Graveyard Dig Days 31 and 32

At last we have been able to spend some more time working in the graveyard, despite the soil being intermittently waterlogged. Over the last two sessions we have been joined variously by Aisling, Caelan, new member Douglas, Erin, Kathryn, Katie, Lee, Michael, Michal and Olivia.

We have continued to excavate around the last four gravestones to have been revealed. Their surfaces are now clear and we are working to expose their edges, taking down the floor of the trench just far enough to show the thickness of each stone. Once this is done we can take measurements, plan and photograph the stones. We will then think about lifting the stone that lies over the skull-and-cross-bone stone to see if there is an inscription on the other side and record the rest of the skull-and-cross-bone stone.

Getting started in the test trench
Getting started in the test trench
Excavating gravestones
Excavating around gravestones
Examining a curious find
Examining a curious find

We have also been sieving both buckets of soil as they come out of the trench and the spoil. For some reason some members seem to find sieving a particularly enjoyable activity and have come up with some artefacts that we would otherwise have missed.

Sieving spoil
Sieving spoil
Sieving spoil
Sieving spoil

Our new leader, Laura, has been teaching us more about the teeth we have recovered so far. Recently we have come across more animal teeth, mostly cattle, but we think the one below is from a pig.

Molar of a pig
Molar of a pig

Last year we found butchered animal bone so it is not really surprising to find teeth as well.

Looking more closely at the human teeth has started to make it sink in that these were once in the mouths of people much like us, living their ordinary lives in Dunfermline, falling ill, getting better, or not. The tooth shown below has slight ridges that represent periods of arrested growth during periods when the body was fighting illness.

Tooth with ridges indicating arrested growth caused by illness
Adult Incisor with ridges

Below are deciduous teeth, which of course must have belonged to children who died young and were buried in the graveyard. Of course all of the teeth and other human remains that we have recovered were scattered across the site, mingled with the rubbish laid down in 1927. There is no way to associate any remains with particular plots or individuals.

Human deciduous teeth
Human deciduous teeth

 

 

 

Graveyard Dig – Day 26

Well, the ground wasn’t frozen, it didn’t rain, but the midges were back and we were all itching like anything in the trenches. Being bitten today were Alexander, Erin, Michal and Ryan.
We were able to extend the trench of four gravestones to the east and south today and as you can see from the photos, we made excellent progress. Dougie, Erin and Michal worked fearlessly on the site plan.

Look, it isn't raining and the ground isn't frozen!
Look, it isn’t raining and the ground isn’t frozen!
Exposing the gravestone fragments
Exposing the gravestone fragments
Feeding the midges
Feeding the midges
The team working hard
The team working hard

The photograph below shows how the rubble layer just below the surface seems to deepen to the north (red end of ranging rod). We will draw a section of the trench before extending west to expose the rest of the two stones still disappearing into the mud.

Facing west the rubble layer is very clear
Facing west the rubble layer is very clear
Two Fragments and a Table Stone
Facing East: Two Fragments and a Table Stone

The east end of the table stone lies beneath the ranging rod. As yet we haven’t found any inscription, so perhaps it is a blank. It is pretty clear from the photograph above that the rubble layer continues underneath the low marker at the trench edge, which suggests that the stone was perhaps raised and put back during the landscaping work carried out in 1927.

Once we have planned the stone fragments we will lift the larger stone to fully expose the skull and crossed bones beneath and to see if any inscription survives on either stone.

Graveyard Dig – Day 24

It didn’t rain at all today. True it was cold and raw, but at least the ground had dried just a little and wasn’t frozen. Nor were there as many leaves to clear from the trenches. Most have fallen now and so won’t be such a nuisance any more. Best of all, it was too cold for the midges to be out nibbling our scalps.

A failure in communications (probably) meant that there were just a few YAC members excavating in the graveyard this afternoon: Erin, Michael, Ronan and Sienna. Sorry about that, and email failed to send.

Buckets pose for a photo during a break
Buckets pose for a photo during a break

Dougie and Pete carried on working in the south trench. The rubble seems to continue to a greater depth in this area. Although the rubble thins to the north, it must have involved quite a bit of work when it was laid down in the 1920’s.

Dougie, later joined by Pete, still hacking away at the rubble in the warmth of the southern trench.
Dougie, later joined by Pete, still hacking away at the rubble in the warmth of the southern trench.
Watching Dougie work. He's an inspiration.
Watching Dougie work. He’s an inspiration.

The rest of us focused on clearing the two stones discovered last time and in so doing we discovered first the edge of a probable table stone at the north end of the trench. It has a nicely bevelled edge and seems to lie flat, so may well be in its original position. As yet no inscription is visible.

The table stone discovered
The table stone discovered

In the last ten minutes or so, peeping out from underneath one of the stones we found last week, we came across a stone decorated with skull and crossed bones. The skull and one of the bones are clearly visible and seem to be in pretty good condition.

Gravestone decorated with skull and bone partially hidden beneath another gravestone
Skull and bone, presumably crossed

Finding one stone on top of another suggests very strongly that they were dumped in 1927 and then covered in rubble.

As you can clearly see, we need to extend our trench north, west and east to reveal the rest of the four stones. We will draw a section of the rubble layer too as it is such an important feature of the site. Our earlier probing was clearly just bouncing off the rubble, leading us to believe that there were gravestones just below the turf. Once again we have seen that we have to excavate to some depth before we hit gravestone!

The Table Stone lies at a less jaunty angle than the others
The Table Stone lies at a less jaunty angle than the others
A clear view of the four stones uncovered
A clearer view of the four stones uncovered

The skull stone and its neighbour lie very close to the low marker just to the east. We speculated as to whether they abut or continue beneath the low marker. Experience so far suggests that they will abut the stone, in which case there isn’t much more of either to reveal.

Four stones in one trench. Note the depth of the rubble layer at the back of the trench
Four stones in one trench. Note the depth of the rubble layer at the back of the trench