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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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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