The East Lomond Hillfort Archaeological Dig – 17th May to 4th June 2017. Week 2

Bob with spindle whorl find

After the rain, high winds and hailstones at the end of week 1, week 2 started with two scorching hot days with sunshine and temperatures around 26/27 degrees C. Sunscreen and lots of water were the order of the day. Project Director Joe Fitzpatrick commented on the resilience of the volunteer team and the project’s Ambassador group. He said, ” Whilst it was fantastic weather to be excavating the site it could also be very draining in the heat. The Ambassadors kept their eyes and ears on the volunteers and made sure everyone was drinking enough and taking regular breaks in the shade. The team have shared a range of tasks including working with the schools and giving public tours of the dig which is always a pleasure.

The Hearth

Keeping all our volunteers well, in good spirits and helping to identify any objects coming out of the ground is always a priority when it comes to nurturing team spirit. There is no shortage of good team spirit, friendly banter and encouragement on our dig which makes things all the more enjoyable”.

Lead archaeologist Dr. Oliver O’Grady said:

“Week two of the excavations far exceeded our expectations both in terms of the quality of discoveries being made and the amazing community effort from our volunteers and local schools. In our main trench we began to explore the occupation layers associated with the beautifully preserved hearth and post-settings uncovered during the first week. The hearth itself was excavated and revealed to contain lots of butchered burnt animal bone and lined with paving stones – highly reminiscent in scale and form to a hearth previously excavated at nearby Clatchard Craig hillfort above Newburgh, now sadly no more (

Shale armlet

In the soils around the hearth several excellent finds were discovered by our careful and rightly excited volunteers. These included metal objects in copper-alloy and iron, a small but very fine sherd of glazed pottery (found by promising ‘trainee archaeologist’ Kirsty), glass and shale objects. One of the latter included part of a large Iron Age shale armlet discovered by volunteer Roy directly adjacent the hearth. From the roughed-out appearance of the armlet’s surface we think this may have been a piece damaged during manufacture and therefore abandoned. Roy had a smile on his face for the rest of the day and quite right too – a great find!”

“At the other ends of the main trench the bedrock was finally hit in our eastern sondage (an area of vertical excavation within a trench – literally a ‘sounding’). This was thanks to a lot of hard work by volunteers Eric, Alan and Mike, among others. It was a really useful development as it revealed that the occupation layers further up the trench may be upwards of half a metre deep. There was also some evidence for quarrying of the bedrock, possibly for an earlier enclosure wall or revetment along the gully we believe was used for access to the fort’s main gate.”

“On the south side of trench A (the main trench), a further sondage was excavated in the area of an early medieval metal-working area. This began with archaeologist Chris and I carrying out a hammer-scale survey using large magnets. This looks for the tiny shards of metal waste which are thrown off during smithing work on an anvil, the detection of which can prove the location of a past workshop area. Great success ! We detected a spread of hammer-scale over the whole sondage area, the density of which increased toward the east in the direction of the trench edge. Scientific evidence for a Pictish smithing area nearby!”

Sling shot

“We also put a section through our possible paved road surface. This proved to be fairly shallow, but the soil underneath turned up some intriguing and very fine glazed pottery. Finds from below the smithing area were exceptional, including a fragment of a glass jewellery, a finely worked ‘corded’ shale bracelet, and a perfectly rounded sling-shot ball. The sling shot displayed clear impact damage – our first evidence of military activity at the site. These finds were found by our resident forensic anthropologist Ellie, who was thrilled to bits. We will be able to say more about these finds once a full assessment of the their conservation status and cultural significance has been completed after the dig.”

“Finally in the ‘other trench’, trench B, we extended the area over the large wall feature with the help of lots of very enthusiastic school pupils and teachers, revealing what seems to be a u-shaped building feature which will require further study and excavation. On the last day of week 2, at the close of our very successful public openday, Eric, John and Chris uncovered the first hints that the path feature in trench A does indeed extend far beyond 10m in length, and is therefore unlikely to represent a building wall. It is now down to our final week of school pupils to help figure this mystery out once and for all. Lets hope for even more excellent finds and even more community interest and collaboration.”