Rhynie, Aberdeenshire

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

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Site visitors

I (GN) had my family visit site today. Magnus (3) who recently broke his arm came with his superhero cast and proceeded to jump all over the spoil heap, look menacing and received 50 tons of chocolate from Mable Beverly. Thanks Mable!!

Elliot my other son showed a worryingly high interest in archaeology collecting some great artefacts from the site spoil heaps and trench edge. We all then went to the Pictish café for some amazing black bean soup and a radiocarbon date slice. There were also some great colouring sheets at the café for the kids and lots of things to see and do there. Elliot also got some Pictish tattoos and Rhynie Dig rock - blueberry flavour that turns your tongue blue. And I bought a Rhynie Man t-shirt. All amazing. So in case you hadn't taken the hint - get yourself down there!!

Rhynie Man T-shirts

Enuff said....buy one at the Pictish café or forever more regret not having those teeth emblazoned on your chest...!!!

Pictish Cafe!!!!!!!!!! Site tours

Well the Pictish café is now up and running and is awesome! Get yourselves down to the café to sample some fantastic baking by Daisy and check out our posters and display of artefacts. The café is on everyday at No.14 The Square, Rhynie. There are after schools activities and all sorts to sample. There are also fantastic Rhynie souvenirs to exchange or to purchase in the shop.

We also had our first organised site tour - these meet 2pm at the café each day and James will be on hand to escort you to site. Over thirty people came on the first tour and over the course of the day I think we had over 50 people in total come and see our rather wind-blasted trench. We are immensely proud and humbled by the community interest and enthusiasm in the project. Well done Rhynier's!! Immense thanks to Daisy, Debbie and crew at the Pictish café!

Icelandic dried fish

If you are very brave on site you can try Oskar's Icelandic dried fish. So far Fred and Alan have been brave enough to embrace fishy breath. The fish in question is pictured centre bottom secured in a Kevlar bag. Oskar is now made to eat the said fish in an exclusion zone somewhere around 500 miles from site...

Mr Munch

We have had great weather and excellent progress on site so far. I think a lot of credit can go to Mr Munch (pictured) who has set up temporary residence in our site tent as the god of the site shrine. Any visitors to the site can come and see Mr Munch and get in touch with the god of archaeological snacks. He is very partial to any flavour of Monster Munch and does like the odd cake too...

Saturday, 29 June 2013

The Pictish Community Cafe opens tomorrow!

Don't forget that if you are in the area the Community Café will be open from tomorrow - we've just set up our display in the café and have seen the very tasty looking cakes and Rhynie-based souvenirs (we are dying to get our hands on the Pictish symbol transfer tattoos!!).  There will be tours leaving from the café up to site at 2pm, too.  Head to Rhynie and look for No. 14 in The Square!

A nice Pictish suprise

We had suspicions by yesterday, but did not want to jump the gun... However, after some heavy duty cleaning  of the site today by a fantastic team including lots of great volunteers (Diane was back, Alan and Thomas joined us as well as Fred and some Aberdeen associates), we are convinced that we have at least one Pictish burial monument.  What we think we have is a square barrow - these are smallish square features made by a thin ditch, which often have gaps at the corners.  There might have been a low mound over the interior covering the burial.  These types of monuments are found throughout the Pictish areas, but some of the best examples can be found in Angus and Perthshire.  There are rare upstanding barrows in Inverness-shire.  The kite photo shows them (as well as our fantastic large enclosure and its internal features), but they are hard to see.  If you look in the bottom right corner you should be able to make out one smaller square feature and another larger one just above it.  We're very excited because of course this means we do have Pictish activity in the trench.  We can't say exactly when they date to as they are quite a long-lived burial rite - anywhere from the 6th to even 9th century AD.  We still don't have any diagnostic finds from our other features, but we have not really begun excavating yet - we have been mostly cleaning and planning today.
Oskar's kite photo from today showing the large enclosure and group of pits near the entrance and in the bottom right a smaller and a possibly larger Pictish period burial monument.

It's almost 11pm and I haven't even showered after coming back from work yet since we've been so busy -  and there's a disco (!) tonight in the hotel - so I'll have to make this short so I can go throw some Rhynie-Man shapes on the dancefloor (or maybe not...).

Friday, 28 June 2013

Cake Fairy...

We had to have the morning off today as it was too wet - so we spent a useful day running errands and visiting the Dean's Shortbread Visitor Centre in Huntly (highly recommend the rice krispie creams). The weather turned for the better and we headed to site to find a treasure trove of cakes waiting for us in our site tent!! We have no idea who our cake fairy is - but if you are reading this, thank you!  We got lots done today even with our morning off.  We'll try to post another kite photo later today, too, for a full update on the trench. 

Oh - and a correction - we want to give a 'shout out' to Steve, who was one of our volunteers yesterday (and hopefully this weekend!) whose name we couldn't find. And a note from Ewan that our glass droplet is not diagnostic enough to give us a date (darn!).

Time for a mouth-watering dinner provided by Sheila & John at the Gordon Arms and then we are back out to record a really amazing section in a local garden, which fortuitously decided to show up and have archaeology in it whilst we were here digging.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Puzzle solved at least: Day Four

Day 4 proved sunny (too hot for some) and although conditions were dry and dusty, it was still a good day for picking out features during the planning sessions.  Our 'jigsaw' effect on the site also was solved - as the site dried out more, we could see that the difference in drying wasn't because of a natural change in the soil, but that the area was really really thick with archaeological features! As the soil dried more, the shapes of pits and possible ring ditches emerged more clearly.  We have a very busy trench...

Our small team of female archaeologists-in-training from Aberdeen University are doing an amazing job.  They have produced some of the best plans I've seen in a long time, especially for a first attempt!  We feel very lucky they are with us and willing to work so hard.

Thankfully we also had more volunteers show up today on site  - Amanda and Jenna stayed for the whole day and sorted out the entrance area to the big enclosure.  Fred got his hands dirty, too, helping trowel back to clean in advance of planning.  Later in the day, we had a few local Rhynie folk - Jake and his friend (whose name we didn't catch, sorry!) came by and trowelled up a storm -  hopefully to return to help us out again. They even found our star find of the day - a fantastic glass droplet.  This would most likely have been formed during glass-making or glass-working - perhaps for a bead or something similar.  We cannot be sure of a date at the moment, but have Ewan and others on the case. 

The clear glass droplet found on site today.

Today was great for visitors, too, both from Rhynie and further afield.  Mabel, who used to own the field we are working in, came by for a chat and brought us some lovely chocolates. Fred might just have some competition for 'best visitor' this year.

We can't say how much it means to us to have the village behind us and to have folks coming by for a look, asking us questions and getting excited about the dig and what it can tell us about Rhynie's past.  It really makes our work worthwhile.   

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Kite Photo - from Day 2

The photo we've all been waiting for - a photo from before the 'escape incident' yesterday. If we can figure out how to make a little movie from the shots the camera took as it floated away.

Here is our site before we cleaned everything, but you can already see the amazing enclosures - recently confirmed (by text!) from experts at the National Museum as 'rather odd and special' - and the many dark coloured 'blobs' that represent our possible ring ditches and pits/postholes.

You can also see a strange 'jigsaw puzzle piece effect' in the photo where the soil has dried very differently - this appears to be a natural phenomenon as the soils are quite different to each other. We don't really know why this happens - perhaps an old palaeochannel? - so comments with answers are welcome!

Kite Photograph courtesy of Oskar's Amazing (Escaping) Kite from Day Two.

News from Day 3

We managed to get quite a bit done today although the task ahead is still a bit daunting - we have a small hardworking team, but a big trench!  Hopefully  a few more volunteers will turn up this week to help us tackle some of the cleaning back.

The main objective was to clean back over the 'small enclosure' to help define the features in advance of planning.  We have a really clear entrance to the enclosure, which may have some pits or postholes around it.  We also clearly have features inside the enclosure; one of these looks like a ring ditch (the remains of a small timber or turf and timber house).  The other main feature in the trench is a bit puzzling at the moment - we have a few ideas and we'll be eager to excavate some of this feature to get an idea of its use.

The SE corner of our small enclosure - looks amazing! You might be able to just see that it cuts what looks like another ring ditch structure (on the right).

The afternoon was spent planning - these are the measured drawings we do before we excavate.  The students and our volunteer Tom did a great job.  They were all guided by Leaf - an old archaeology friend who is great at training and getting people motivated.  We even had our first find today.  It didn't come from any particular feature, but when we were cleaning up the small enclosure area this morning.  We think it is slag - a type of metalworking debris - and it is very green in colour, which might suggest copper present.  A dinner of veggie haggis to look forward to for me - and maybe a wee whiskey tonight. 

The Kite Was Saved.

Yesterday was a busy day so we missed our daily update - our apologies!  However, we are very happy to report that Oskar's kite was recovered (with camera just about intact) and we will be hopefully posting up one of his kite photos soon.  We knew the kite up a tree issue was something Fred could help us solve - and sure enough he 'knew someone' that could help us out. 
So a very big thank you to Brian and George Beverly (of B&G Beverly Ltd ) who spared some time and used their amazing telehandler to retrieve the kite.  A big cheer from all of us when they came back to site.

Today we did manage to get the kite up, but at one point after lunch when a bit of rain made the site look amazing, the wind decided to die on us.  So Oskar went to plan B... yes, that is a fishing rod with a camera attached! Can't wait to see how these come out!



Monday, 24 June 2013

It begins...

MG updates on the first day of the 2013 season:
We began opening the trench ( deary me... it is a big trench...) on Friday with Gordon sending me regular texts to keep me updated as I tried to concentrate back in Chester.  Today I started at 7am with the digger driver whilst Gordon and Oskar loaded up in Aberdeen with our Aberdeen archaeology students and a lot of shiny new equipment and headed to site.  Everyone was on site by 11am and cleaning back started after lunch.  We've got these amazing new tools (they have a Swedish name that I cannot pronounce or spell), which make cleaning amazingly fast.  With a team of 6 we've already managed to clean most of our massive trench in 1/2 a day.  Tomorrow will be mostly trowelling and hopefully pre-ex planning.
The site looks great - we are in a field where an aerial photograph shows two square enclosures.  The bigger one is about 20m across and the smaller one about 16m across.  These show up as quite substantial ditches.  We also appear to have features inside and outside the enclosures.  Some of these at the moment look they might be potential ring ditches - these can turn out to be buildings of almost any date from the Bronze to the Iron Age.  We've got quite a few burnt features, too; things that look like pits or post-holes.  It is all very early days. 
It's turned into a fair evening with Tap o' Noth visible from my window.  No picture yet today for the blog.  We were going to put up one of Oskar's infamous kite aerial photographs, but there was a slight mishap that involved the kite escaping (with the camera) and a tree - I'm sure we'll find it soon!

Our team has had a bit of sad news today that we've lost one of our favourite REAP team members.  A terrible shock and a reminder life isn't fair even when you are one of the good ones. We'll just have to make sure that we have a season worthy to dedicate in his honour.  

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Counting down the days

We are counting down now to REAP 2013 - we'll begin digging on Monday next week! 

We've got lots planned already - trips to the school and hopefully a school visit from Rhynie Primary in week 2, the community café opening in the village with displays and tasty treats, and brand new volunteers and student diggers ready to get their hands dirty (and their backs aching!).  Maybe even Fred will dig with us more this year... although we might have to promise him Romans...

Keep an eye out for updates and activities going on in the village!  This year we're tackling a new site so lots of questions and a dip into the complete unknown (well, the somewhat unknown - there are crop marks to guide us!).