September is a momentous month for Scottish archaeology. It opens with delegates gathering for the prestigious European Association of Archaeologists conference in Glasgow, and then launches into the inaugural Scottish Archaeology and Heritage Festival. Lesley McEwan guides us through some of the events on offer.
It is with great excitement that we will launch the first ever Scottish Archaeology and Heritage Festival (SAHF), part of DigIt! 2015, on 5th September at the Rouken Glen Park in East Renfrewshire.
As the launch coincides with the final day of the European Association of Archaeologists conference, perhaps more than a few delegates will escape from the city to join us and the visitors in the park.
The theme for the launch is ‘A Grand Day Out’, which reflects the heyday of Rouken Glen Park, a space that has been drawing visitors for over 100 years. There will be an excavation in the park examining what was once Thornliebank house and tea room. This dig is run by our Adopt-A-Monument team with kind permission of East Renfrewshire Council.
Thornliebank house was used by the military during the Second World War, but never returned to domestic use and was subsequently demolished in 1968. The park itself was originally crown land that passed into the hands of the Earls of Eglington, before being gifted to the public in the early 20th century. Within its bounds lie gems ranging from a 16th-century industrial landscape to Edwardian leisure amenities. Anyone wishing to volunteer for this dig can email Phil Richardson: [email protected]
As well as considering how the park has evolved over the last few centuries, there will be opportunities for visitors to bring along their old photographs, stories, and even traditional recipes to share. Other attractions include free tours of the park, an exhibition, Victorian games for children, and a treasure hunt. An added attraction for grown-ups is that we will welcome a team from Bonhams who will be on hand to conduct valuations on our visitor’s curios and collectibles, visitors are advised to bring up to three items that they are able to carry.
This launch, however, is only the opening salvo in a festival that will run until 22nd September. Throughout this period there will be many other archaeological and heritage inspired events to enjoy. The heritage aspect is also set to include performance; one example is ‘Spectretown’ by Elspeth Turner, inspired by Bothy Ballads that were originally sung by farm labourers in north-east Scotland, it is directed by Matthew Lenton with music by Matt Regan.
Another example of a performance event is the interactive drama at the Caithness Horizons Museum on 19th September, where the Thurso Players aim to recreate the lives of the Pictish people of Caithness through craft activities, face-painting, and carved symbol stones.
There will also be many joint Doors Open Days, where you can visit free of charge buildings that are normally closed to the public, and a plethora of walks, talks, tours, re-enactments, and ancient skill learning events. The following provides no more than a sample of the events you might expect to find across Scotland during SAHF 2015. In order not to miss out, do keep checking the website (www.archaeologyscotland.org.uk) as new events will be added continuously throughout the festival.
SWARTIGILL IRON AGE PROJECT in the North East Highlands runs from Wednesday, September 16, 2015 to Sunday, September 20, 2015
Volunteers are invited to join a small excavation led by University of the Highlands and Islands under the auspices of Yarrows Heritage Trust funded by the Caithness and North Sutherland Fund. Swartigill Township is steeped in archaeological heritage. Its name is Old Norse for Black Pool Burn, while Mesolithic material dating back to c. 8,000 — 7,000 BC can be found along the banks of the Swartigill Burn. This project, though, seeks to investigate an enigmatic Iron Age settlement site that has produced pottery seemingly dating both early and late within that epoch.
Advance Booking Required – [email protected]
Link for further details – www.yarrowsheritagetrust.co.uk/swartigill_township.html
MATERIAL CULTURE AND THE LOST FOLK OF OSTAIG – Friday, September 11, 2015 – 10:00 to 17:00
Come and visit Sabhal MÃ²r Ostaig’s new ‘Learning and Research’ centre, Ionad Iain Nobail, where the postgraduate MSc programme, Cultar DÃ¹thchasach agus Eachdraidh na GÃ idhealtachd (‘Material Culture and GÃ idhealtachd History’) will be showcased.
This unique interdisciplinary degree course is the first to put material culture at its centre and to achieve a close engagement with culture and landscape by drawing on the interpretive powers of language and literature. Research assessing what happened to the ‘lost folk’ of five of Ostaig’s earlier townships will be on display. No booking is required to attend this open day.
Sabhal MÃ²r Ostaig, Oilthigh na GÃ idhealtachd ‘s nan Eilean, SlÃ¨ite, Isle of Skye, IV44 8RQ
MEDIEVAL BLOOMERY SITES IN ARGYLL – Argyll and Bute Monday, September 14, 2015 to Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Guard Archaeology will be excavating Allt na Ceardaich and up to eight other late medieval bloomery sites by Loch Eck in Argyll, investigating a hitherto neglected aspect of Medieval Scotland. A bloomery is a simple furnace used for smelting iron. The fruits of this process are known as the bloom, which comprises a mixture of iron and slag, and requires further processing to remove the latter. This project offers excellent opportunities for volunteers (no previous experience necessary) to participate in a professionally-run research project. Advance Booking is required, please contact: [email protected]
Continuing on the theme of metalwork, those interested in traditional skills can witness a blacksmith at work on 12th September at the Cousland Smiddy in East Lothian run by the Cousland Smiddy Trust. Indeed, this year we are pleased to welcome Industrial Heritage sites and events to complement the European Heritage Days theme. For those in the East on the 5th September ‘The Rail Thing’ has been organised by the Rotary Club of Dalkeith at the Lady Victoria Colliery, Midlothian, and will feature presentations by railway historians. The result is a festival that will span thousands of years of Scotland’s heritage from prehistory through to the early modern period. With a huge range of opportunities on offer, we are confident that there will be something for everyone.
The Scottish Archaeology and Heritage Festival will run from 5th — 22nd September 2015.
For more details see: www.archaeologyscotland.org.uk
DigIt! 2015 is the year-long celebration of Scottish Archaeology co-ordinated by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and Archaeology Scotland: DigIt2015.com