Issue: Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 146

Publication Type:
Title: Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 146
Year of Publication: 2016
Volume: 146
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Abstract
Richard Hodges
1 - 6
Caroline R Wickham-Jones
James Kenworthy
Aoife Gould
Gavin MacGregor
Gordon Noble
7 - 55
The Mesolithic site of Nethermills Farm, Crathes, Banchory, was identified from fieldwalking that took place between 1973 and 1977 and it was excavated between 1978 and 1981 under the direction of James Kenworthy. Kenworthy interpreted the site as a ‘hunter-gatherer camp’ with probable evidence for a circular structure, but publication of the excavation was never completed. This paper draws on specialist work undertaken immediately after excavation, together with new analyses and radiocarbon determinations from original samples. It focuses on the results of excavation: material from the fieldwalking is briefly considered towards the end of the discussion, but detailed analysis of the lithics from fieldwalking is left for future research. A number of stratified features were excavated and recorded, together with a lithic assemblage of over 30,000 pieces, which includes many narrow blade microliths. It is not possible to uphold the interpretation that the cut features represent the remains of a specific structure but it is clear that Mesolithic activity took place here, probably comprising repeated visits over a considerable period of time. The radiocarbon determinations cover a wide spread of activity from the Mesolithic to the Bronze Age – though there are no clear chronological indicators of later prehistoric activity in the finds from the site. Kenworthy chose to excavate only a tiny proportion of the site at Nethermills, which extends some 2km along the River Dee. The likelihood that stratified features may survive elsewhere makes this a Mesolithic site of considerable significance – especially when considered in the context of the many other Mesolithic sites along the River Dee, from its source to the sea.
David V Clarke
Alison Sheridan
Alexandra N Shepherd
Niall M Sharples
Miranda Jane Armour-Chelu
Laura Hamlet
Christopher Bronk-Ramsey
E Dunbar
Paula J Reimer
Peter D Marshall
Alasdair W R Whittle
57 - 89
As part of a major international research project, The Times of Their Lives, a programme of radiocarbon dating and Bayesian modelling was undertaken to refine the chronology of activities in one small but important part of the extensive Late Neolithic and Bronze Age settlement on Links of Noltland on the island of Westray, Orkney. The selected area (Trench D) is well known for having produced, next to a wall, the remains of a heap of at least 15 red deer carcasses, on top of which had been placed a large cod, a gannet’s wing along with part of a greater black-backed gull, and a pair of large antlers. This remarkable deposit had been preceded by, and was followed by, periods of cultivation and the deposition of domestic refuse. Refined date estimates have been produced, based on 18 radiocarbon determinations obtained from 16 samples from Trench D (including nine newly obtained dates, three from individual deer in the heap). These clarify when, during this long sequence of activities, the deer were heaped up: probably in the 22nd century cal bc, around the same time as Beaker pottery was deposited elsewhere on the Links. This allows comparison between the dated activities in this part of the site with activity elsewhere on the Links and also with other episodes of deer deposition in 3rd-millennium cal bc Orkney. It encourages exploration of the possible reasons for what appears to be a remarkable act of structured deposition. The significance of an earlier, much larger scale deposit featuring cattle remains at Ness of Brodgar is discussed in exploring the nature of Orcadian society and practices during the second half of the 3rd millennium cal bc.
Moira K Greig
91 - 102
A small emergency excavation was undertaken under extreme conditions in 1984 after receiving a report that a Bronze Age urn was visible in an eroded embankment after a heavy frost. Cremated remains of a female adult and infant, 11 burnt flints, a possible fragment of ivory and five pierced clay ornaments were subsequently recovered from the remains of a cremation pit, but no urn was recorded. A radiocarbon determination 3510 ± 30 bp (SUERC-33727) was obtained from birchwood charcoal within the pit and a date from oak charcoal of 3600 ± 30 bp (SUERC-33728). Unfortunately, a few of these artefacts have been mislaid since deposition in a museum so were unavailable for analysis. The same site produced two other cremation pits, one in 1970 and another later in 1986, which produced a date of 3460 ± 35 bp (GrA-28622), suggesting a larger cemetery exists.
Daniel Rhodes
Elizabeth Jones
103 - 112
During a routine archaeological monitoring visit to the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) property at the House of the Binns in August 2013, human bone was discovered eroding from a small bedrock quarry face. Following investigation by the NTS Archaeology Team this was identified as the remains of two male skeletons from the first centuries bc/ad. Both were buried within a single stone cist, with the remains of one individual (30–50 years old) clearly disturbed during the placement of the second (a young adult). The second individual was placed in a crouched position on his left side and was wearing a penannular brooch on his left shoulder. A significant element of the site is the survival of some extremely rare Iron Age textile upon the brooch.
J R L Allen
113 - 119
James Curle found at Newstead near Melrose an unusual whetstone of bar-shaped design, with rebates on the long edges, that is now on public display at the National Museum of Scotland (Edinburgh). It is made from a greenish-grey, calcareous, very fine-grained sandstone, attributable to sandstones in the Weald Clay Formation (Lower Cretaceous) outcropping in the Weald of south-east England. Carefully manufactured whetstones produced by a large business in this area occur throughout most of Roman Britain and are also found on the coastal mainland of north-west Europe. The Newstead example is the northernmost of its products known on a spatially exponential distribution of sites.
Gordon Noble
Joe R Turner
Derek Hamilton
Lee Hastie
Rick Knecht
Oskar Sveinbjarnarson
B R Upex
Karen B Milek
Lindsey Stirling
121 - 152
From 2010 to 2014, extensive shell middens were excavated at the Sands of Forvie, Aberdeenshire, and the wider landscape explored through a programme of soil and geophysical survey. The middens were dated to the 1st millennium ad and appear to represent intensive gathering and cooking of shellfish, particularly mussels. To date, few middens of the scale of the Forvie examples have been identified in Scotland, but the middens share some parallels with similar examples found in a broader North Sea context. This article reports on the findings of the excavations, provides an outline of the chronology of the middens, including Bayesian modelling of dates, and a brief review of the growing evidence for shellfish gathering in 1st-millennium ad Scotland and the wider north-west European context.
Peter A Yeoman
153 - 165
This paper will consider the oldest known image of St Columba, contained within a copy of Adomnán’s Vita sancti Columbae, created around the middle of the 9th century in the monastery at St Gallen in Switzerland. Columba established a confederation of monasteries in Britain and Ireland, centred on his great foundation at Iona, before his death in ad 597. His fame spread to the Continent, in relation to a network of Carolingian monasteries with Scotto-Irish links, resulting in a persistent devotion to certain Irish saints, the context for which is outlined here. Rather than simply being an illustration in support of the manuscript, the image affirms the significance of Columba to the culture of St Gallen more than 200 years after his death. Most remarkably, a ‘house-shaped’ shrine – of possible Insular origin – features in the church setting of this image, and this is discussed in relation to the possible origins and identification of this object, possibly as a Columban reliquary. Whereas this paper focuses on the materiality of the image and especially on the extraordinary representation of the reliquary, an art historical assessment of the image is also essential to achieving a full understanding. As this is outwith the skills of the present author, the art historical significance will be fully explored in a forthcoming, accompanying paper by Prof Jane Geddes.
Graeme Lawson
167 - 180
A stray bone tuning peg from late medieval levels within Edinburgh Castle, the first such find to be published from Scotland, probably belonged to a small, wooden, metal-strung harp. Although it is simply made, its dimensions indicate that the lost instrument had been built to standard units of measurement (inches and fractions of an inch), was probably the product of a craft workshop and was therefore a valuable item of equipment. With the exception of an early antiquarian find from a bog in Co Antrim, of which only a drawing now remains, no such instrument has yet been found in these islands, but numerous images survive, especially in Insular manuscript miniatures. Some feature pegs and strings in the process of being tuned. Under the microscope, the object reveals surface textures that are closely consistent with such use, specifically with its insertion into a wooden socket and with repeated twisting there by means of a socketed metal key. Close to the string hole are oblique stains suggestive of a winding of metal wire. X-ray fluorescence analysis in the vicinity of these stains suggests long-term exposure to contamination from strings of copper alloy or from some nearby copper-alloy fitment. However, an unexpectedly strong iron signal from within the soil residues still packing the string hole leaves open the possibility of iron or steel wire.
Timothy G Holden
181 - 213
Kisimul Castle was taken into the guardianship of Historic Scotland in 2000 and in order to inform any future works for its upkeep a programme of archaeological evaluation, building recording and historical research was undertaken in 2001. Following on from this, a detailed programme of post-excavation analysis and research was conducted in 2011–12. The archaeological works revealed frustratingly little about the construction of the castle but did identify evidence for prehistoric as well as post-medieval occupation of the site and provided an evocative picture of life on the isle and its inhabitants. This will be covered subsequently in Part 2. By contrast, the historical and architectural work presents a good case for an early 15th-century origin for the castle supporting Dunbar’s (1978) earlier hypothesis and these are discussed in this Part 1.
John M Gilbert
215 - 252
This article will examine the evidence for woodland management in Scotland from the 12th to the 16th centuries and will try to draw some overall conclusions about that management and how effective it was. Although there are difficulties in using medieval documentary evidence in terms of its Latin and Scots vocabulary, it does show that woodland was being managed throughout this period by enclosing woods, excluding animals and allowing time for regrowth – in other words, by coppicing and possibly, in some instances, by coppicing on a formal rota. Pollarding, shredding and growing coppice with standards may also have taken place. Examples of woodland management will be looked at in more detail in Darnaway and Campsie Forests. Despite this management, there is no doubt that a shortage of timber did develop in Scotland in areas of heavy use, especially from the 14th century onwards. What appears to have happened was that the majority of users of the woods were the lord’s tenants and men. Their requirements were not for large timbers but for small trees and underwood. Consequently, in many places where underwood survived it was cut before it could grow into timber and, despite efforts in the 15th century by lords, parliament and the king, young wood continued to be cut at the expense of future supplies of timber.
Iain Gordon Brown
Alan Montgomery
253 - 274
A sculptured stone panel built into the wall of a house at the Fountain Close near the Netherbow Port of Edinburgh was first noted by Sir John Clerk of Penicuik in 1726 and published by Alexander Gordon that same year. The tablet features two heads, male and female, in profile and facing each other across an inscribed panel bearing a biblical inscription in lettering of Gothic form. The slab is today in the National Museum of Scotland where it is regarded as a work of the 16th century. But in the 18th century the antiquaries of Scotland were anxious to demonstrate that the carved heads were Roman and that they were those of the Emperor Septimius Severus and his consort Julia Domna. The awkwardness of the Gothic text between was simply, and literally, omitted from the engraved record of the stone. The ‘Roman’ view was adhered to into modern times. The case of the sculptured slab stands representative of antiquarian attitudes to the remains of the past across three centuries. The work of many writers of scholarly and popular literature is adduced on both sides of the argument, and derivatives of the portrait heads incorporated in the decoration of Sir Walter Scott’s Abbotsford are discussed.
George Geddes
275 - 309
This paper explores the story of Scotland’s national survey body, the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, between 1935 and 1946, with reference to Angus Graham, their Secretary, and Vere Gordon Childe, perhaps the best-known archaeologist of the 20th century. Much of the narrative describes the Commission’s survey of Orkney and Shetland, an eight year project which brought close contact with Childe, and special attention is given to debate over the Neolithic sites at Skara Brae and Rinyo. The outbreak of war in 1939 delayed their report for some seven years, but the government supported a major programme of rescue recording to mitigate damage caused by enemy bombing and the training of allied troops. In 1938 Childe was passed over for membership of the Commission, who felt that they had sufficient archaeological expertise. His extreme anger at this snub was to be reflected in a negative review of their forthcoming report, but was allayed by neat footwork on the part of the chairman. In 1942, when the Commissioners did indeed put Childe forward as a member it was the Secretary of State for Scotland that stood in their way. Dedicated efforts by the Commission finally persuaded him that Childe was not in fact a Communist threat, and he and Graham went on to record some 636 ancient monuments, while Graham alone took 2,200 images of historic buildings. The archive material (and Graham’s diaries in particular) shine a light on what was a pioneering project in testing times. The circumstances of the war, and the short duration of Childe’s membership, meant that his influence was in fact felt through fieldwork and not, as one may have expected, in the development of the Commission’s over-arching syntheses.