Excavation Blog by John Strachan

The first day started, as is often the case on archaeology projects, with introductions. The team gathered in Dunsapie car park. We met Jamie Hamilton, the Senior Ranger in the park and Richard Strachan from Historic Environment Scotland, as well as the excavation and survey leaders from AOC Archaeology and CFA Archaeology. Following a brief safety overview, the whole team followed the project leaders into the mists that covered Holyrood Park. We were introduced to the long history of the park, from large boulders left by the last glaciers to the bronze hoard found in the Duddingston loch. After climbing up to Arthurs Seat, which afforded good views of the hillfort on Dunsapie, and of the prehistoric agricultural embankments further down the slope. We then descended and returned to the car park by way of the ruins of St Anthony’s Chapel, winding back through the glen between Arthurs Seat and Salisbury Crags.

After lunch, we split into two groups – an excavation team that will be digging an Iron Age rampart on Arthurs Seat that is being eroded and a survey team that will begin to record and map a range of sites in the park.

The afternoon was spent setting up the site and making it safe. We walked back up Arthur’s Seat to the eroding rampart and began to cordon off the area. We were often asked what we were doing by members of the public, all of whom were very enthusiastic about the project. Interestingly, it seemed that most members of the general public were unaware that there was ever a hillfort on Arthur’s Seat, or anywhere in the park for that matter. This may be a contributing factor in the erosion of features by visitors unaware they are standing on and walking along ancient walls and banks throughout the park. By the afternoon the harr and mist had burned off and it had become a warm and sunny day. Due to a slight miscalculation we had to wait a while to finish our barrier, as we had run out of metal spikes to secure it to. This delay allowed the group to get to know each other and develop a team spirit. By the time we finished and walked off the hill for the last time, we were all quite tired but excited for the real work to begin tomorrow.

Survey blog by Fiona Child

On day one of the project we headed up Dunsapie hillfort to begin surveying the area. We began by sketching a basic landscape drawing, noting distinctive features in and around the fort, including bedrock, views to other parts of the park and remnants of the rampart wall. Using LiDAR data, we examined topographic maps of the area to better understand the boundary of the fortification. We finished the day by practicing drawing the fort to scale in small groups, which we will finish tomorrow to produce a complete sketch of the fort in a 1-100 scale. 

You can hear out about Jamie Hamilton’s role in the park as Senior Ranger here: