Graveyard Dig – Day 29

Having had to cancel a couple of sessions due to bad weather, we finally got back into the graveyard this afternoon to continue excavating. Despite the cold, we had a great turn out, with Alexander, Kathryn, Katie, Lee, Michal, Michael, Olivia, Ronan, Sienna joined by new member Aisling, enjoying her first time working in the graveyard. Sienna and Ronan very kindly allowed a parent each to join in.

We had a very busy couple of hours. Sienna’s dad, Pete, working with Aisling and Michal, finally cleared the surface of the last stone in the main trench we are working in just now. It has a rounded, but partially broken top and is made of badly worn sandstone. No sign of inscription yet, but the surface is still quite muddy and any inscription could just as easily be face-down.

Alexander, brandishing a smart new trowel, worked around one of the other stones so that we can draw a section of the trench edge. Ronan and his mum Alison were next to Alexander, enlarging the trench to clear the east edge of the table stone.

Lee and Michael worked well in the trench in the south east corner of the site, in search of any more buried gravestones. They did find a rather nice handmade brick with mortar still attached.

Finds were mostly fragments of human bone, with some pottery and glass thrown in for good measure, as you will see below.

Kathryn and Katie focused on cleaning some of the winter mud from stones already excavated while Olivia and Sienna spent most of their time sieving for finds in the spoil added to the heap during the course of the afternoon.

Some Finds

I am ashamed to say that we were so busy I kept forgetting to take any photos of the team at work. I have tried to make up for this terrible oversight by photographing some of the finds of the day.

Each of the photographs carries a challenge to YAC members, and anyone else reading this, to do some research and answer some questions about the finds. See how you get on with uncovering some answers. You can always post your ideas or any problems in the comments box below.

The Shell

Let’s take this rather handsome shell uncovered towards the bottom of the trench. We often find oyster shells, usually much flatter and more crumbly and without the ridge pattern you can see on this one. Which begs the question, is this just another Forth oyster brought up from the oyster beds to be eaten in Dunfermline, or is it perhaps a different species? Can someone investigate?

Large Shell
Large Shell

The Animal Tooth

We found several teeth during the day. The one below is certainly too large to be human and the biting surface suggests a grass-eating herbivore. But is it a cow, horse or some other species? Find some photographs of the teeth of other herbivores to compare and make your decision.

Animal Tooth
Animal Tooth

A Bone Fragment

Next we have a small fragment of bone, quite thin, as you can see, and whilst broken at the bottom, the top edge is strangely curved. Assuming it is human, which part of the body is it from? You’ll need to find some evidence to back up your ideas; identifying photographs or drawings would be best. I wonder how large and old the owner of the bone was?

Fragment of Human Bone
Fragment of Human Bone

Rusted Metal

We often find metal objects, encrusted in rust and accretions of stone and dirt. It would be asking an awful lot to expect anyone to be able to work out what this is with any certainty, but have a go anyway.

Rusted Iron Object
Rusted Iron Object

A Second Fragment of Bone

More bone now, the same bone photographed from two different angles. It was wet from cleaning when I took the photos, which is why it glistens slightly. Do you think it is human? Which part of the body might it be from? Is it possible to tell if it is the bone of an adult or child?

Fragment of human bone 1
Fragment of human bone 1
Fragment of human bone 2
Fragment of human bone 2

A Sherd of?

Next comes a sherd of something or other. What material do you think it is made of? Any guesses as to what it was once part of?

Broken Glass
Broken Fragment

The Ceramic Sherd

The next piece is clearly pottery (ceramic). The fragmented decoration looks decidedly weird, but might actually make perfect sense if we could work out what it is. Like almost everything else we found today it was probably deposited in 1927, within a layer of rubble. Can anyone find out anything more about it?

Ceramic Sherd
Ceramic Sherd

A Person’s Tooth

Back to human remains, we have this tooth in two photographs. What kind of tooth is it? Adult or child? And what has happened to it and what might that tell us about the life of the person whose mouth this tooth was once part of?

View of human tooth showing decay
Human Tooth 1
Front of worn human tooth
Human Tooth 2

More Ceramic

Finally, another ceramic fragment. Part of the bowl of a tobacco pipe perhaps? What about the strange design? Is this enough of a clue to tell us more about this tiny piece of pottery?

Ceramic sherd with human hand
Ceramic Sherd

We are Heritage Heroes

On Saturday 21st January Kathryn, Mark and Olivia represented Dunfermline YAC at the official launch of Archaeology Scotland’s Heritage Hero award scheme at the amazing Argyll’s Lodging just below Stirling Castle.

The posh entrance to Argyll's Lodging
The posh entrance to Argyll’s Lodging

Kathryn and Olivia took the chance to explore the house. They best remember the barrel-vaulted kitchen, with its massive fire-place. It had been rebuilt of stone in the 16th century after the original, wooden kitchen had burnt to the ground. It is kitted out with replica jugs and bowls and other kitchen equipment to give an idea of what it had looked like in the past. Olivia was disappointed not to be able to pick up the knives that had been glued to the chopping boards. Kathryn, on the other hand, was quite glad.

Model of Argyll's Lodging next to Stirling Castle
Model of Argyll’s Lodging next to Stirling Castle

There were people from all over Scotland at the launch who had helped to pilot the awards. Some folk talked about the projects they had run. They included a cool project in Kilmarnock. Seven school children had researched the lives of  men from the local railway-works who had fought in World War 1. The research was used in museum displays and even to produce a book.

Slide showing the location of all the Heritage Hero Pilot Projects across Scotland
Slide showing the location of all the Heritage Hero Pilot Projects across Scotland
Mark talking about the YAC graveyard project at the launch
Mark talking about the YAC graveyard project at the launch

Mark talked a bit about the Dunfermline Abbey graveyard project and a school project he had helped with at a local primary school. Olivia had participated in both projects. She talked about how she had come to join YAC as a result of getting  involved with the school project. Olivia was cheered when we realised that she is probably the first person in the world to get two Heritage Hero awards.

Olivia talking about the Heritage Hero projects she was involved with
Olivia talking about the Heritage Hero projects she was involved with

Kathryn and Olivia rounded things off by first cutting and then eating large amounts  a celebration cake. Olivia found the fondant covering a little too sweet and thick, but enjoyed the sponge. Kathryn just ate and enjoyed it. Mark, inconsiderately, spent so much time, gassing that Kathryn and Olivia had to drag him off without even trying the cake. What a shame.

Kathryn and Olivia cutting the Heritage Hero celebration cake
Kathryn and Olivia cutting the Heritage Hero celebration cake.

However, we had good soup in the castle café, enjoyed the fog and had a look round the gift shop. Olivia bought postcards and soap for her mum while Kathryn bought a fancy, medieval catapult, pencil sharpener so she can ping things at her siblings. It works well. Mark wasn’t allowed to buy anything.

Stirling Castle in the fog
Stirling Castle in the fog
Olivia and Mark turning their backs on Kathryn
Olivia and Mark turning their backs on Kathryn

Medieval Minecraft!

We had an excellent session with Scotland’s Urban Past and Steven from Immersive Mind yesterday. We are working together to create a map of medieval  Dunfermline using the computer game Minecraft, which many of our members are already avid fans of!

Our YACers and Steven

Steven has created a map of Dunfermline using information taken from Google maps. It includes local landmarks like the Glen, which has hills, trees and the river running through it. Impressive! But we must populate it with buildings! First off, Abbot House. Once the group has built Abbot House on our server, Steven will lift the building and place it in to this pre-created topography of Dunfermline.

Flying over the Glen on the big screen

Next, Fiona from SUP did a session on Mason’s marks. Those longer-serving YAC members might remember the walk around Dunfermline Abbey we did to hunt for Mason’s marks. These marks were identifying marks which Mason’s would carve in to stone to mark their handiwork. We decided that it would be a nice idea for each YAC member to design their own mark which they could then place somewhere on each of their Minecraft builds. Each member came up with their own unique design, some using their initials. We then had a go at placing these into a Minecraft build so we could see what they would look like.

Katie designing her Mason’s mark
Kathryn designing her Mason’s mark
Everyone’s marks placed together into the front of a building

Next, Dougie talked us through the excellent work he and Erin have done to convert old archival documents and measurements of Abbot House in to easy to understand plans that we can build from. Thank you Dougie and Erin for all of your hard work on this over the last few months! We now have plans which have been converted in to Minecraft blocks so that we can begin building our masterpiece!

We thought we would let everyone have a little go at using the plans and everyone seemed to pick it up really quickly. We soon had something resembling a very early Abbot House. We chatted about what materials we thought it may have been made from, and chose appropriate Minecraft blocks to reflect this. We also chatted about the fact that we know there was an external staircase to the first floor, but have no documents to show what this would have looked like. Members are now experimenting with finding somewhere to fit a staircase that won’t block windows and doors.

 

Caelan quickly gets cracking on building the ground floor of Abbot House

 

We have set a task for each member at home. We would like you (perhaps with a littler independent research) to build your own building to go on to the Maygate (opposite Abbot House). It could be a shop, or maybe a home. You will need to think about what materials your building would be made of, and what would be inside. Maybe it is a building where several families live, which would have been common in poor, overcrowded places. What would each family need? A bed? A fireplace? Were there any animals on your land? The only stipulation is that your building can be a maximum of 16 blocks wide and 10 blocks deep. Happy building Minecrafters!

 

If you didn’t manage to come along to the session but have signed up for your Minecraft login then please keep an eye on your email because I have sent you further details to help you get started.

 

Charlotte

Graveyard Dig – Day 28

‘Twas the week before Christmas when all through the graveyard the sound of YAC members excavating, planning and sieving could be heard quite distinctly. Our seasonal excavators were Erin, Kathryn, Katie, Lee and Michal with a special guest appearance by Erin’s brother Keiron.

Hard at work
Hard at work
Some sieving of spoil
Some sieving of spoil

We got on really well today, finally exposing the table stone, complete and with a beautifully clear inscription to one Andrew Bridges. Michal also discovered that the base of the stone, which has been visible for some weeks now, is also inscribed “2 Rooms”, which suggests that Mr Bridges was not planning on resting alone in the graveyard.

Mr Bridges' gravestone revealed
Mr Bridges’ gravestone revealed
Andrew Bridges gravestone. He died in 1833 at the age of 76
Andrew Bridges gravestone. He died in 1833 at the age of 76

The record of Andrew’s burial tells us that he was a mason who lived on Woodhead Street (now the north end of Chalmer’s Street). He died in 1833 of dropsy.

Dougie, working very carefully, found the first metal container of the dig over in the north-east corner of the site. It is flattened somewhat and has a bit of a hole in the bottom, but is otherwise complete. It seems to have lugs on either side, but as it has rusted, it has accreted soil and stone, so its form is not clear.

A curious can found in the rubble of the south-east trench
A curious can found in the rubble of the south-east trench
Trench section on the north side of the Bridge trench
Trench section on the north side of the Bridge trench

The south edge of the Bridge trench is proving to be interesting. Firstly Mr Bridge’s gravestone continues north underneath the neighbouring low marker, and secondly, the rubble layer appears to continue partially beneath the low marker, with a clear edge between rubble and graveyard soil. This suggests we have yet another low marker that was moved in some way in 1927. We will clean and record the section to make the relationship between the stones and rubble layer as clear as we can.

As you can see if the final photograph, we are excavating another gravestone to the south of Mr Bridge. This one is made of sandstone, so we are proceeding carefully and with little expectation of a surviving inscription; the surface being very pitted and crumbly. So, still plenty to do in the New Year!

Mr Bridge and the neighbours
Mr Bridge and the neighbours

Graveyard Dig – Day 27

We had a really good turn out on Saturday: Alexander, Erin, Kathryn, Katie, Michael, Michal, Olivia and Sienna all put in a good two hours of work. The weather was mild and dry, the mud had dried a little and there was enough of a breeze to keep us midge free. Who could ask for more on a Saturday in December?

Almost everyone hard at work, except me
Almost everyone hard at work, except me

Our main effort today was extending the Trench of Four Gravestones westward in order to uncover the rest of two of the stones. We also opened up the rest of the extreme south west corner trench in the hope of finding something other than yet more rubble. No such luck as yet.

A bone is found
A bone is found
Excavating and planning
Excavating and planning
Whilst our intrepid YAC member plans away, a leader engages with the public
Whilst our intrepid YAC member plans away, a leader engages with the public
Breaking ground in the south east corner of the site
Breaking ground (well, rubble) in the south east corner of the site
Speed trowelling
Speed trowelling
Slightly worried planning activity
Slightly worried planning activity
Contemplative excavation
Contemplative excavation

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 25

It has been cold in the graveyard over the last few days and the ground has frozen. Even though it was a little milder today the ground was still too hard to allow deturfing. Consequently we couldn’t extend the trench with the four recently discovered gravestones.
Luckily Caelan, Erin, Kathryn and Lee were able to clear leaves, work on the site plan and finish excavating the southern trench, the bottom of which was unfrozen. By the end of the session we were satisfied that we had cleared the rubble layer and reached graveyard soil. You can see the depth of the rubble from the photograph below, taken of the trench just to the north.

A view of the rubble layer in section
A view of the rubble layer in section

Kathryn and Erin probed the bottom of the trench for gravestones, but came up empty. We can clean the sides of the trench, record it and then backfill.

Dougie is planning, as for the others ...
Dougie is planning, as for the others …

This week members easily spent as much time being cold, not sharing their crisps, singing a song in which grapes appeared to feature quite a bit, stabbing fallen leaves with a ranging rod and insisting on password protection for entry to the site, as they did on archaeology.

YAC members taking a (long) break
YAC members taking a (long) break
One YAC member planning, several others not
One YAC member planning, several others not

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

Graveyard Dig – Day 23

The afternoon of Sunday 13th November was dreich. YAC members Alexander, Erin, Finlay, Kathryn, Katie, Michal, Lee, Michael and new member Ryan experienced this in full over the two hours they spent excavating in the claggy trenches of the Abbey Graveyard. They enjoyed light drizzle and midges, followed by heavy rain that drove down the temperature and away the midges.

YAC members being nibbled by midges
YAC members being nibbled by midges

Despite the autumnal weather the hardy, mud-plastered YAC-folk achieved a lot. They determined that the easternmost trench contained whole bricks rather than a gravestone, and, most excitingly, that there are at least two gravestones beneath the thick layer of rubble on the western side of the row of low markers that we are working around.

Burying murdered midges in one of the trenches
Burying murdered midges

It was too wet and muddy to make much progress with the new stones, but we could see that they are abutting and lying at a jaunty angle. We can’t yet tell if they are whole or fragments, or if they are associated with the nearby low marker. Hopefully we’ll have some drier weather next time and be able to make sense of them.

Clearing rubble prior to uncovering another gravestone
Clearing rubble prior to uncovering another gravestone
Three YAC members working to excavate a new gravestone
One of two new gravestones partially uncovered

Graveyard Dig – Days 20 to 22 & Archaeology Scotland Hits Town

It seems like a long time ago now, but between the 21st and 23rd of October Dunfermline YAC was incredibly busy: digging in the graveyard, receiving awards and helping out at Archaeology Scotland‘s AGM in Dunfermline.

Graveyard Dig – Day 20

Alexander, Caelan, Erin and Michal joined us for a couple of hours working on the dig today. It was pretty miserable weather and a session that demonstrated well that archaeology isn’t all fun! After a good half an hour of clearing fallen leaves, we finally got down to the exciting task of cleaning rubble for recording, before we dig through it. We also probed on the other, eastern side of the low markers that we are excavating against. There is definitely stone close to the surface, but we are guessing that it is simply more rubble rather than gravestones. We hope that there may be older gravestones below the rubble.

Excavating rubble can be so satisfying
Excavating rubble can be so satisfying
Probing for sunken gravestones
Probing for sunken gravestones

Graveyard Dig – Day 21 & Archaeology Scotland AGM

A long, busy and rather proud day; as most Dunfermline YAC members were presented with their well-earned Heritage Hero awards at the AGM. After a morning indoors of talks, activities and a rather nice lunch, we headed down to the graveyard to do some work and also share the dig with Archaeology Scotland members on a wee tour of Dunfermline.

Presentation being watched by YAC member
Presentation being watched. Any YAC members in the photo do you think?
An award in the act of being transferred
An award in the act of being transferred (photo Alex Wood)
Awards having been received
Awards having been received, not in order of height (photo Alex Wood)

From the perspective of the dig we actually got quite a bit done: planning, opening up a new rubble trench, talking to visitors (including AGM attendees) and getting cold. A good day I think.

Archeology Scotland members watch YAC in captivity
Archeology Scotland members watch YAC in captivity (photo Alex Wood)
Plane table fun in the graveyard
Plane table fun in the graveyard (photo Alex Wood)
Is this a thing which we see before us?
Is this a thing which we see before us? (photo Alex Wood)
There's a worm in my bucket
There’s a worm in my bucket (photo Alex Wood)

Graveyard Dig – Day 22

Back to normal this afternoon. More leaf clearing followed by planning rubble, finding rubble, cleaning rubble, digging rubble and playing with the mud. I think the latter activity was enjoyed the most.

Exposing some gravestone edge
Exposing some gravestone edge
Our puddle
Our puddle
Digging in the cold
Digging in the cold
Planning rubble
Planning rubble