Well, we’re over the halfway stage in our dig at Clarkly Hill, and things are getting really interesting. We started with our favourite tool, the big yellow mechanical trowel, which lets us strip away the disturbed ploughsoil.
After that, it’s been cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, in very un-Scottish sunshine, to show up the archaeological traces.
Sun may be good for the tan but it’s bad for the archaeology – we rely on spotting colour differences between soils, and the sun burns these out – so we weren’t too unhappy when the rain came. Suddenly we could see the traces more clearly – a massive Iron Age roundhouse in one trench, with the big black curve marking a hollow where the animals were stabled. It’s 17 metres across inside – try pacing this out to see just how big these houses were.
Our second trench developed a nasty case of measles when it rained – dark spots all over the place, marking pits and postholes from ancient activity.
But it didn’t make much sense from the ground – so we took to the air, thanks to a kite camera kit which John Wells donated to the museum in memory of his wife Rosie (see www.armadale.co.uk for some of their archaeological photos).
It’s not just an excuse to play with a kite – the aerial view gives us a much better perspective.
Suddenly a roundhouse pops out, with the curving outer wall. But hold on – there’s the ring of posts from another – and another – and another… Lots more than we thought we’d find – and lots to deal with in the limited time we have, but we’ll dig and sample and try to disentangle them. It’s clear this was a popular place to stay in the Iron Age.
There are two tantalising blobs in this trench which we’re also disentangling. One’s producing loads of bits of crucibles from bronze-casting, and we’re hopeful it’s an Iron Age or Pictish workshop. The other looks like the sunken floor of a building too, with a hearth at one end – and a big pot beside it, which seems to be mostly intact. What’s it for? Well, it’s hidden by the ash from the hearth, so we won’t find out till we dig some more!
Our final trench is giving up its secrets slowly. It’s really well preserved, thanks to a deep overlying ploughsoil, and there are traces of building and a cobbled yard. So far no dating evidence, but we’ll be diving into it this week to find out more.
In the corner, there are what one visitor rightly called “muckle stanes” – some massive boulders inside a circular enclosure. Is it remains of a stone circle? Or an Iron Age or Pictish feature? We’ll try to find out this week…
No space here to talk about the finds – look at our Facebook page for that – and you can see some of our volunteers hard at work there. We’ve also had loads of schoolkids out – thanks to funding from Moray LEADER and the Baxter Foundation, we’ve been able to fund an educational programme linked to the dig. The kids get to learn and to go home muddy – what could be better…?
OK, the trench calls – we’ve an awful lot still to do in the last week. We’ll hope for decent weather (light rain overnight, overcast days, no wind – we’re not that demanding, really) and lots of nice finds. Come back in a week or so to see what happened!