Rhynie, Aberdeenshire

Rhynie, Aberdeenshire
The Craw Stane with Tap o'Noth hillfort in the background (Photo courtesy of Cathy MacIver).

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Rhynie Video

Many of our regular followers will already know of this great short film with some fantastic photography and reconstruction.  However, if you have not already seen it - it is worth a visit!






We're all now back in our offices after the field season (except Cathy who is probably up a different hillfort).  We'll endeavor to get those final trench updates online in the nearish future. 

Many thanks to all in the village for their support and enthusiasm again this year. 

Monday, 28 August 2017

A bit of 'Rhynie Curse' and a great big ditch

All trenches continue with great gusto despite a visit from the 'Rhynie Curse' which this year has shown itself in:
1 case of 'poison finger'
1 incident of Land Rover grounding
1 incident of said Land Rover bursting a tire
1 case of chicken pox
many incidents of sore muscles and for some reason sore heids amongst some of the team...

Who knew you could drink a G&T from an amphora?!?


Updates from the hillforts are pending as I await some photographs and text from the teams up there (they aren't stuck up there, just too exhausted to blog).

By the Craw Stane things are moving well.


A selection of finds - look at that sherd of amphora - as big as yer face!

We continue to find evidence of non-ferrous metalworking and the high-life led by the inhabitants.  Some of the most exciting finds this year are 3 tiny sherds of glass, which are from imported Continental drinking vessels.  We are also continuing to find sherds of a blackish pottery, probably hand-made; we found a few fragments of this last year, too.  This pottery could be very important as traditionally the Picts are aceramic (despite knowing all the technology perfectly well as evidenced by the ceramic crucible sherds).

We've spend the last few days concentrating on the story of the outer ditch - and what a ditch it is!

Ditch fills looking fab.
We still have not definitively bottomed the outer ditch (but are close we think).  We are stopping now to do some recording to ensure the safety of the team and to enable us to remove at least the upper layers of the baulk soon.  We have what looks like a cut (possibly for a drain as there was stone as a type of potential 'lining,' but as the soil drains very well here this seems a little unnecessary even in the ditch).  This is at the bottom of the ditch and potentially represents a recutting event, which we should be able to confirm once we can continue excavating down in more safety.

Other exposed areas of the ditch are still in middle fill levels, but we are seeing some features including a few shallow pits of unknown purpose.  The larger pit we suspect might be an event related to digging out sand, perhaps for metalworking-related activities.  We are in the final week now.  Weather will hopefully hold out, although the wind is picking up and so is the sand down at the Craw Stane trench (next stop for the 'curse' is probably conjunctivitis...).  I might be a bit sad to leave my office (below) - but perhaps I can set up a similar situation at Chester inside my own office.

A bru and a bucket - what more does an office need?



Monday, 21 August 2017

A fine day (and a visit from Fred)

Thankfully today was a lot less wet meaning everyone's spirits were improved.  Up on Wheedlemont, however, reports are that the work is a bit hard-going with some pretty tough ground lying underneath the turf.  Exciting glimpses of structures within the hillfort at Tap o'Noth are also emerging.

Down in the village we managed a good day's work despite the lure of Rhynie Woman's pop up cafe (cinnamon buns!).

Hard work was rewarded with some lovely ditch fills and a lunchtime visit from Fred.



As we moved into the fills, finds also emerged.  Irving hit the pottery jackpot with some lovely big sherds of what looks like Late Roman Amphora (5th - 6th c AD) as well as crucible fragments for melting non-ferrous metals such as bronze.
Sherds of probably LRA found today.
A few more fragments of clay moulds used for casting pins also emerged.  So our evidence for fine metalworking continues to grow.
Sieving action!

Our Open Day should be this coming Saturday (weather permitting) and there are activities ongoing in the village this week (see Rhynie Woman's facebook page for more info).
Not a bad view from the office - I can wave to the crew on Tap o'Noth.




Saturday, 19 August 2017

REAP2017 is underway

And we're off....

This year's excavations began in earnest yesterday (wet) and we have three! trenches (wet) this year. At the Craw Stane is what would be considered by our usual standards a wee trench barely big enough to swing a Rhynie Man axe. This trench is targeting the outer ditch (windy, wet) and is now being cleaned by a small, dedicated (wet) team.
A slightly more unhinged group is up on a hill investigating a fort at Wheedlemont. This is an evaluation (windy and even more wet) to ascertain the character of the site and hopefully obtain some dating evidence to see if it might be contemporary with our Pictish complex at the Craw Stane and down by the village of Rhynie.
A really unhinged (soaking wet, hail) team is up on the glorious hill fort at Tap  o'Noth and this is another evaluation to determine what excavation might be like up there (probably wet, definitely windy) and to investigate the potential for possible future work and chance of obtaining dateable materials.
So a very different type of year for us here. We hope to be able to update you on all three sites fairly regularly and to gradually update some of the behind the scenes pages here too with links and more information.
Daily tweets and Facebook posts can also be found on the Northern Picts project account/pages for those of you needing to get a fix and see pictures of us in action on an hourly basis. Some of you may have spotted Dr GN's snazzy blue Pictish prince catsuit courtesy of Rhynie Woman in honour of the gala day yesterday.  What has been seen, cannot be unseen!
Despite a bit of a wet start, we hope for some dry spells over the next few days and that lots of great archaeology will be revealed.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Pretty little moulds all in a row

An early morning post before we head out for the day.  Remember, if you are visiting site today we will be very busy trying to wrap everything up, but we will try to stop for a chat.




Just a selection of finds from the past few days drying out.


Hard to believe we are almost done.  What an amazing season.  We'll update about our post-ex progress and especially about some of these magical moulds once they have been cleaned and analysed.  We are hoping some are complete enough to have 3D scanned and then 3D printed so we can try casting our own Pictish metalwork!


Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Racing to the finish..

We'll be finishing up work this week on site.  The mad rush of finishing features and recording them is well under way (with the joy of backfilling looming large in the near future). 


The inner ditch sondage has been completed - almost single-handedly by Irving with some help from Jasmin.  The sections tell us a story about how they attempted to stabilise the ditch with layers of turf as it filled in. 


Work in the outer ditch sondages progressed rapidly in both trench 1 and 2.  Yesterday a massive dump of metalworking waste was uncovered in trench 2 quite far down in the ditch.  Over 100 fragments of clay moulds were uncovered and many of these were of exceptional quality. We are sitting now with torches and magnifying glass trying to get to grips with the range of objects that were made. Trench 1 also continued to produce finds of metalworking moulds and crucibles.


One of the real highlights today and of the entire dig has nothing to do with artefacts.  Today the puzzle of how they constructed the outer palisade/wall walk type structure was revealed.  At the base of a very deep thin trench we found the ghosts of planks and posts preserved more clearly than ever before.


The grey shadows of squared planks set at the edge of the palisade with large posts set behind.
We have been puzzling over the palisade construction for years.  The sheer scale of the size of construction and the skill and effort taken in making the wooden planks and posts for this structure is astounding. 


We only have one full day in the field left, but we are extremely satisfied with our work this year - so many great successes and a lot of 'firsts' for Pictish archaeology. 

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Mould Magic

First off a massive thank you to everyone that came out to support us and Rhynie Woman at the ceilidh last night.  We jigged, we jagged... we stripped a willow or two. It was a great night!


And now to mould magic...


It can be difficult to explain to people why we get so excited about moulds as sometimes they aren't much to look at.  Almost all the moulds we have found have been clay two-part moulds.  These types of moulds have to be broken to get out the metal object, which is why they are in fragments.  Since they are 'one use only' objects, the clay is not fired as hard as when making pottery, usually, which also means they fragments can break down and decay more easily than pots.  Despite all these issues, we have amassed a great collection of moulds.  Most are for the shafts of pins, probably to hold clothing.  The most exciting moulds show us the pin head, which helps us identify what type of pin it was.  We have to be very careful with the moulds as too much handling or brushing can break or remove the detail.  Once in a while we get a real gem without too much handling!


This morning a lovely mould emerged. The mould looks to be for an early type of handpin, one of those quite rare types of pins for early medieval Scotland. 


Proto handpin mould.


Today was our Open Day and we had lots of interest from visitors until the rain poured down during our lunch break. Thankfully most of us were off site having our lunch and the rainclouds parted after a while and the afternoon was fantastic for digging.