It has been cold in the graveyard over the last few days and the ground has frozen. Even though it was a little milder today the ground was still too hard to allow deturfing. Consequently we couldn’t extend the trench with the four recently discovered gravestones.
Luckily Caelan, Erin, Kathryn and Lee were able to clear leaves, work on the site plan and finish excavating the southern trench, the bottom of which was unfrozen. By the end of the session we were satisfied that we had cleared the rubble layer and reached graveyard soil. You can see the depth of the rubble from the photograph below, taken of the trench just to the north.
Kathryn and Erin probed the bottom of the trench for gravestones, but came up empty. We can clean the sides of the trench, record it and then backfill.
This week members easily spent as much time being cold, not sharing their crisps, singing a song in which grapes appeared to feature quite a bit, stabbing fallen leaves with a ranging rod and insisting on password protection for entry to the site, as they did on archaeology.
It didn’t rain at all today. True it was cold and raw, but at least the ground had dried just a little and wasn’t frozen. Nor were there as many leaves to clear from the trenches. Most have fallen now and so won’t be such a nuisance any more. Best of all, it was too cold for the midges to be out nibbling our scalps.
A failure in communications (probably) meant that there were just a few YAC members excavating in the graveyard this afternoon: Erin, Michael, Ronan and Sienna. Sorry about that, and email failed to send.
Dougie and Pete carried on working in the south trench. The rubble seems to continue to a greater depth in this area. Although the rubble thins to the north, it must have involved quite a bit of work when it was laid down in the 1920’s.
The rest of us focused on clearing the two stones discovered last time and in so doing we discovered first the edge of a probable table stone at the north end of the trench. It has a nicely bevelled edge and seems to lie flat, so may well be in its original position. As yet no inscription is visible.
In the last ten minutes or so, peeping out from underneath one of the stones we found last week, we came across a stone decorated with skull and crossed bones. The skull and one of the bones are clearly visible and seem to be in pretty good condition.
Finding one stone on top of another suggests very strongly that they were dumped in 1927 and then covered in rubble.
As you can clearly see, we need to extend our trench north, west and east to reveal the rest of the four stones. We will draw a section of the rubble layer too as it is such an important feature of the site. Our earlier probing was clearly just bouncing off the rubble, leading us to believe that there were gravestones just below the turf. Once again we have seen that we have to excavate to some depth before we hit gravestone!
The skull stone and its neighbour lie very close to the low marker just to the east. We speculated as to whether they abut or continue beneath the low marker. Experience so far suggests that they will abut the stone, in which case there isn’t much more of either to reveal.
The afternoon of Sunday 13th November was dreich. YAC members Alexander, Erin, Finlay, Kathryn, Katie, Michal, Lee, Michael and new member Ryan experienced this in full over the two hours they spent excavating in the claggy trenches of the Abbey Graveyard. They enjoyed light drizzle and midges, followed by heavy rain that drove down the temperature and away the midges.
Despite the autumnal weather the hardy, mud-plastered YAC-folk achieved a lot. They determined that the easternmost trench contained whole bricks rather than a gravestone, and, most excitingly, that there are at least two gravestones beneath the thick layer of rubble on the western side of the row of low markers that we are working around.
It was too wet and muddy to make much progress with the new stones, but we could see that they are abutting and lying at a jaunty angle. We can’t yet tell if they are whole or fragments, or if they are associated with the nearby low marker. Hopefully we’ll have some drier weather next time and be able to make sense of them.
It seems like a long time ago now, but between the 21st and 23rd of October Dunfermline YAC was incredibly busy: digging in the graveyard, receiving awards and helping out at Archaeology Scotland‘s AGM in Dunfermline.
Graveyard Dig – Day 20
Alexander, Caelan, Erin and Michal joined us for a couple of hours working on the dig today. It was pretty miserable weather and a session that demonstrated well that archaeology isn’t all fun! After a good half an hour of clearing fallen leaves, we finally got down to the exciting task of cleaning rubble for recording, before we dig through it. We also probed on the other, eastern side of the low markers that we are excavating against. There is definitely stone close to the surface, but we are guessing that it is simply more rubble rather than gravestones. We hope that there may be older gravestones below the rubble.
Graveyard Dig – Day 21 & Archaeology Scotland AGM
A long, busy and rather proud day; as most Dunfermline YAC members were presented with their well-earned Heritage Hero awards at the AGM. After a morning indoors of talks, activities and a rather nice lunch, we headed down to the graveyard to do some work and also share the dig with Archaeology Scotland members on a wee tour of Dunfermline.
From the perspective of the dig we actually got quite a bit done: planning, opening up a new rubble trench, talking to visitors (including AGM attendees) and getting cold. A good day I think.
Graveyard Dig – Day 22
Back to normal this afternoon. More leaf clearing followed by planning rubble, finding rubble, cleaning rubble, digging rubble and playing with the mud. I think the latter activity was enjoyed the most.