Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Technology 2

Makkamappa: It may just be me but using software that is not developed by Microsoft can be a bit confusing. Thus it is that it has taken me until today to work out how to add pictures to my Makkamappa tags. As you may remember I was getting excited about this program which can be used to rectify any map agonised a Google map and used as an App. This allows people to wander round looking at their location on an old map. The implications for archaeology are fantastic as it’s basically a free and easy way to locate old features (providing the map is roughly accurate) without the need for EDM’s or other posh equipment. This makes exploring places past more fun too.
A Picture.
Although you do need the URL (whatever that is) of the picture (which realistically seems to mean putting the photo you want to use on Flicker first) this makes Makkamappa even more useful than I thought. We can get groups to take pictures of interesting features on their monument or in there town and once people have found the place using their App the important things can be shown to them as well as being described. An interpretation board that follows you about! (although that is slightly close to pythonesk keep left signs it would be more friendly)             
If you have an iphone, ipad or a phone that runs with Android you can now see the first fruits of this discovery by uploading my map of Dingwall from:

Photosynth: This program developed by Microsoft allows you to make 3D models of things simply by taking lots of photos of them and uploading them to the website. What I had not realised is you can also ‘geotag’ them. This means you can not only put your modal on a map but accurately scale and orientate it too. Who needs GIS or laser scanning? Not only is this easier to use it gives results that are easier to understand it’s also FREE!!!

A Photosynth on the map.
Mine is called Abandoned Settlement near Dnyit, Stirling 2 (not as catchy as it might be) try clicking and see what happens.   

Finally on a totally unrelated note hear is an article about an existing site I was lucky enough to dig at in the summer. Watch this space…

Monday, 19 December 2011

Archaeology and QR Codes

Cara spotted a blog talking about some interesting ‘preservation’ of graphite being done using QR codes. It seems ‘Sweza’ has been going round taking photos of graphite and when it is removed or painted over placing a QR code (one of those square bar code things) in the spot. The QR code allows people with smart phones to scan it and link (in this case) to a picture of the graphite as it was or as they put it ‘to travel back in time’. I do wonder a little what stops the QR code being removed like the graphite was but I suppose it’s a bit less offensive?

Swezas work
However in a more general archaeological sense this technique could be used to show people what archaeology was discovered beneath buildings, roads and even in fields. Simply attaching a small QR code to a wall, lamp post or fence post would allow anyone with a smart phone to link to information on a site. This could be really useful on sights where there is restricted space or a new use. It might mean getting public friendly reports online as well.                  
On a less serious note you may enjoy (or disapprove of) this:

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

A Matter of Interpretation

Yesterday we had a meeting in the office with the graphic design company Flintriver about interpretation panels at sights for groups. This got us thinking about interpretation so on the principle that seeing things for real is much better that just talking about them Cara took me along to Preston Grangeto see their interpretation. This is an old coal mine, brick and tile works now turned industrial heritage museum just east of Musselburgh. If you are interested in industrial archaeology this is defiantly the place to go. The area is scattered with huge bits of industrial archaeology that you are free to wonder round. Some of these are associated with the mine and works and others have been brought for the museum. It has a grate feel as there is very little interpretation and you are left to wander of your own accord so its like you are stumbling across these amazing objects. On reflection I think more museums should be like this as it feels like you are making discovery’s rather than having someone show you things, which is much more exiting.   


The interpretation at the site is delivered on a variety of boards in different states of preservation. The most interesting though were two old photos that had been printed onto perspex and mounted between posts. The perspex is positioned so the visitor can line up surviving structures with those in the picture and so see what the spot looked like in the past. Although this would not work on every site I think the principle hear is quite exiting and could perhaps be used with reconstruction drawings that tied in using natural features like hills. I certainly know that when I visit a site I am unlikely to read information boards but I may glance at a picture and used in this way they could really bring a monument to life.

The Perspex panels with photos showing the exact spot in the past.  

The other verity of interpretation being used is an audio tour accessed using your mobile phone. This could be great in areas with reception but I wonder how many people are willing to spend money to get interpretation?           
Audio tour sign

One of the sites more impressive imported artefacts.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Minding Merkinch

Jamie our Audio Engineer gets things set up on Saturday morning  
The Minding Merkinch Project got underway this weekend with our first workshop ‘Memories of Merkinch’. This was an oral history drop in session were local residents came and told us about their memories of Merkinch. After a slow start on Friday night we got a few hours of good recording from a range of people. The younger folks on Friday were provided some tales of Merkinch Primary and the older residents on Saturday confirmed that not too much has changed in the school in the last 60 years.
Residents in full swing

The best story of the day defiantly goes to two gentlemen who wile taking us on a tour of Merkinch in the 40’s stoped to tell of a lady they both remembered from their childhoods:
‘No one more like a witch were you ever likely to see going round the place on a big black bicycle with a basket on the front…and she had a big red nose so she never needed a light…’
Needless to say some of the story was lost in the ensuing mirth but the rest of the tour will make a valuable addition to the local archive and I may not look at old back bikes in quite the same way again.

Richard recovers after the recording
As well as providing some grate stories for the archive the workshop has also provided some direction and new information on what features people in Merkinch find interesting. These include the welfare hall on Grant Street and St. Michal and all Angles church on Abban Street which in 1902 was taken down and moved from a street across the river. The next workshop will hopefully be on photo recording and we can get out and about to record some of these buildings as they are now.                  
If you would like to follow the Mirkinch project I have just set up a Facebook group at:

Monday, 21 November 2011


Volunteers working on house 12 at Kildavie this Saturday   
Back to Mull this weekend, this is becoming a habit. But who would have thought 18th / 19th century abandoned settlements could be so enigmatic. The more time I spend with the volunteers at Kildavie the more I appreciate why it’s worth doing adopt a monument. This group certainly don’t need any help drumming up support or enthusiasm as we had over ten volunteers working on site. On a soggy Saturday in November that is pretty good. What this group seem to really enjoy is new information. They are all keen to find things out about the settlement and its history and wont to understand new technics they come across. We decided to put in a bulk as we cleaned out the space between houses 10 and 7 (see ‘A Kildavie Discovery’ from the 1st of November for plan). This is something that has not been used on sight before and although at first I was a bit surprised by the barrage of questions about it I realised that the group all wont to better understand the proses. I’m not sure if I convinced everyone it was a good idea but I’m glad they were thinking about it.  
While we debated the value of bulks Bill got down to some important recording.
The other good reason to look after and investigate this monument is that it’s never quite what it seems. Having been thwarted in our plans for access between structure 10 and 11 we thought between 10 and 7 would be better. This time we were prepared for a wall or tumble and found … well something. There is still more tiding to be done but it’s not really clear if what’s coming up is built into structure 10 or has fallen off it. What we do know is that it’s not just covered in topsoil and turf as the other gap was as we have cone onto a harder sandy yellow fill just under the turf near the middle of the gap. This has been left for the time being while the group decide what they would like to be done. Suffice to say Kildavies history is not as strait forward as it may first appear.

How many rocks make a wall? The ‘gap’ between structures 10 and 7 with our yellow sandy fill just below the scale.

I would also like to thank our driver this weekend who did a magnificent plan of thoughts stones between house 10 and 11 and managed to avoid all the local wildlife. Thank you Lynne!                                    

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Merkinch Update

Progress on lots of fronts today. I have just sent the posters for our first event in the Merkinch project, Inverness. These will be printed off for us by the lovely For the Right Reasons charity printing in Merkinch. The first workshop will be on oral history and we have invited local people to the Bike Shed on Grant Street to come along and share there memories of Merkinch. There will also be a chance for folks to learn about recording and the things people talk about and find interesting will provide direction for the rest of the project.
The Poster, soon to be seen in Merkinch for your delight and delectation.

Dendro Continues

All our samples on their racks drying  

A quick update on the dendrochronology samples I helped Jonathan collect in October. Jonathan took them into the forestry commission today to set them up on stands. They are tied down and glued onto a wooden strip. This prevents warping and allows them to dry quicker than in there straws. When they have fully dried in a week or two they can be sanded down to around half way to expose the rings for us to examine.                

A close up of one core with its label        

Tuesday, 15 November 2011


As we have been having a slightly quieter couple of weeks in terms of trips to see new things I thought as promised I would tell you about some of the new technology’s we have been working with.
Over the last few weeks I have been experimenting with Appstilleries online program MakkaMappa which is basically a free online program to render any map. This map is linked with Google map and can be downloaded as an app and used to navigate with your iPhone or android (which is a type of phone apparently). Although this sounds rather technical they have done all the hard bits so it’s pretty simple to use. The best bit is that you can then add layers, with icons and trails so you can lead people round a site and point out features. While you can use any map including hand drawn I have been using historical maps as they are quicker and a bit more accuracy makes them easier to render. So far I have published two maps. Merkinch 1832 which comes with listed buildings marked:                                                                                                       And Braco trail which includes most of the features that will go on the trail:
Sadly if you do not have a posh phone (neither do I) you can only look at the rendered map and not see the features or trails but it’s still worth a wee look. Having thought that this might be useful to our groups we set up a meeting with Michel from Appstillery about using some of their software for Archaeology Scotland. I must say I was a bit disappointed me and Phil had dun our part to fulfil the archaeology stereotype with beards etc. but Michel looked smart, normal, well-dressed he was not wearing glasses and had a proper haircut. He even spoke English we are hoping to set up an archaeology Scotland version of MakkaMappa with a version that works on normal computers. So look out for our new program in the next few months.
MakkaMappa in action at Braco
The other bit of software I have been looking at is Photosynth another free online program made by Microsoft this time which makes 3D views from ordinary photos. I thought I would have a go with an artefact from the Archaeology Scotland collection. I just put it on a table took 50 photos of it, uploaded them all and the program stuck them all together:
You can now spin round the object and see it from all angles. It’s worth having a play with this program especially try looking at the point cloud data which is very snazzy. We hope to use this on some of our adopt sites to as it’s so simple to use and any image from any camera will do. I can particularly recommend this church and have a look at the aerial view created just from photos taken on the ground!

You can use Photosynth for almost anything including insects apparently
You may need to download Silverlight but its only a small program and is useful for all sorts of stuff. Good luck and have fun. 

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

A Kildavie Discovery

The Kildavie site drawn by the adopting group sorry if this looks a bit technical but it’s the best way to show what’s going on.
Myself and Phil were back on Mull this weekend helping out at Kildavie. As can be seen in the photos the weather was fantastically wet only slightly dampening the enthusiasm of the group but doing a good job of washing exposed stones. Phil tells me we were there clearing the ‘desire lines’ which is a posh way of saying were people wont to walk, I think he is just showing off.
The group & Phil looking rather soggy inside structure 12 I like the umbrella on a ranging pole invention for plane tabling.
We constricted on a gap between two structures (10 &11) which we thought contained some fallen rubble from the walls. The plan was to clean and record these few stones and then move them so people could get about more easily. In classic archaeological fation these ‘few stones’ turned out to be rather a lot of stones and there apparently random nature started to look increasingly deliberate. Once we finished clearing them up it was obvious these were much more than some random falls of the walls as they stood over half a meatier high. However what this might represent is unclear. Suggestions include a wall keep in animals or a buttress to support the east end of structure 10 (I’m holding out for a Viking boat burial but I don’t think anyone is buying that). This was further complicated by a second skin wall on the outside of structure 10 perhaps supporting a crux roof?
Bill and Phil contemplate our mystery feature

My knowledge of post medieval buildings is pretty poor but it looks like it might be supporting the corner. However alternative suggestions are welcomed especially if you know of other examples. The group did decide though that these would be left in place and whatever it does turn out to be will add to the story of Kildavie.   
For the die hard archaeologists hear is a photo with a scale from the north (and I apologise for the unscientific people cluttering the background)  
Finally we are about to conduct a trial of Photosynth to make an online 3D ‘modal’ of structure 12 so I will let you know how that goes. In the mean time why not have a wonder round some other structures on this free software at:      

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

NMS Exhibition

Nothing to do with work I’ve been up to today I’m afraid but me venting my excitement about some heritage for anyone in Edinburgh in the next few months. I would strongly recommend going to see ‘Admiral Cochrane, The Real Master and Commander’ at the National Museums Scotland. If you don’t know anything about Cochrane this is a good chance to find out about someone who should be a national hero, as good if not better than Nelson, but I’ve never seen a Cochranes’ column. You can have a look at his real things that he carried into battle and things he was given by some of the grateful nations he helped liberate.  If you liked Master and Commander (the film) or Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey books or indeed if you have an interest in 18th and early 19th century politics (well someone must!) then this is for you.
Cochrane looking rather resplendent in a painting by James Ramsay
The exhibition runs until the 19th of Febuary and its Free so there is no excuse not to go.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Highland Archaeology Festival

Visitors enjoy a tour of Fearn Airfield as part of HAF
I was lucky enough to be brought up in the Highlands but the amount of archaeology even within a few miles of my parents’ house never ceases to amaze me. The Adopt a Monument teem (Cara, Phil and me) have just spent the last week up around the Moray Firth for the Highland Archaeology Festival. To be honest the acronym H.A.F. does not really fill me with excitement as it sounds a bit like a German bacon brand but the events more than make up for a boring name. The festival continues on from the end of Scottish Archaeology Month and the two week program is an extravaganza of site tours, lectures and workshops where you can try anything from Iron Age iron smelting at Applecross to a Landrover Safari of Glencoe. Cara was also running a survey of Rhicullen WWI practice Trenches near Tomich. We spent a day basking in the sunshine photographing, drawing and surveying these rather enigmatic remains.

Phil v’s EDM tripod at Rhicullen
There were also two groups to visit wile ‘up north’ the first near Strathpeffer is a group wishing to adopt the Fairy Stone. This is not a rock with fairs on but a heavy decorated cup marked stone which the Strathpeffer Initiative are making more assessable. The second adoption is a cairn complete with another cup marked stone overlooking the Cromarty firth on the Blackisle.
John (NOSAS) and Cara admiring the Cairn at Mulchaich Farm

The main interest here is defiantly the setting but the cairn is also associated close to some post medieval structures and a large ‘pond’. Rather than dwellings these are thought to form a distillery and one is known historically from the area. It was interesting for me to see what a legal site looks like as most of the sights in this part of the world, from this time, are illicit stills on a tiny scale. You may have to restrain yourself for a little wile but NOSAS (north of Scotland archaeology society) will have the site up and running with a new track soon.  
We also had one other important meeting on Saturday (apart from the HAF conference) and this was with Richard from For the Right Reasons. This is a charity working in Merkinch (a quite deprived area of Inverness). For the right reasons primarily helps thoughts who have suffered with drug and alcohol addiction ( and we hope to get a whole cross section of the Merkinch population involved in some archaeology. Over the next few months we are going to try and update ‘Merkinch Revisited’ (a book) as well as teach residence some new skills and record some of the areas important buildings. This is a rather undervalued bit of Inverness with an interesting history, I’m not sure I agree with Merkinch Revisteds authors that it was the site of a Roman Fortress but who knows what other exiting things we shall find when we go hunting in the archive.

Just one of many exciting feature in the Merkinch

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

A Dendrochronology Adventure

As well as its many other useful community roles Archaeology Scotland fulfils Jonathan Wordsworth (Rural Land use Adviser) has also been doing a bit of tree dating for people. On Friday the 7th I went along to give him a hand. So armed with a rucksack full of mysterious rods from the Forestry Commission we set of to a house near Selkirk to drill small holes in trees. The trees we were dating were Sycamores growing over a dry stone structure in a garden. It was hoped that by establishing the age of the trees a terminus ante quem could be gained for the building beneath. Jonathan being experienced in this type of thing had bribed the met office arranging a fantastic sunny day with only a little wind, a useful tip for me after Ardoch.

Jonathan recording

Taking Dendro samples is a bit like taking an archaeological soil sample. So the tree gets a recording sheet (like a contest sheet) with all its vital statistics (height, girth etc.) so lots of measuring and photographing and each drinking straw is labelled ready for it’s core. Taking the samples however is rather different to at an archaeological site were you just put some soil in a bag. The first thing that strikes you about the corer is that it is very thin and the main worry when you start is that you might break it. However the main problem seems to be it getting stuck in the tree as the wait of it pushing down does make it quite difficult to twist out.

Taking a sample

If there is a rotten core in the tree the thread on the corer has nothing to grip and it can be impossible to get out, a big problem on old trees and as might be imagined it makes it had to age to. Luckily though we managed to retrieve the corer each time and get 4 good samples from 3 trees. There is still plenty of work to be done and once the cores have dried out I will hopefully be helping Jonathan in the lab. 

One of the cores fresh from the tree

Soggy Braco and Ardoch Roman Fort

For thoughts of you who have not been to Ardoch Roman fort before now what have you been waiting for? This is one of the best Roman sites in the whole of Scotland and perhaps one of the countries best kept secrets. Having visited the town of Braco twice before starting work with Archaeology Scotland I was delighted to see the breath-taking Roman fort of Ardoch as one of our possible Adopt a Monuments and jumped at the chance Phil give me to help the group hear (he is not as keen on Romans as me but tell anyone). On Thursday the 6th we had a meeting in Braco with the Ardoch Development Trust. The group’s aims fit in very well with Adopt a Monuments in that they wish to raise awareness of the amazing sites in the village.

Ardoch Roman fort on a previous visit showing the huge ramparts still visible.

Not only are they living next to one of the best preserved Roman Forts in Scotland they also have a lovely Iron Age promontory fort just on the other side of the village. Between these lie a surviving pack horse bridge and a rather fine old church tower. After some discussion it was decided we would try and help the group set up a Braco trail taking in many of these sites. We will also help them improve the interpretation at each one and the access, particularly to the Iron Age Fort. It should be said though that members of the group are already doing a grate job of keeping the paths here open and that they are very knowledgeable about their Roman fort. The only aspect of this trip which was not so fantastic was the weather which got rather wet on our wonder round, although apparently this is normal for Braco so remember your wellingtons.

The Free Church tower

The steps leading to the Iron Age Fort that we hope to help update, and (below) the path that will also get some attention.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Penicuik House Training

Here are some pictures from yesterday’s training day at Penicuik House. This fantastic old building is undergoing preservation works to prevent further decline and eventually open up the building to the public. The training day was a looking at buildings archaeology, how this is carried out and to what ends. We also got some tours of the house and saw some of its lovely surviving features. The project has 2 years to run but should be a grate recourse for looking at building development when its dun.  

The House

Archaeology Scotland’s Cat Knops not at all worried by the height of the scaffolding as we stand at roof level looking out across the estate.
The Penicuik House Project are working through the structure this is one of the last an un-excavated parts looking pleasingly like a scene from Indian Jones.   

Monday, 3 October 2011

The Story so far:

I have be working for Archaeology Scotland since the 1st of August so it’s probably best to give you an idea of what has been up to so far. Most of the work I have been doing is directly for the Adopt a Monument team. So far that’s involved chasing up list of contacts for versus places and helping organise the records for our fifty plus sites. Also a couple of desk based assessments on proposed projects in Lanark for Borders Biscuits who sponsor us (yes that’s a biscuit manufacturer, not much to do with archaeology but nice people). The sites were Lanark station and the lovely Old St Kentegerns church (not that I’m bias). The church is thought to have an early historic foundation sometime before 1150. The current remains are from the 13th century and it is surrounded by a fascinating graveyard. If you are in Lanark it’s well worth a look.  

Old St Kentegerns church, Lanark from the east. It is hard to tell the original layout of this building but it seems likely this arch was part of the roodscreen and the altar may have been close to the position from which the photo was taken.
The week 29th August– 2nd September was the launch of Archaeology Month so me and Phil (Adopt a Monument Project Manager and my mentor) were helping out at the Newhailes dig in Musselburgh. I was also helping out Cat (education and outreach) with schools find cleaning.

Me (In the hat and the high vis) talking to some of our smallest visitors at Newhailes as part of the Scottish Archaeology Month launch.
Adopt a Monument have also been out and about visiting Lanark, attending the Built Environment Forum Scotland conference to advertise, a trip to Hungate in York and a fantastic trip to Mull to see an adopt group there. I was involved with the Kildavie group although we have three adopt groups on Mull. Kildavie is a fantastic 18th and 19th century settlement which the group are hoping to open to the public

Iain of HARP recording a possible horizontal mill! at Kildavie one of the Adopted sites on Mull.

View from the ferry on the way to Mull
Lots of other little things going on but that’s the basics a busy week coming up now with training, taking dendrochronology samples and a site visit. I will keep you posted.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Whats going on?

This blog is my attempt to do a few hopefully interesting things. Firstly as I am working with Archaeology Scotland’s Adopt a Monument team it’s a way for people to see what we are getting up to. Secondly it will try and give some more general information on Archaeology Scotland and the exciting stuff they are doing. Last but not least as I am lucky enough to be an IFA bursary placement and this blog will help give people an impression of what that involves. I will try and update whenever something interesting occurs. Enjoy.  L
Health Warning: This blog is not an official Archaeology Scotland or IFA page it is written by me so their usual high standards should not be expected!
I am also an archaeologist both by training and design so what I find interesting may vary considerably from other's views. 
Lastly if you are concerned with high standards of written English this is not the Blog for you. I will endeavour to make it as understandable as possible but don’t expect Shakespeare.