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.
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.
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.
On Saturday a small band of leaders, dads and YAC members met up in the Abbey Graveyard for a bit of a tidy up.
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.
Sieving proved productive and therapeutic. We now have more slightly bone, burnt coal and pottery, including another fragment of clay tobacco pipe, to record.
There was even a bit of time for passing on the ancient and venerable art of daisy-chain making and wearing.
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).
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.
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.