A Workshop at the Scottish Fisheries Museum

We were invited to run a workshop at the Scottish Fisheries Museum on Saturday as one of their East Neuk Unearthed events this summer.

We’ll be back for more on Wednesday 12th of July.

The workshop focused on the medieval archaeology of Scottish burghs, informed by work done over the years in Perth, Dunfermline and Anstruther itself. Participants got to excavate medieval ceramics (some from Anstruther), animal bone, and other bits and bobs. There were post holes filled with ash, burnt coal, charcoal and sand to discover and a ceramic vessel, spread across for mini-dig boxes, to assemble and reconstruct.

Meticulous excavation
Meticulous excavation
A thorough excavation nears its end
A thorough excavation nears its end

Our excavators were aged from almost 8 to 14 and they all did magnificent jobs, working most carefully and thoroughly for more than an hour and thoroughly earned the Heritage Hero awards they achieved.

Reassembling ceramic vessel
Reassembling ceramic vessel
Excavating for more of that pot!
Excavating for more of that pot!
Look what I found!
Look what I found!

Alexander very kindly gave up his afternoon to lug heavy boxes of soil and sand about and stand in the icy wind that blew round the courtyard at the centre of the museum. His only reward was to complete the reconstruction of the vessel and then take it apart again ready for next time. We reckon there are probably two bits missing.

The pot finished at last
The pot finished at last

 

Graveyard Dig, another day …

As we backfilled, so we sieved

On Saturday a small band of leaders, dads and YAC members met up in the Abbey Graveyard for a bit of a tidy up.

The grass is cut
Getting to grips with shears that are too long and the wrong tool for the job. Fun though?
Grass nil, Charlotte 1
Grass nil, Charlotte 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve been working in this corner for nearly a year now; this was our 39th session. The grass hasn’t been cut, weeds have not been pulled and after a period of warmth and rain, both are taking full advantage and growing as fast as they can. Well, we taught mother nature a lesson she’ll soon forget, cutting and pulling away around the trenches, in the trenches, round the gravestone, round and on the spoil heaps. The site is pretty much almost nearly tidy now.

We also took the opportunity to begin backfilling trenches that we have finished working in. The gravestones pinned down by spider-like tree roots have been allowed to resume their slumber under the earth, presumably until the trees are cut or fall, or one of our members realises they lost their smart phone on Saturday.

The main DHCP trench and weird roots
Aggressive protective, or roots that are just there?

 

Sieving and backfilling
The sievers recovered small bones, burnt coal and a nice piece of clay tobacco pipe bowl.

Sieving proved productive and therapeutic. We now have more slightly bone, burnt coal and pottery, including another fragment of clay tobacco pipe, to record.

At rest after trimming the long grass around the gravestones.
At rest after trimming the long grass around the gravestones.

There was even a bit of time for passing on the ancient and venerable art of daisy-chain making and wearing.

Passing on the art of making daisy-chains
An aspect of ancient material culture that survives as an action passed on between generations,  leaving no physical trace.
Daisy-chain deployed
Daisy-chain deployed

A Day Trip to Edinburgh

Fun with human anantomy

For a change of scene we decided to head off on the train to Edinburgh on Saturday. We thought we might take in an exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland and visit the Archaeology bit of the School of History, Classics and Archeology at Edinburgh University for a bit.

Along with members and leaders of Stirling YAC and Edinburgh YAC we had a look at the free to visit The Tomb: Ancient Egyptian Burial exhibition. It comprises of artefacts and a mummy excavated by the talented, Scottish archaeologist Alexander Henry Rhind (1833 – 1863).

Alexander Henry Rhind (1833-63)

Rhind was ill much of his short life and took to spending part of the year in Egypt for the sake of his health. There he pioneered a rigorous, scientific approach to excavation, just as he did in his native Caithness.

Rhind excavated a tomb originally created for the chief of police in the great city of Thebes more than three thousand years ago, at a time when Egypt was a mighty empire. The tomb was robbed and reused over the millennia, for the last time by a well-to-do Egyptian family living under Roman rule, just a few years before the birth of Christ.

The Chief of Police and his wife in their Sunday best
The Chief of Police and his wife in their Sunday best

Everything he excavated Rhind brought back to Scotland to form the basis of the impressive collection of Egyptian artefacts held by the National Museum of Scotland.

The exhibition is just a taste of the amazing finds that document over a thousand years of Egyptian funerary practice and belief. Once the new Egypt and Asia gallery opens in 2018 there will be even more of Rhind’s finds to see.

We had a very pleasant mooch around the exhibition, marvelling as and when appropriate and taking a really long time to choose from the treasures on display in the shop, conveniently placed at the exhibition exit.

We got round much more quickly than anticipated, so we headed down to the Early People section of the Scottish History and Archaeology Galleries to compare and contrast the material remains of the Scottish cultures contemporary with that of Egypt. There were definitely differences.

Tired, hungry and museumed-out we limped our way to George Square for lunch and a rest in the History, Classics and Archaeology common room. Then, refreshed and alert, we were taken by Laura, YAC leader and postgrad. student, to one of the archeology lab.s for an exciting hour and a half of animal and human bones, disease and anatomy with ceramic reconstruction on the side.

Everyone had an amazing time, learning lots and having fun at the same time.  Our thanks to the students who gave up their Saturday afternoons for our benefit.

Fun with human anantomy
Fun with human anatomy
Reading the bones
Reading the (human) bones
Spot the species
Spot the species – animal bones
Tricky ceramics
Tricky ceramics
Busy YAK members
Busy YAK members with bones in foreground
The trickiest of the tricky ceramics finally taking shape!