Tag Archives: archaeology Scotland

Focus on Ormond Castle, Avoch, Ross-shire

by Meryl Marshall (NOSAS)

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3D model of Ormond Castle (Alan Thompson)

The North of Scotland Archaeological Society (NOSAS) and Avoch Community Archaeology (ACA) group joined forces in March 2016 to survey and photograph Ormond Castle, GR NH 6963 5358 (HER ID: MHG8226, Canmore ID: 13572). The castle overlooks the village of Avoch on the Black Isle and commands good views across the Moray Firth to the south and the former ferry crossing between Chanonry and Ardersier in the east.

To date Ormond castle has not received the attention it deserves. It is traditionally associated with William the Lion (1143 – 1214). He built two castles on the Black Isle in 1179, one at Redcastle and a second which is thought to be this one. Andrew de Moray was owner of the castle in the 13th century and principal commander of Scottish forces in the north during the Wars of Independence in the late 13th Century, but was mortally wounded fighting alongside William Wallace at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297. In 1455, after being in the hands of the de Moray family and the earls of Ross, the castle passed to royal control and in 1481 James III granted it to his son, the Marquis of Ormond, from whom the present name derives. The castle was destroyed by Cromwell’s forces in 1650 and the stones were transported over the firth to build the Citadel in Inverness.

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SHED: Report on the Implementing Scotland’s Historic Environment Data Strategy meeting, November 2015

By Susan Kruse (NOSAS and ARCH)

All archaeological projects should ensure that the results are distributed in a number of ways, so that the information will be available after the project finishes. In particular, we submit information to the local Historic Environment Record (the Highland HER) and Scotland-wide Canmore databases, and sometimes to Discovery and Excavation Scotland (DES) for new projects. Individuals should do so as well. Unless we share information, it will be lost. And information on the HER informs planning applications.

Over the past years the HER and Canmore have increasingly diverged, so that one needs to input separately to both, and needs to consult both when researching. During the consultation for Scotland’s Archaeology Strategy, this was raised at several Highland meetings as an issue people would like changed.

The SHED Project (Scotland’s Historic Environmental Data Strategy) is looking at these issues and others, on ways to share and link digital records. They are made up from a number of representatives from various organisations, though few with community archaeology perspective. They published a Strategy in April 2014 and are now working on ways to implement it.

At the beginning of the whole process a report suggested centralisation of data, but this was rejected as ‘not workable’. Instead, the main activity resulting from the Strategy so far is Pastmap (pastmap.org.uk) where you can used map-based searching techniques to see both Canmore and the HER data (and others  as well). However, you still need to look at both records, and cannot search by keywords.

pastmap strathpeffer

A screenshot of the Pastmap website

The SHED group is now consulting on how to implement its strategy, and held a meeting in November. Susan Kruse of ARCH and NoSAS attended, and these notes are a personal reflection on where matters stand after attending the meeting. Continue reading

Carn Glas – A Life in Seven Acts

by Roland Spencer-Jones (NOSAS)

DSC_0008 The Opening of the Cairn 12.10.15

The Opening of the Cairn 12.10.15

Carn Glas is one of a cluster of six Neolithic cairns at the base of the Black Isle in Ross-shire. A trio of local archaeology groups have collaborated with the Adopt-a-Monument team of Archaeology Scotland in its restoration. The opening party for the “new” cairn happened during Highland’s Archaeology Fortnight, on October 12th. Why did it need restoring? Well, it’s a story in Seven acts:

Act One started with the construction of a Cromarty-Orkney-type chambered cairn approximately 3600 BC, as the Neolithic farming package developed in the area. The passages of the chamber at the heart of the huge cairn were aligned north-west to south-east. They consisted of an entrance passage to the south-east, leading to a middle chamber, leading to an inner chamber. An excavation over two seasons by Tony Woodham in 1955-6 produced a series of artefacts dating to this period – a leaf-shaped Neolithic arrowhead, other flints, and numerous pottery shards.

Neolithic Arrowhead from 1956 excavation

Neolithic Arrowhead from 1956 excavation    (c) National Museums of Scotland

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World War I Invergordon

by Susan Kruse (ARCH)

Over summer 2015 a large group has been meeting to explore World War I Invergordon in a project led by ARCH and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund First World War Then and Now programme. A huge amount of information has been gathered, from contemporary military maps, old photographs, including an album compiled by someone who worked at the dockyard, aerial photos (one from WWI), and investigation of remains on the ground. The various strands of evidence have been brought together into a GIS database by Malcolm Standring, which currently has over 600 recorded structures. From this work a detailed picture of wartime Invergordon is emerging.

Many of the buildings used in World War I survive. Others are known from plans and old photos. Detailed naval plans survive showing which buildings were built or taken over – many labelled with their new use. Aerial photos also provide valuable information, including the 1930s photos (available on the Britain from Above website and the National Collection of Aerial Photographs website), showing those which were not pulled down after the war. A surprisingly valuable source of information has also been the Valuation Rolls, which detail buildings taken over or built by the military.

Picture 1 2006.VMS.0046 600c - Invergordon Museum

WWI aerial photo, courtesy Invergordon Museum

The group has found the GIS work invaluable, helping us in particular to locate and document structures such as the army camp which were only there during the war and have left no footprints on the ground. Continue reading

Rubh’ an Dunain, Skye: 8000 Years of History

by Martin Wildgoose

ap glenbrittle

Aerial view of the Rubh’ an Dunain peninsula

Rubh an Dunain James McComas

Members of NOSAS walking towards the tackman’s house on Rubh’ an Dunain. Canna is on the skyline.

A warm sunny Sunday in early June saw NOSAS members gathering in the Glenbrittle campsite, at the foot of the Cuillin Mountains. The view south was spectacular, Canna seemed unusually close and South Uist and Barra lay in the haze on the horizon. Close at hand the Rubha an Dunain peninsular stretched out to the left of the bay with a ribbon of made-up path promising an easy walk to the point where 8000 years of Skye’s history lies exposed to view. Just an hour and a half later the group paused to enjoying a mid-morning coffee prior to crossing the Slochd Dubh (Black Hollow) where a late 18th century wall marks the boundary between Clan MacAskill and Clan MacLeod – but more of that later.

The first people to leave tangible evidence of their stay on the peninsula were Mesolithic hunter-gatherers who travelled throughout the islands off the west coast of Scotland on a seasonal round, in pursuit of food and tool resources. A site excavated at Kinloch on Rum (HER MHG 3987) between 1984 and 1986*, only a day’s boat journey away to the south west, may be the winter base for these pioneers. A small rock shelter (HER MHG4898) at Rubh an Dunain, partially excavated in 1932 by W Lindsay Scott**, contained many worked stone tools and the debris from their manufacture – evidence of repeated visits to the site during this period. Additionally a recently recorded lithic scatter on a terrace close to Loch na h-Airde shows that more sites of this period await discovery (the day in fact finished with NOSAS members happily picking fragments of worked bloodstone and mudstone out of a nearby burn).

Rock Shelter Rubh an Dunain James McComas

Martin points towards Loch na h-Airde from just outside the rock shelter.

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Lament for a once Magical Place – or “the Agony of a severely traumatised pair of Archaeological Sites”

by Meryl Marshall (NOSAS)

This is the story of two archaeological sites which have suffered severe damage through a catalogue of assaults by man in the name of “development”. The “patients”, for so they can be regarded, lie in Balblair Wood (read Ward!), near Beauly. They have received repeated injuries over the last 20 years and today are in a sad, sorry state – they have been in the wrong place at the wrong time!

BBalblair OS 1st Edition Map

Patient A is (or was) an extensive linear prehistoric site, centred on NGR NH 501444; it once comprised 13 hut circles, 2 chambered cairns, burnt mounds and a field system of clearance cairns and trailing banks occupying an area of 750m x 200m (maybe more) along the SW edge of the wood. Only 12 years ago this beautiful site with clearly identifiable features was well preserved and within open pine woods which had a mossy forest floor. The site was unusual in that it occupied a low lying river terrace quite close to the River Beauly and the Beauly Firth. It was the subject of one of the first NOSAS survey projects; see report on the NOSAS website.

Balblair survey for 2015 piece

Patient B is the fort known as Corffhouse or Lovat Bridge in the NE part of the wood, NGR NH 5135 4480, Canmore ID 12745, HER No MHG3401; it also has been the subject of a NOSAS survey.

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Mulchaich 18th Century Distillery, Ross-shire: a NOSAS Project

by Meryl Marshall (NOSAS)

Mulchaich Kiln excav 16th Aug13 008

NOSAS members working at Mulchaich 16th August 2013

Over the years tradition has had it that there are the remains of a distillery dating back to the 18th Century at Mulchaich Farm, located in the district of Ferintosh on the Black Isle. The distillery site is about 200m NW of the farm and was previously unrecorded; it was in a sorry state being quite overgrown with whins and with the few open areas grossly trampled by cattle. In 2009 members of the North of Scotland Archaeological Society began a project which had as one of its aims the surveying and recording of the distillery site and that of the neighbouring chambered cairn (HER MHG 9083). The project also included a limited amount of historical documentary research following which a report was produced – see also Appendix II below for further details.

It was felt that together with the chambered cairn the distillery site would make an interesting and attractive place for people to visit. The landowners, the Dalgetty family, were happy to oblige with permission and for this we are very grateful. In addition the Adopt-a-Monument Scheme hosted by Archaeology Scotland were keen to help us with advice and limited funding, so in October 2012 NOSAS began a second phase of work at Mulchiach, preparing the site for public presentation. It is this later project that forms the chief focus of the following article.

Mulchaich Farm, west settlement and chambered cairn – Aerial photo taken from the north

Mulchaich Farm, distillery site (west settlement) and chambered cairn – Aerial photo taken from the north

The Mulchaich Kiln

The main thrust of the work during the summer of 2013 was targeted at the kiln where the barley or bere, which had been allowed to germinate, would have been made into malt by gently heating it until it was dry . The kiln had all the characteristics of a corn drying kiln and the purpose of our exercise was to clear the rubbish that was inside it so that its features could be displayed and we could interpret them for visitors. The work was carried out as if it was an excavation; nothing structural was removed, everything was recorded as we went along, photographs were taken at all stages and a report was subsequently published.

The kiln bowl had been constructed on a small mound of glacial till which had been levelled off to form a platform. The platform was built up on the east side and reinforced with boulders and the kiln bowl itself was sunk into the natural morainic till by 200mm; likewise the flue and the area in front of the entrance which was sunk by 500mm.

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