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.

 

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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. 🙂

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.