volunteers have been having a great time stone-hunting in the heather.

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Other post-medieval and relatively recent finds have included shooting butts or hides, part of 19th and early 20th century estate sporting landscapes. This was a primary use for the area prior to the establishment of the Regional Park. Our latest discoveries have been a series of old track-ways on the north slopes of East Lomond. Several of hese snake their way up onto the moor and are often visible as a series of adjacent heather-ground earthworks that indicate where route-ways have meandered around the same location over time, as one road surface becomes over worn and impassable. These features are notoriously difficult to date, though they are fairly common in upland areas of Scotland. A track-way discovered by one of our teams on 2nd March seemed to make for a 19th-century limestone quarry, which may help to date this example, nevetheless some of these route-ways may reuse ancient tracks that could date back as far as the Iron Age or earlier.

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Some great finds and great days out, I’m sure you’ll agree. It is not long now until the project’s Spring into Summer programme of events will be launched. So if you’re local or even if you’re not please do keep an eye on this blog or the facebook page to get details about all up-coming volunteering opportunities. In the meantime I hope you found this first post interesting. I will be putting up some more thoughts in the next posts about the involved work that the Partnership has been doing with local landowners on access and best advice for visitors to the hills, and also news on findings from our first geophysical surveys. Until then, all the best.