Archaeological Research in Progress

National Conference
Saturday 28 May 2011
In collaboration with Archaeology Scotland

Archaeological Research in Progress

The national conference examining recent and ongoing archaeological projects across Scotland.

Saturday 28 May 2011
Wolfson Lecture Theatre
Royal Society of Edinburgh
22-26 George Street
Edinburgh EH2 2PQ

ARP 2011 is sponsored by:

Historic Scotland
Rensburg Sheppards Investment Management
Royal Society of Edinburgh
Glasgow Museums
AOC Archaeology Group
Rathmell Archaeology

0915 Registration at the Royal Society of Edinburgh

Morning Session - Chaired by Barbara Crawford, President of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland

0945 Welcome and Opening Remarks

0955 "Changing Perceptions - recent research and excavation in the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site" - Nick Card, Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology (ORCA)

Recent research and excavation in the environs of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site is changing our perceptions of the late Neolithic landscape and context of these iconic upstanding monuments. Geophysical survey in conjunction with excavation is revealing a large interconnected ‘ritual' landscape. In particular the discovery of the Neolithic complex on the Ness of Brodgar is radicalizing our views. Ongoing excavations are showing that this large whale-back ridge (250 metres by 100 metres) is mainly artificial and comprises of a deeply stratified sequence of middens, structures and midden enhanced soils. Throughout its later major phases the site was dominated by a series of large stone buildings. It is not only the scale, symmetrical architecture and complexity of these structures that suggest they lie out with the normal domestic sphere but also numerous idiosyncrasies such as evidence for regular stone tiled roofs, an extensive assemblage of Neolithic art including the use of paint, and the massive walled enclosure (circa 125 metres by 75 metres) in which they sit that sets them apart. These discoveries may even question the apparent dominance of the World Heritage Sites in the Neolithic. This was a landscape not only populated by people but by monuments.

1020 "Imagining Past Landscapes: Reconstructing a moment in the Kilmartin Glen c. 2400 cal years ago" - Richard Tipping (Stirling University), Andrew Jones (Southampton University), Lucy Verrill (Stirling University) and Aaron Watson (

It is often important in archaeological analyses to understand their landscape context. It is frequently difficult for archaeologists and environmental archaeologists to understand fully the nuances in each other's work. Virtual reconstruction offers a simple but very powerful way of bridging this gap in understanding. In this talk we will present one aspect of the findings of a recent AHRC-funded Project (AH/F018010/1) in dating and contextualising prehistoric rock art in the Kilmartin Glen, Argyll. We wanted to know the date when art was created on rock panels in the lower Add Valley and to know whether these acts were somehow hidden and liminal or were central to the daily agricultural round. A 14C assay on charcoal from a hearth at the foot of one rock indicated that c. 2400 cal BC was the likely date for these acts. But what did the valley look like then?  Detailed geomorphological mapping of the valley floor and surrounding slopes, analyses of sediments accumulating in abandoned meanders, and pollen analyses from one of these c. 200 m from the rock art have allowed an exceptionally detailed, spatially precise reconstruction of almost every aspect of the landscape then. The creation of successive drafts of the reconstruction was an iterative process between analysts and artist but because the medium was visual it was very easy to translate directly what was imagined by the analysts from their data to the image being created by the artist.  The result is an extraordinarily beautiful and evocative imagining but one that has very little guesswork.

1045 "Through the keyhole: the Hillforts of Strathdon" - Murray Cook, Oxford Archaeology North

The Hillforts of Strathdon Project attempts to build upon the combined results of an extensive series of rescue excavation managed by the author around Kintore, Aberdeenshire and an exhaustive survey of the wider area by the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland. The rescue excavations uncovered an unenclosed settlement sequence running from c 1800 BC to AD 800, while the RCAHMS survey classified the various different hillforts in Strathdon into six different types based on size and type of defence, although without any excavation.

The primary aim of the reported project was to generate, though key-hole excavation dates for the hillforts and to integrate the results with the existing unenclosed sequence. Over a period of six years, using local community volunteers and students, eight different sites were explored and their defensive sequence dated. The enclosed sequence dates from c 1000 BC to AD 600. This paper presents the initial integrated findings from the project.

1110 Questions

1125 Tea and Coffee and Displays and Bookstalls

1155 "SERF (Strathearn Environs and Royal Forteviot Project)" - Gordon Noble, Aberdeen University

2010 was the fourth year of fieldwork at Forteviot carried out as part of the Strathearn Environs and Royal Forteviot project. Work progressed this year on both the prehistoric and Early Historic elements of this important centre of the third millennium BC and first millennium AD. Further elements of the vast prehistoric ceremonial complex were revealed with the excavation of a henge monument and a timber/stone enclosure both located outside of the huge timber palisaded enclosure that defines the prehistoric complex. The henge monument proved to be a complex late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age monument with timber structure and earthwork enclosure and the other enclosure was a very unusual double palisade with toppled standing stone at one entrance and a triple cist at the centre. Both monuments were the focus of the deliberate deposition of Beaker pottery. Both monuments also saw later re-use in particular at the henge with the closing off of the entrance, perhaps associated with the deposition of a later prehistoric spearhead, and the digging of an enormous pit in the centre of the henge. Further elements of the late Neolithic palisaded enclosure were also excavated again underlining the enormous effort that went into constructing a monument defined by the erection of over 100 massive tree trunks. Elsewhere in the landscape further elements of the Pictish cemetery were uncovered including two conjoined square barrows and an enclosure ditch that may define parts of the overall Early Historic landscape was also excavated.

1220 "Educating Reekie - The archaeology of Old College Quadrangle, University of Edinburgh" - Tom Addyman, Simpson & Brown Architects with Addyman Archaeology

In early 2010 an archaeological evaluation was carried out by Addyman Archaeology in advance of a general repaving scheme within Edinburgh University's Old College Quadrangle.  This revealed the presence of ex situ human bone and fragmentary early structural remains.  Main site works commenced under watching brief conditions and significant archaeology was encountered across the quad - leading to a large scale excavation.

The site has a well documented history and archaeological remains survived from each phase of its recorded development, from the medieval period onwards.  While landscaping in the 19th century had significantly altered the topography, archaeology still survived to notable depths along the north and east sides of the quad.  The site of St Mary's, Kirk ‘o Field collegiate church had largely been destroyed by 17th century quarrying.  However an area of its cemetery survived within which 66 inhumations were encountered a matter of centimetres beneath the modern surface; of these 44 were exhumed and subject to osteological analysis.  Fragments of clay-bonded walling in the SE part of the quad likely represent collegiate buildings.  Further structural remains, possibly the infirmary of the collegiate church, were found to the NW, these were apparently incorporated in the 1550s into the town residence of the Duke of Chatelherault, Hamilton House.  The north side of the cemetery was bounded by a perimeter wall and a metalled roadway, these running NNW-SSE across the site; the road skirted the south side of Hamilton House.

In the 1580s the church site was redeveloped for Edinburgh's newly founded college.  Hamilton House and some of the collegiate buildings were incorporated and remodelled.  Substantial remains of the 17th century college buildings were uncovered.  At the NW angle of the quad were revealed parts of the college's laigh court.  Along the north side of the site the cellarage of the 1642 library was revealed and, further east, a major building of 1617 and an associated sunken cobbled courtyard.

From within the 1642 building were recovered various chemical compounds found in association with glass and ceramic laboratory apparatus, these evidently dating to the first two decades of the 19th century.  In addition to the enormous quantity of disarticulated and re-deposited human remains, the excavation produced a significant assemblage of pottery, glass and metalwork, particularly coins.

1245 Questions

1300 Launch of Discovery and Excavation in Scotland

1310 Lunch and Displays and Bookstalls

Afternoon session chaired by Jack Stevenson, President of Archaeology Scotland

1410 "Kilwinning Community Archaeology Project, North Ayrshire" - Tom Rees, Rathmell Archaeology Ltd

The Kilwinning & District Preservation Society, funded by HLF and Irvine Bay Regeneration Company grants, have commissioned Rathmell Archaeology Ltd to deliver this project which have aims to stimulate community involvement, education and the exploration of the medieval origins of Kilwinning. Excavations, staffed by members of the local community supervised by professional archaeologists, ran through the late summer of 2010 and will be repeated in 2011. Separate programmes of post-excavation analysis, oral history and archive research are ongoing; all focus on supervised non-professional volunteering from the community. This presentation will focus on community engagement, the volunteer reality and those portions of the excavations that were within Kilwinning Abbey; the abbey, a twelfth century Tironensian foundation, is an unstaffed Property in Care which suffered extensive disruption through unreported excavation work in the 1960s. Through targeted trenching within the abbey grounds the project is seeking to understand the scale of the 1960s works, develop a proxy record of that project, recover medieval material culture and test the validity of the monument as it is currently presented by Historic Scotland. These works are all being conducted in collaboration with Historic Scotland and North Ayrshire Council.

1435 "Coldingham Priory: Community Partnership and Conservation in the Scottish Borders" - Dr Chris Bowles, Scottish Borders Council

The half million pound project (HS and HLF funded) is nearing completion this year.  The initial spark for the project was a report in 2007 on the condition of the priory ruins which showed them to be in a poor state and a potential danger to the public.  Since the Priory and the Parish Church sit at the heart of the community it was felt that the ruins needed to be consolidated.  At the same time, the Friends of Coldingham Priory through the Adopt-a-Monument programme had initiated a community garden project to the south of the ruins.  A separate initiative to save the local post-office led to the possibility of converting the nearby public toilets into a post-office, coffee shop and interpretation centre.  Over time, the three projects came together and formed a unique approach to the site that has achieved the consolidation of the ruins, the creation of a new community garden, the conservation of the many important medieval and later carved stones from the Priory, on-site interpretation and the salvation of the town's post-office with an interpretative twist.

1500 Questions

1515 Tea and Coffee and Displays and Bookstalls

1545 "Lochindorb Castle - there's something in the water..." - Iain Anderson, RCAHMS

The photographic and measured survey of the island site of Lochindorb Castle in the remote central Highlands was completed in the spring of 2010, enabling the two main phases to be outlined at both ground and first floor level, and profiles across the site to be compiled. An outwork was found to have been added to the primary castle of enclosure in the 14th century. It is now clear that the primary great hall and chamber were built in timber against the west or back wall of the castle in the 13th century, to be replaced in the 14th century by a stone-walled hall in the newly enclosed space between the inner and outer curtains. This paper will present the results of RCAHMS' work and discuss how these develop our understanding of Lochindorb within the the context of early Scottish stone castles.

1610 "A Garden in Time: Memory in the Lismore Landscape" - Dr Simon Stoddart, Cambridge University

This presentation will report on the information gathered during the Lismore landscape project, focusing on the broch of Tirefour which has now been phased through a radiocarbon dating programme kindly financed by Historic Scotland. This essentially shows a late foundation (c. 300 BC) of the broch with a long period of subsequent use of the monument, culminating in roosting owls once human occupation had ended.

1635 "Headless Horsemen? Recent discoveries at Roman Inveresk" - Dr Melanie Johnson, CFA Archaeology Ltd

This paper will present the results of CFA's recent excavations outside Inveresk Roman Fort, Musselburgh on the site of the new Musselburgh Primary Care Centre. The discoveries include a Mesolithic lithic scatter, Iron Age pit burials, a Roman rampart base, a series of Roman inhumations, some of which had been decapitated, and a Roman field system.

1700 Questions and Closing Remarks


£25 Fellows / Archaeology Scotland Members
£30 Non- Fellows / Members places
£25 Student / Unwaged (evidence must be provided)

POSTER available here (PDF 650Kb).

For further information please contact:

Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
c/o National Museums Scotland
Chambers Street
Edinburgh EH1 1JF

Tel: 0131 247 4133
Fax: 0131 247 4163

Society of Antiquaries of Scotland   Archaeology Scotland



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