Living Lomonds Big Dig: East Lomond Hill (Day 13-17)

Welcome back to our dig blog.

 

Well the dig at East Lomond Hill has now come to a close. This post is to update you about the final week of discoveries:

 

Day 13

College students from SRUC Oatridge joined the dig team for today. They had tour of the site and had a go at digging for the afternoon. With the increased numbers Callum our site supervisor opened a small trial-trench (our final of the season) at the north-east of the site to investigate a long terrace feature located in this area to investigate if this is part of the hillfort’s defences. Large annexes can form part of Early Medieval forts that have been shown to adapted existing Iron Age fortification. The rest of the group continued to reveal a floor level in trench A, which has been subdivided into quadrants.

Trench A from the summit of East Lomond.

 

Day 14

Today the dig welcomed Henrick a pupil from Glenalmond College who is interested in a career in archaeology and had a day learning field skills. A series of stone-settings were reveled in trench A associated with late prehistoric finds. These feature may be post-setting linked to the large wall at the south side of the trench, but there density would seem to suggest more than one phase of building. At the south-east corner of trench A removal of a subsoil revealed a new cut feature with substantial burnt deposits on the surface, large fragments of slag and fired clay. This looks like remains of metal-working site. This feature was close by a small wall or drain and the large stone ‘box’ setting.

Small stone wall or drain in trench A with metal-working feature in foreground.

Small stone wall or drain in trench A with metal-working feature in foreground.

Stone-setting in NE quadrant of trench. Possible post-settings for a building(s).

Stone-settings in NW quadrant of trench A. Possible post-settings for a building(s).

 

Day 15

The weather closed in on us this morning. This meant our first lost hours to rain – not bad for an September/October dig. To make the most of our time the team took shelter at Falkland Centre for Stewardship, who kindly let us use their facilities to do some much-needed finds processing. This was helpful as it helped remind us just how much burnt bone was coming out of the site and a small fragment of worked flint was found in one of the general finds trays, which is always nice to see as a background indicator of prehistoric activity in the area, but was not from a well stratified layer. The clouds dispersed in the afternoon and allowed the team to get back on site for some recording.

 

Day 16

This was planning day when we set about fully recoding all the exposed building remains and features in trench A. Trench B to the south was excavated further to reveal a rather nice stone-lining at the base of the bank, below which was a clay and burnt soil deposit, which we should get a radiocarbon date from. Our aim in these closing days of the dig was to complete the recording of the layers we’ve got down to as the complexity of the remains meant we could not hope to resolve everything during this season. The responsible thing to do at this stage was to record what we’ve found rather than dig too much. In this way the dig has provided a useful evaluation of the area. On a site as big as East Lomond Hillfort is the most sensible approach for this the first season of a community dig.

Stone-lined bank in trench B.

Stone-lined bank in trench B.

 

Day 17

Our last day of archaeology for our volunteers. East Lomond saw us off with a fine day of weather. In trench C, Callum and Sue discovered a ditch and the tumbled remains of a wall or rampart. A fantastic find, which shows the hillfort was much larger than previously thought. Samples for dating from the ditch may show this was part of an Early Medieval Pictish annexe enclosing the southern shoulder of the hill. This ditched-outwork is different in character from the bank in trench B, which might instead connect to a similar upstanding section of bank visible further down the slope from trench C. If so then the hillfort may have a series of encloses adjoining its southern side. Figuring out the chronological sequences of these enclosures will be a major new find from the dig. In trench A the final discoveries were another section of wall similar in character to the smaller wall by the stone ‘box’ feature. This smaller wall was shown in section to be later than the larger faced wall, which we could now see had been truncated (cut away) at its east end. The ‘box’ feature contained burnt bone and was lined with coloured sandstone slabs, the intepretation of which will require further research for comparable features, though we are fairly confident this isn’t a burial cist and may be related to industiral activity. Also a fragment of a large rotary quern was identifed in the floor surface at the north-west side of trench A.

A section of wall and rubble at the NE edge of trench A.

A section of wall and rubble at the NE edge of trench A.

 

Closing thoughts

After all the planning and section drawings and photography were completed, the picture to emerge in trench A looked increasingly like a complex series of multi-phase settlement remains and industrial activity. Happily this is exactly the kind of sequence that we might reasonably expect to find in a well-preserved interior of a multi-phase hillfort annexe. That said very few Iron Age to Early Medieval fortified sites have been excavated in this part of Scotland, particularly in the areas inside the fortifications rather than focusing on the ramparts and walls. The post-excavation will start to build up a clearer picture of the story we have uncovered at East Lomond, but the current interpretation is that we have discovered the remains of a large Iron Age building, which was partially removed during a later period (perhaps the 1st millennium AD) to make way for a smaller series of stone structures and a metal-working site. Moreover the wider settlement terrace on the southern shoulder of the hill was enclosed by at least two boundaries (one ditched, the other a lined bank) to form annexes to the hillfort, perhaps also during the 1st millennium AD. The site is now being back filled with community payback assistance.

Misty sunset over the Lomond Hills from the dig.

Misty sunset over the Lomond Hills from the dig site.

These excavation has been a fantastic achievement only made possible by the amazing efforts of local community volunteers. Well done to everyone who took part! Thanks for all your hard work and good company up the hill. Thanks to our funders, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Scotland and the New Park Trust. Our appreciation also goes to Falkland and Balbirnie Estates and Fife Coastal and Countryside Trust. This event was delivered by Dr Oliver O’Grady of OJT Heritage for the Living Lomonds Landscape Partnership.

 

The Discover the Ancient Lomonds Project has enjoyed over 200 days of volunteer help this year. We are incredibly grateful to all those who have given up their spare time to take part, to learn more about archaeology and help conserve their local historic landscape. Thank you!

Discover the Ancient Lomonds! Young volunteers take part in the dig with views of Glenrothes behind.

Discover the Ancient Lomonds! Young volunteers take part in the dig with views of Glenrothes behind.

Keep an eye on the Living Lomonds Facebook page and website for news of exciting feedback and heritage events coming soon.

All the best for now.

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Living Lomonds Big Dig: East Lomond Hill (Day 8-12)

Hello one and all.

Some delay since my last post. In defence the dig team has been unusually busy this week with visits from secondary school classes and our highly successful open day last Saturday. In the midst of all this we’ve made some extraordinary finds from the suspected prehistoric settlement site in trench A. Here is our breakdown of the digs daily diary:

 

Day 8

We welcomed pupils from Glenrothes to site today. Tara O’Leary from Falkland Centre for Stewardship joined us on site to give a creative storytelling workshop beneath tent cover, as did kite photography expert Keiran Baxter from University of Dundee who took the pupils through the art of low altitude aerial photography. Thanks to John Wells from SNAPS for supplying free extra kites for the day.

Low altitude aerial photographs of the site taken by Kieran Baxter using a kite during a school visit.

Low altitude aerial photographs of the site taken by Kieran Baxter using a kite during the school visit.

The pupils also had the chance to try their hand at digging in trench A. One happy student managed to find this rather splendid spindle whorl from a mixed midden layer:

Spindle whorl found at the dig on East Lomond.

Spindle whorl found at the dig.

 

Day 9

Weather conditions deteriorated in the morning with low cloud and high winds. Sadly this meant our school workshops had to be moved to the classroom, but Tara and the team still had a great meeting by all accounts.

Our local digging volunteers bravely carried on the digging work on site and were rewarded with an improvement in the visibility as the day went on. An extension was added to the main trench in order to resolve the layout of the wall at the south-east corner. This showed that the curving section does in fact end at this location supports the idea that we have a simpler circular structure rather than a more complex cellular layout, which had seemed a possibility beacuse of a concentration of rubble at the original edge of the trench. Always worth a little trench extension.

Area of a trench extension after cleaning back that shows a break in the wall that may be an entrance.

Area of the trench extension after cleaning back. This shows a break in the wall that may be a paved entrance.

Finds included a fragment of polished jet from deposits next to the wall exterior. Jet isn’t found locally and was likely sourced from somewhere like northern England. This implies the site (which we think is Iron Age) was linked to trade routes along the North Sea coast.

Fragment of polished jet (ignite).

Fragment of polished jet (ignite).

 

Day 10

We welcomed the last of our school visits today. A brilliant day had by all with lots of budding archaeologists heading home happy. Writer Mandy Haggith joined the Tara today to give an excellent workshop on Celtic storytelling, poetry, creative writing and much more. In the trench the pupils, who were from Dunfermline, again had the chance to dig for a bit. Once again the youngsters turned up a star find – this rather excellent fragment of a whetstone (for sharpening metal tools/blades):

Fragment of a whetstone.

Fragment of a whetstone.

Our grown-up diggers also set about half-sectioning the bank feature in trench B. This looked like it was of simple soil construction with a simple stone revetment and base. We hope to get some datable material from the base before recording the remains.

Some mattock action as the bank feature was half-sectioned.

Some fine mattock work as the bank feature was half-sectioned.

 

Day 11

Saturday saw an improvement in the weather for our public open day. The Living Lomonds team were out in force with Sarah MacDonald (Community Participation Manager) and Audrey Peebles (Communications and Press Officer) both helping out on site – thanks ladies! We also welcomed members of the press. The site tours were well attended with some great questions from the audience keeping the site director on his toes. 😉 Finds from the dig were on show in the site tent along with more information about the Living Lomonds Landscape Partnership.

Digging continued regardless in amongst all the excitement. We welcomed back Gilda and Chris who took part in our very successful walkover survey training activities earlier in the year. Great to have you back on the team and as ever full of enthusiasm.

The team started to excavated the mixed midden material that we are presuming overlays the building’s floor levels, if they are still in place…

 

Day 12

Another good turn out of local volunteers and some decent weather. We were also visited by Jonathan Wordsworth of Archaeology Scotland. Our dig has been taking place during Scottish Archaeology Month. The digging team split into two jobs on Sunday. One group had the heavy work mattocking out a foot-depth of soil overlying the east side of the trench where we think the continuation of the wall is buried. This area turned out to be badly affected by animal burrowing. What seems to be the wall began to emerge as a rather unstable band of rubble and boulders, but this is still to be fully exposed. Trowelling turned up another great find – this fragment of a jet bangle or armlet:

Fragment of a jet bangle or armlet, which are known from Iron Age sites in Scotland.

Fragment of a jet bangle or armlet, which are known from Iron Age sites in Scotland.

The other group continued to excavate down to the floor of the building. A deposit containing yellow/orange clay as well as more charcoal and burnt animal bone fragments seems to indicate an occupation layer/floor surface. Removal of the overlying mixed midden material began to reveal stone-setting features.

Half way across the trench volunteer Chris Fell uncovered potentially the best find of the dig so far. It was sitting on the possible occupation level beside a worked-stone pot lid. The find was a 6cm long metal object most of which is covered in iron-oxide cortex, but may also have another metal component as the decorative detail at one end is clearer than elsewhere. This seems to comprise of a bird-head shape. I think this may be the remains of a brooch or pin with a bird-head motif at one end? We’ll need to get this conserved a.s.a.p. and x-rayed to establish this more clearly:

Metal brooches and pins with bird-head designs are known from Roman Britain and this may be an exampe of Romano-British objects making their way into Celtic northern Britain.

Admittedly obscured by corrosion, which makes it hard to interpret, metal brooches and pins with bird-head designs are known from Roman Britain. This could just be an example of a Romano-British object making its way into Celtic northern Britain. Conservation and x-rays should help make things a bit clearer.

The Roman frontier was only short distance from East Lomond Hill during the 2nd century AD.

Detail of the possible ‘bird-head’. The Roman frontier was only a short distance from East Lomond Hill during the 2nd century AD.

Well done and congratulation to Chris on a cracking find and well done to all our volunteers on a fantastic week of digging. Only one more to go. The plan is to put a section across the building interior to show the sequence of deposits and finish revealing the wall course. More soon as we move to dig’s end. Do join us for more soon.