Posted tagged ‘scotland’

Ridgewayus hic! (Ridgeway was here)

July 2, 2008

Last night I finished my geophysical tour of duty. At Scone we finished hunting for the Medieval Abbey and associated outbuildings with GPR. The last two days (The 25-26th of June) we investigated the proposed area of the Medieval village with a fluxgate gradiometer (which looks for magnetic anomalies bellow the ground). It turns out we were on the edge of a rig and furrow field (an old farming technique) and we might have located a homestead or a field building. We also scanned the nearby Skittery (sp?) ditch, which was a massive open sewage system. Sadly, this ditch was infilled in modern times and has a lot of metal in it, which effectively ruins any chances of interpreting the ditch feature.

I took Friday (June 27th) off. By took off I mean washed all of my non-magnetic outdoor clothing and readied myself for another batch of geophysics.

Saturday, June 28th, we traveled to Ecclefechan and set up a grid system at the Roman fort of Burnswark. There are actually two Roman forts, or castra (singular-castrum), based around a massive Iron Age hill fort. We primarily investigated the southern fort, which is a unique creature. The Iron age hill fort was excavated and thousands of lead slingshot were found in the ‘destruction level’. Originally thought to be a siege site, it is now thought that the hill fort was used as a training ground for the Roman. The fort has a smaller ‘fortlet’ within the typical double ditches of the larger fort. Also on the northern wall there are three mounds known as the ‘three brethren’. The purpose of these mounds is unknown. It is thought that they were created for an artillery platform for ballistae. Personally, I do not believe this as I think they are simple too close to the hill fort.

After a few days of thinking over their purpose, I have come to my own conclusion. I think that they are gateways modified to drain water away from the Roman fort. Many Roman forts have a rectangular wall a few meters out from the earthworks so that the Roman soldiers can control access to and from the fort. The fort is downhill from a very large hill, I think that water would easily enter and flood the Roman camp. I think that the standard gate system was modified with mounds so the water would collect in the ditch around the mounds and be likely be diverted away either outside the earthworks or through the double ditches. It is just a theory but any person who has camped downhill, especially in Scotland, will know just how a bit of rain can ruin your day.

There was 7 people in our crew, 95% were fellow post grads, and armed with two a fluxgate gradiometers and a resistivity meter (which compares the electrical resistance of ground) we covered a huge area. Under the watchful eyes of thousands of sheep we marched up and down the slopes to the sounds of beeps from our high tech devices and the bleating of sheep. It was a great experience and the longer you stayed at the base of that hill, the easier it was to envision Roman soldiers in testudo (tortoise) formation marching up to the hill fort with suppressing fire in the form of hails of lead sling shot. There may have been an actually Scottish opposition present (likely called  ‘Picts’ which roughly means “painted ones” due to the usage of body paint and tattoos) to return fire and clash in close combat  or it may have only been a daily drill. Only time and additional archaeological investigation will give us any answers.


Job placement announcement

May 1, 2008

I apologize for using a teaser and then following it up with only the deafening sounds of silence. Come to think of it, my blog is always silent but you get the point.

My work placement will be very diverse but the part, that is concrete and, I am excited about is my involvement with battlefield archaeology. I, think, I can safely announce that I am compiling the work undertaken by the British archaeological television show “Two Men in a Trench”. There are at least twelve battlefields; they range in dates from the medieval era to the Second World War. The battles include Culloden, Bannockburn, Dover, and Flodden just to name a few.

I will be working on the largest archaeological evaluation of battlefields in Europe! I think I am actually compiling the largest archaeological evaluations of battlefields in the world but I can’t prove that and I don’t care enough to waste my time looking in it to. If you somehow do know that my work constitutes as the largest in the world, don’t even tell me; my ego is just the right size and I think I would just look silly with a “big head”.

There is talk of a lot of other cool stuff but nothing is certain and I do not want to come across as a liar, a braggart or some unholy combination of the two. I am content to ride this crazy wave for now.

OK I have to brag here for a minute. I get to work on the first battle where that new-founded “grenade” was used. Back in the day when they looked like something Wyle E. Coyote would use to try to kill Roadrunner, and no I don’t mean anvils either. Being in Scotland I find it interesting that I get to work on the battles where Scotland gained, and then lost, its independence. Heck, I get to be a true spectator to the very poor military track record of Scottish rebellions. Hold on a second, didn’t I just promise not to brag and doesn’t that make me a liar? And so the slow descent begins.

Well my lunch break is over so I probably should get back to…wait for it…archiving the last “pitched” battle in the UK. Yes, that is correct, right now I am thumbing through the mud-caked field records of Culloden. It is like being there, minus the blood, the mud or both. Wait, did you hear that? That my friends, is the sound of my blog is silently yelling with joy.