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: