Excavation blog by Verity Limond

Excavation continued apace today as the team trowelled away the loose gravel and archaeologically-barren topsoil that cover older layers. As the digging progressed, we could see the earth changing colour and texture, from looser brown gravelly soil to a blacker and more compact material speckled with dark red. We believe this darker layer is the remains of a bonfire which was lit on Arthur’s Seat to mark the Millennium. Although that was only two decades ago, the event left its mark on the landscape and has become part of the stratigraphy. Probably connected to the bonfire were today’s finds, which were items such as rusty nails and glass shards. Although these finds were only a few pieces of modern debris, we still carefully collected them into a finds bag, which was then punctured to prevent condensation from building up inside the plastic. Good archaeology is as much about care and precision as it is about uncovering gold and tombs, so it is important to consider each item we come across – you never know when it might be something exciting!

We also were able to locate the site of a test pit which had previously been excavated on the same site. Since the test pit was recently backfilled with soil that had already been excavated and examined, we can quickly dig it out again without worrying about damaging any artefacts. As we make progress with the trowelling and digging, we can start to record the site and our finds. We have been trying to keep the cut edges of the trenches neat and vertical for drawing soil sections later on and we also practised drawing plans on a 1:20 scale.

We were very pleased to answer questions from interested members of the public, including several children who were keen to know what was happening and whether we had found anything yet. It was especially interesting to speak to locals who had been walking in the park for years as they could recall different archaeological and heritage work which had happened and gave us some idea of how the park has changed.

Survey blog by Ross Morrison

The third day of Surveying started with us meeting at a new location, St Anthony’s chapel. From here we split up into two groups, one stayed at the chapel and the other headed down to St Margaret’s well at the bottom of Arthur’s seat. At St Margaret’s well the group surveyed the area using the total station, Trimble scanner, and hand drawings of the well. The scanner was used to scan the inside of the well which involved some problem solving to ensure it sat steady in the water and did not fall in. The solution was to get the tripod into the well and after some wet feet, and adjustments to ensure it was level, the scanner was successfully placed onto that. By being at the bottom of Arthur’s seat we did get some interest and questions from members of the public who were passing, and it was great to see how interested people were about the work we were doing. We also did some photogrammetry of the well to finish off the morning.

After lunch the two teams swapped to allow everyone to be introduced and to learn all the different techniques. At St Anthony’s chapel we were given an introductory talk on Buildings Archaeology and some handouts to read through that were a guide to having good recording practices of buildings. We then did a building report to record the chapel ruins and a sketch of the chapel. People who had not done photogrammetry then did some on the chapel and the others went down to St Anthony’s well where they recorded the well to scale on a 1-10 scale.