Graveyard Dig Day 38

YAC members hard at work, trowels in hand
YAC members hard at work, trowels in hand

It was pleasantly warm, rather than scorchingly hot under the trees in Dunfermline Abbey graveyard today. It’s the time of year when the annual influx of visitors begins. They arrive wondering what on earth we are doing and usually leave interested and impressed by the work and commitment of our young members.

Today our committed members were Aisling, Alexander, new member Campbell, Daniel, Lee and Sienna. They worked at a multiplicity of tasks, from cleaning and sorting bone fragments to sieving and eating lunch.

Campbell made a great start to his archaeological career today. He proved to be a most dedicated digger and made finds both in the trench he was working in and also when sieving spoil. Indeed Campbell made one of the most unusual finds of the project so far; a tiny metal ball, with a hook for fastening. The fact that it completely untarnished suggests that it is made of silver.

The bell that Campbell found
The silver ball that Campbell found

Bones

Some members spent the entire session cleaning and sorting some of the bone fragments and teeth that the excavation has turned up. The human bone will be studied before being reinterred when we backfill the site. In 2015 we found very little bone at all, but the 2016-17 dig has turned up a lot, mostly very fragmented and mixed with rubble deposits and graveyard soil.

Given that the rubble does not originate from the graveyard, but was brought in and spread in 1927, it seems strange that it should contain human bone. The obvious conclusion is that graveyard soil was being excavated and moved as part of the process of levelling.

 

Bones cleaned and bones fragmented
Bones cleaned and bones fragmented

The skull and crossbones area of the dig seems to confirm this. It seems to have been one of the most heavily disturbed areas that we have so far come across. Beneath a thick layer of compacted rubble, earth and clay were four gravestones; the table stone, probably still in situ, bordered by a group of three broken, dumped stones.

Between these we have come across a narrow area packed with bones, including long bones, that seem to have been thrown in, almost like bundles of sticks. This has been the area richest in both disarticulated human longer bones and butchered animal bone so far.

Human bone, dumped between gravestones
Human bone, dumped between gravestones

Recording the site

Aisling spent the last half hour sketching trench sections, one of which is below. She has nicely captured the essential character of much of the site: gravestones sat on or in a layer of rocks, broken brick and dirt (with some bone), beneath which we are finding higher concentrations of disarticulated bone within yet more dirt.

Section sketch drawn by Aisling
Section sketch drawn by Aisling

Graveyard Dig Day 37, cleaning finds again

Notes how the heads of these YAC members have turned slightly green from prolonged exposure to industrial strength toothbrushes

This was the first ever YAC meeting to take place in the dry, out of the rain, in the Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum. We were given a lovely warm welcome by the volunteers on duty and some of us even learned the mysteries of the hot drinks machine. We had a fine turnout: Aisling, Alexander, Andrew, Daniel, Douglas, Katie, Keziah, Kathryn, Lee, Olivia, Ryan and Sienna all working hard.

We focused on sorting and cleaning some of the finds made on site in recent weeks. Leader Laura took charge of the bone table, while Charlotte managed the everything else table.

After a great sorting, the water went into the wash basins and out came the  toothbrushes for the washing.

Cleaning shells and bits of broken stuff
Cleaning shells and bits of broken stuff
YAC members fight over what to clean next
YAC members fight over what to clean next
The bone cleaners doing what they do best
The bone cleaners doing what they do best
Just after one of the bones cleaners mysteriously melted
A moment later one of the bones cleaners mysteriously melted, but the survivors were too professional to run away in terror.
Certain YAC members move too quickly for the human eye to quite perceive
Certain YAC members blur more easily than others
Graveyard relic or YAC member, will we ever really know?
Graveyard relic or YAC member, will we ever really know?
Here we see many YAC members hard at work, watch by about 2/3rds of a leader
Here we see many YAC members hard at work, watch by about 2/3rds of a leader

The Dunfermline Abbey Marbles

The Dunfermline Marbles

On the Web for the first time, the fragments of two marbles found by YAC member Ryan whilst sieving spoil from the graveyard excavation. I suppose they were most likely mixed with the demolition material used as fill in 1927, already broken and discarded.

The Dunfermline Marbles
The Dunfermline Marbles

There was also this rather nice shell fossil found along with mixed human and animal bones last Saturday.

The tiny fossil of a tiny shell
The tiny fossil of a tiny shell