Living Lomonds Big Dig: East Lomond Hill (Day 3-5)

Welcome back to our dig blog.

There is lots to report from East Lomond. All this week we’ve continued to be helped out by corporate volunteer teams. They’ve done a great job in less than ideal weather condition. The archaeology is starting to emerge through the mist.

Day 3

With a reduced team today we focused on drawing a plan of the trench after the topsoil had been removed and the sub-surface cleaned.

Volunteers have a go at some light planning on day 3.

Volunteers have a go at some light planning on day 3.

With a good pre-excavation plan in the bag the guys then set about revealing the possible wall in the lower south side of the trench. This turned up more burnt bone and started to reveal a firmer and richer subsoil below, which was rich in flecks of charcoal and crumbs of clay. This seems encouraging for there being potential occupation deposits nearby.

Day 4

A bigger team on this day with plenty of good digging done. Our wall started to look more substantial with some good solid facing stones revealed. Beside the wall the subsoil encountered on day 3 was exposed further and proved to contain more burnt animal bone fragments and scatters of charcoal.

Digging back a 'spit' of soil to reveal more of a wall.

Digging back a ‘spit’ of soil to reveal more of a wall.

At the north-east corner of the trench it was time for a trench extension to reveal more of the circular feature we are interested in from the geophysics. Cleaning back this new area turned up a fragment of a rather nice whetstone (a smooth stone used for sharpening metal blades).

SGN volunteer Alex holds his whetstone find.

SGN volunteer Alex holds his whetstone find.

Day 5

More thick fog today and another great team of workers from SGN. Continued digging a 10cm spit back to reveal our increasingly clear wall at the south side of the trench. Also started to dig a slot through our possible turf wall at the north side and finish cleaning our extension. Beyond the main trench a group of volunteers from Perth opened up a 4m x 2m trench over a bank about 15m to the south. This may be an old field bank or potentially an annexe attached to the adjacent hillfort.

The probable wall looks increasing clear though seems to have been robbed out of stone in places. The good facing stones look great now. Beside these are a band of smaller pebbles making up an inner core to the wall and a less well-preserved outer set of larger stone.

Our probable wall starts to look larger and curved.

Our probable wall starts to look larger and curved.

Star find of the day was a small hand tool – this was a round stone pounder found by Andy of SGN. Looks like a water worn small boulder, fits nicely in the hand and lightly coloured yellow and orange with white bands of quartz (not usual for the stone on the hill and prehaps selected and carried into the area). Its importance as a tool was given away by impact marks and striations that are visible on one face. This suggests to stone was used by some one in the past to pound against another stone surface, prehaps to break bones up to extract marrow or crack nuts etc. The tools was found reused in the structure of the wall face. We’ll never know for sure, but it is interesting to think whether this was originally placed in the wall because of the memories associated with the old tool? It is always useful to think about these more interpretive ideas when your on site. The team all had a good chat about it.

Andy proudly shows off his stone tool find.

Andy proudly shows off his stone tool find.

For our wall the running theory is that we are revealing the arch of an Iron Age building, perhaps a hut circle, but we will need to see more and get down onto the lower deposits to know for sure.

We will welcome the first of our local community volunteers this weekend. Site tours start from 2pm. Look forward to seeing you there if you live nearby. Stay turned for more updates!

Bye for now.

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Living Lomonds Big Dig: East Lomond Hill (Day 1-2)

Hello.

Welcome to the first of our dig blog posts for the Living Lomonds Landscape Partnership’s community excavation at East Lomond Hill.

We’ve made great progress during the first two days of the dig thanks to loads of help from two dedicated teams of Scotland Gas Network volunteers. Despite some pretty harsh weather conditions on day one (thick fog and fine rain all day!) the team got stuck into de-turfing our first 10m x 5m trench. This was located over the site of suspected settlement remains that were identified by our geophysical survey (see last post). After a morning of heavy work we were rewarded with our first find – a sherd of Late Prehistoric pottery, probably Iron Age (700BC-AD500) in date.

SGN volunteers and Living Lomonds archaelogists Peter and Oliver pose for a group photo in the fog under the site shelter.

SGN volunteers and Living Lomonds archaeologists Peter (far left) and Oliver (far right) pose for a group photo in the fog under the site shelter. (C)LLLP

Cleaning back on Tuesday then revealed the remains of what may be a spread turf bank at the north side of the trench (perhaps part of a turf-walled building?). A line of angular boulders at the south side of the trench looks like it may resolve into a wall associated with a stoney deposit. These stone seem to have been placed to create a straight facing and are partially overlain by a brown subsoil, which gave up a post-medieval sherd of terracotta coloured pottery and occasional fragments of burnt bone. So the indications are good for the prospect of reasonably rich archaeological deposits, and the sun came out towards the end of the day. Who could ask for more? Thanks again to all the lads from SGN day one and two teams. More blog updates soon. Bye for now.

SGN volunteers cleaning back the trench on day two of the dig (note the line of stones in the foreground - by Stephen in the blue jumper).

SGN volunteers cleaning back the trench on day two of the dig (note the line of stones emerging in the foreground – by Stephen in the blue jumper). The summit of East Lomond Hill is visible in the background. (C)LLLP

 

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.

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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 force┬áto 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

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