Posted tagged ‘Scone’

Sorry, I’ve been busy (Scone excavation!)

August 8, 2008

I have been plugging away on my dissertation and it has been absorbing my life. It is due September 1st so you can see that I need to buckle down. I am working on the applications of geophysics on battlefield sites. I am talking about locating war-graves, and a through time (aka chronological) perspective of battlefield characteristics and what can be detected with different geophysical techniques. Normally, I’d say ‘please don’t rip me off’ but given the time frame I will instead say ‘good luck ye intellectual pirates!’

Well at the end of last month, I helped to excavate Scone (not pronounced like the baked good, more like Schooner without the ‘er’), which was the seat of power in Scotland and the site of a medieval abbey. I also did a ground-penetrating radar (GPR) survey there a few months back.

I was there for three days and I did the following. I helped uncover the abbey floor, I excavated a 500 year old mother and child burial (well the “mother’s” gender has not be confirmed), I found more scattered (AKA “disarticulated”) human bones then I would have liked and I helped to backfill the trenches. Going back to the disarticulated bones, sadly, looters and 19th landscapers simply dug through burials, and managed to both scatter and shatter the bones.

I have pictures of the eight or so burials that we encountered, however, I will not post them out of respect for the dead. Speaking of the dead, it is very interesting to see how the tourists reacted to the visible presence of human remains. Children, well mostly children, would race up to you and ask ‘where are the skeletons?’ I got so blasé about pointing out the best viewpoint to see burials that after informing a group of people I was shocked when one lady indigently replied “Oh, how macabre!”

The questions people ask you when you are working on a burial never cease to amaze me. They range from “are they going to be reburied afterwards” to “are those real”. I’ll just assume they were talking about the burials. Here is what I wanted to say – no people, I spent hours creating mock burials so I could spend even more time “back-breakingly” and publicly excavating my own forgery. Ain’t I a stinker!

Jokes aside, spiritually and religion is always on the forefront of many questions. Many would ask if we could determine the religious beliefs of the dead; others would ask about crystals and spiritual alignments. Hey, it takes different stroke for different folks.

While the dig was on the peacocks were malting so many of us archaeologist were carrying on with feathers in our caps. Well, at least I was; just call me Yankee-doodle-dandy. On second thought, please don’t. Oh and here is a picture of one of the peacocks from the last time I was a Scone.

The Albino peacock complex

The Albino peacock complex

Right, back to Roman sieges, and their components that are visible to different geophysics techniques. Hell, if I get good enough grades on this puppy I will post it.

Peacocks and physics er…geophysics

June 23, 2008

This is the first day of an entire week of geophysics. I am working at two separate sites and today was my first day at the site of Scone (pronounced like schooner without the er), Scotland. Scone is a medieval monastic site that is also the original location of the “stone of destiny”. I used ground-penetrating radar (GPR) for the first time. Affectionately referred to as  “the plough” or “the lawnmower” the GPR unit skims across the ground and as the wheel moves there is a sensor which triggers the transmitter unit and the data is collected by the receiver unit (which appears as white boxes which are slightly separated from each other). GPR is amazing because it can collect huge amount of data that allows for 3D analysis and, with enough luck, you can even tell exactly what is bellow the ground and what is it made of. We took readings every 5cm but the wheel sensor undertook all of the hard work and we managed to cover a huge amount of ground.

The work is being undertaken at Scone because it faired so poorly during the reformation. Most Catholic buildings had at least some standing elements left for archaeologists and historians to record, however, the landowners of Scone did not like to gaze upon a crumbling church and had any surface remains destroyed. Now almost nothing is known about the layout of the site itself.

It was a beautiful day for surveying and apart from tourists the site was plagued with peacocks. I have some great pictures of a seemingly interested peacock eavesdropping in on our geophysics discussions, however, because people are identifiable I won’t put them up yet (without consent). On the estate, there is an incredibly beautiful pure white (albino?) peacock. Given its uniqueness it was constantly harassed and tried to scare off these camera-happy predators by brandishing its tail. This defense mechanism would backfired and it would simply draw the attention of every tourist within view. I call it the “white peacock paradox”; I am sure there some underlying comment about the rich and famous in there somewhere.