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Kildavie 2018

posted 28 Aug 2018, 10:24 by Harp Archaeology

We have just finished our fifth season of excavations at Kildavie and Emily, one of our participants, has written a short blog about her time with us, check it out below! Thanks, Emily and hope to see you again!

Archaeology has always been an interest of mine but never accessible to me through study or practice. In order to feed my curiosity I had become a bit of a documentary connoisseur.  However, watching a documentary is nothing like getting your hands dirty. 

I am an anthropology student in New York, New York (USA). When my department forwarded me the HARP archaeological dig opportunity I immediately applied! I assumed that Scotland would be the perfect place to dig as it is not too hot and is beautiful. My assumptions proved to be correct. Scotland has proven the ideal place for my first dig as it is gorgeous and challenging. While it does not get too hot here the weather can be unpredictable with the rain. Yet the rain does not prevent progress in excavation, it promotes creativity in staying dry. 

My favorite part of my HARP experience has been the people I have met. While I may not be an archaeology student many of the other students here are, but this does not stop the supervisors from answering any questions I may have. It is an environment where I am encouraged to push my understanding of the world and ask others for help. The other students come from all walks of life and, being an anthropology student, I am especially interested to learn about their lives, which they are happy to share. This has led to friendships I could not have imagined and teamwork that improves due to our understanding of each other. My favorite part of my time here has been one rainy day where another student and I were taking elevation drawings of a wall. It was cold and wet and I had decided to lie on the ground to get more accurate numbers. My partner sketched the wall and held an umbrella trying as best she could to keep me slightly dry. It was a bit of a waste of time but was incredibly funny, especially trying to clean myself up afterward. 

The amount of information I have learned about the people of Scotland has also excited me. It is fun to use anthropological data and guess at a previous way of life. And when we are thinking as a team while filling out context sheets and making predictions, we are able to come up with conclusions I would never had imagined by myself, yet make perfect sense. To me it is the perfect use of different backgrounds working together to think critically and creatively. 

As my time here on Mull comes to an end I am grateful to the people who have made my experience in archaeology so amazing. I will miss being with my team and singing the entirety of Bohemian Rhapsody as we remove tumble from our structure, and I will miss trivia nights where the only questions I know are about the periodic table as the trivia is Scottish based. I am excited to go home and share my experience and what I have learned. And, hopefully, I will have the opportunity to dig again with HARP next year. 

Thank you HARP and all of the fantastic dig supervisors for making my experience one of a kind!

Emily Bates
Fordham University
Class of 2020


posted 27 May 2018, 08:26 by Harp Archaeology

Archaeometallurgy, the study of the history and use of metals; Archaeobotany, the study of plant remains utilised by humans in the past; Archaeozoology, the study of animal remains; Archaeoplasticology…..?? No, it’s not a new discipline for the study of the history and use of plastics, although who knows, give it a bit more time and it may well be. Unsurprisingly, plastic is not something that we often come across in the archaeological record. With the first human made, chemically derived plastics created in the second half of the 19th century, mass production of plastics didn’t take off until the 1940s and 50s; hence our limited exposure to plastics in the archaeological record. So, as an archaeological organisation, why are we discussing plastic here? As is the case with many people, we have become aware, and increasingly concerned, by the amount of plastic that is currently being consumed throughout the world, and the potential harm to the environment that this will have, particularly the consumption of single use plastics, and non-recyclables.

As we are  heading into our next field season for Jacobites, Clearance and Scots!, we thought it was timely to share with you some of our thoughts and changes we are in the process of making. Whilst we are a small organisation, and on the whole environmentally conscious, we have decided to take a very hard look at the amount of plastic that we use/consume, and try to find as many ways as possible to help reduce our plastic consumption. Whilst we always recycle plastics where possible, we are very keen to reduce our purchase, and use, of plastics where possible, as the reduction in consumption will be key to help reduce the overall need for plastics. 

But how much plastic do we really use anyway? When we sat down to look over our main uses for plastics we were actually quite surprised at the amounts. From collecting and storing environmental soil samples in heavy duty plastic bags, to providing packed lunches to our field school participants, to using plastic bottled water on sites in locations where drinking water is not available, we actually use more single use plastic than we thought.

So what are we going to do about it?  With this short blog we are launching our own internal campaign to reduce our plastic consumption, and to change our habits and apparent dependence on plastics, particularly single use plastics. We will be sharing our ideas and results on social media, which will hopefully inspire others to change their thoughts and approaches, and when we find products and organisations that share our ethos we will be sharing their ideas too.

On all of our projects and field schools we engage with new audiences and participants, and we hope with our new approach we will be able to encourage them to change their attitudes to, and consumption of, plastics. If we can help to reduce the consumption of plastics, then we might help to delay the development of Archaeoplasticology that little bit longer.

Toro Iseki

posted 22 Jul 2017, 04:56 by Harp Archaeology   [ updated 21 Jan 2018, 11:41 ]

Grace Macpherson

こんにちは! Moving from Scotland to Japan is quite the upheaval, and has meant that I’ve left all of my ‘heritage’ behind. I left all that contributed to create my sense of roots, and all that contributed to create a present reality that was livable for what I perceived to be my identity. I left every kind of familiar landscape in which my life was being, or had been, lived. So when considering what to write about in terms of my experiences in cultural heritage here, I honestly struggled to think in ‘heritage’ terms, as my personal sense of ‘heritage’ has been so challenged. To my delight, I discovered a site and a story here in Japan that has created an empathetic connection between myself and this nation, speaking directly to this very upheaval of a sense of identity. And it was great fun to visit too!

I first found out about the site of Toro Iseki from one of my students at the Eikaiwa gakkō (英会話学校) that I work at (in English, it’s called a conversation school). Toro is located in the neighbouring prefecture, Shizuoka ken, in the city of the same name, central Honshu Island. Presently it consists of a group of reconstructed pit dwellings, rice paddies and a museum, created from the plan of the settlement discovered during archaeological investigations on the site, beginning from it’s discovery in 1943. Back then it was just a modern rice paddy field on the surface, until the building of an aeroplane propeller factory began to reveal the remains of the Late Yayoi period (c.1st century AD) rice-farming settlement.

Investigations revealed evidence of paddy field systems alongside the excavated 12 dwellings, and an extens
ive farming tool kit, extraordinarilypreserved despite being primarily wooden materials.

The ‘afterlife’ of the site was equally compelling to learn about, having suffered bombings during the war, provided the post-war Japanese with a ‘shining light’ of hope in the period following their military defeat, and became the arena in which modern Japanese archaeological methods really took shape.

Full work at the site could only begin properly in 1947 following the war, and this timing has been argued as one explanation as to why the site was considered to be so important. Just like myself, post-war Japan was in a state of identity re-formation, as the ‘divine’ imperial system upon which many philosophies and beliefs had previously been founded was now shattered. And because of the longevity of this belief system – thedivine imperial line thought to have been in existence since the dawn of time – all of Japanese historical understanding which had contributed to the creation of the national spirit and identity, was now, at Toro’s time of discovery, being viewed through a new lens. No longer able to build on this imperial myth, Japan was left without a foundational understanding of itself as a nation. Archaeological discoveries, with an inherent time element to their investigation, very often step in to fill these cultural positions, offering that ‘ancient’ or ‘unchanged’ history upon which to build a brand new present identity.

For me, this archaeological discovery stepped in to remind me of some of my own personal history – as an ex-student and continual lover of archaeology – whilst giving me something upon which to build a brand new sense of how that is part of my life here in Japan. For post-war Japan, this archaeological discovery revealed a history of the ‘common people’, with a basis in rice-cultivation, which could now be the foundation of the new democratic ‘cultural nation’. And rice cultivation was really highlighted throughout the small museum. Despite not being able to understand the majority of the explanatory panels, my friends and I had a great day out, delving into the Japanese past. The small on-site museum contained interactive elements on the ground floor, accessible free of charge, where we could get involved in using reconstructed examples of the everyday and rice farming wooden objects and tools. I was fascinated at the state of preservation of these objects (the originals were on display on the first floor, which I could wander around for a small fee), and I think the archaeologistsin the past would have been too, as natural materials are so rarely recovered.

We could try weaving, mortise and tenon tool construction (slightly confusing), creating pots, and also attempt to light a fire usingaholed plank and stick. There was the opportunity to have a go at ‘rice farming’ too – wear the wooden plank sandals to walk on the ‘mud’ (squishy floor), plant shoots into the paddies, slice the heads of the harvested crop, and pound the rice to separate the chaff – all whilst wearing the white tunic-like garb, and sensing the days/seasons go by as the lighting in the room gradually changed.

Without this, it would have been more of a struggle to later know what the objects were that were on display upstairs, though there were some brilliant illustrations. The interactivity and the reconstructions that were there really brought it all to life to make it real to a complete newby 外人(foreigner) who can’t read much of the language. Many of them even detailed the processes of the excavation/reconstruction itself and life in war-time Japan. The reconstructed buildings outside too, increased that relational connection to those lives lived in the Japanese past 2000 years ago. Although jarring slightly with the residential area that surrounded very closely on all sides (land is a precious commodity on these crowded islands), the houses were built alongside the fields in close connection, really giving a senseof how intermingled agriculture may have been into daily life of those 1st century Japanese people.

This place called to memory other sites I have visited back home – with museums and reconstructions to explore – though this time with a distinctly Japanese element. It helped me realise the importance and validity of my own personal past cultural experiences, in order to relate to this new experience in a Japanese context. Japan is not so wildly different or alien after all, even if my brain is finding things hard to compute at times. Though Japanese heritage is different from my own, it’s heritage serves a similar purpose for the Japanese people that mine does for me – in helping to shape understandingof what it is to live and be ourselves, wherever we live today. My archaeologist inside was excited to learn about the past of the nation I now call home, giving me an insight and connection to my ‘new nation’ which linked with an element of my old life and personhood – archaeology – in a similar way that Toro’s investigation gave an ancient history of the common people that could be built upon in the ‘new nation’ that Japan became following the war.

By connecting to both my own and Japan’s pasts, Toro helped us both to navigate key moments of change. By uncovering Japan’s past, I hope building my future here will be a process of creating something great, and being equipped for the purpose of helping nations connect to the Truth of their identity.

Photographs taken by both the author and Angel Lopez

Further Reading:

 - Aikens, C. M. and Higuchi, T. 1982. Prehistory of Japan, Academic Press
 - Bahn, P. (ed.) 2001. ‘Toro,’ in The Penguin Archaeology Guide, Penguin
 - Brown, D. M. (ed.) 1993. The Cambridge History of Japan: Ancient Japan, Cambridge University Press
 - Edwards, W. 1999. ‘Buried discourse: the Toro archaeological site and Japanese national identity in the early postwar period,’ in Journal of Japanese Studies, vol. 17, no. 1
 - Nishi, K. 1996. What is Japanese architecture? A survey of traditional Japanese architecture, translated by Horton, H. M., Kodansha International

Maps and more… Kieran’s first blog post for HARP!

posted 27 Jun 2017, 09:09 by Harp Archaeology   [ updated 21 Jan 2018, 11:42 ]

This week we have Kieran, HARP’s newest supervisor, writing up some of his thoughts on the Jacobites, Clearance and Scots project which just wrapped up on Saturday. We would like to say a big thanks to all the participants this year! We had a wonderful season and are already looking forward to getting back next year! But we’ll let Kieran tell you all about it in what we hope will be his first of many blog posts! ☺

Hello! What an excellent season of surveying we had! The days flew by and I cannot believe that the project is all finished until next year! This year has been another great season, with very well preserved settlements at Tighmore and Over Bohespic being particular highlights. Over the last couple of days, efforts were concentrated on the recording of these fairly substantial settlements. We have, apparently, a multi-phase settlement site with large enclosures, full gable-ended houses and at least two kilns. The historic maps, especially the 1867 1st edition OS map, are incredibly helpful in building our understanding of this site, with the OS map marking buildings, a lime kiln, enclosures and a track-way around the Tighmore area. As with Thomnasallan, Clunes and Craig, which we recorded in 2015 and 2016, Tighmore offers us an excellent glimpse into settlement life in the area around Wade’s Road in the post-medieval period. It also gives the students plenty practice at recording settlement sites, drawing sketch plans and building elevations.

In terms of what I have been up to on my first project as a HARP supervisor, I have spent most days at the lodge ensuring that data entry runs smoothly but also running some sessions looking at historic maps and going over some GIS introductions. It has been an excellent experience, helped by the fact that this year’s group were very hard-working and enthusiastic. 

The historic maps relating to the post-medieval period in the Perthshire region of Scotland are fascinating with each map being equally interesting on its own merit. Each individual map highlights a specific moment in the evolution of mapping Scotland. One map that is of particular use in regards to investigating General Wade’s Military Roads is the impressive military survey carried out by Major-General William Roy between 1747 and 1755. Roy’s map was called the “Great Map” by contemporary cartographers and indeed, at its time, it was the most detailed and accurate map of Scotland ever to have been produced. Roy was commissioned to survey Scotland, beginning with the Highlands, after the 1745 Jacobite rising had been quelled at Culloden Moor in April of 1746. The intended primary function of Roy’s map was for use in the event of another rising. This military aspect is reflected in Roy’s attention to Wade’s Road, topography, settlements, and also land use, which is excellent, as it provides us with so much information about what’s going on in and around our survey area. This map, along with Wade and Caulfield’s road network, opened up areas of the Highlands which were previously extremely difficult for Government forces to negotiate, and counter-acted the advantage Highlanders had in battle with their intimate knowledge of the terrain. Although there were never any further armed Jacobite uprisings, in the event that there was one, Roy’s map would have been an extremely valuable resource for the Government forces. However, that is not to say that it did not play in important role in the subjugation of the Highlands, and the increased military control and policing of the region after Culloden. 

One of the most interesting and most vibrant accounts written by a traveller though the Highlands in the 18th century is by Thomas Pennant.  Pennant wrote a series of accounts detailing his different travels through Scotland. As a Glaswegian, I’ve got to say that I was slightly outraged by his introduction to Glasgow: “Glasgow: The best built second-rate city I ever saw.”  Pennant also goes on to compare Wade’s exploits to those of the famous Carthaginian General, Hannibal, stating: “General Wade, who, like another Hannibal, forced his way through rocks supposed to have been unconquerable…” This seems to be genuine praise, which goes against the backhanded compliment he paid to Glasgow and his general condescending tone throughout.

The mid-project weekend off, began with the customary Burns Supper and whisky tasting on the Friday night, which went very well and everyone seemed to have an excellent time, with pretty much all of the haggis being finished! The Ardmore and Old Pultney went down very very well, whilst the Laphroaig’s peatyness seemed to render it a bit of an acquired taste, but that left more for those of us who enjoyed it.

During the weekend off, we also had a project first! A group of participants took advantage of the excellent range of activities offered by Atholl Estates and went for a pony trek in the grounds of Blair Castle! They reported that they had a fantastic time and were looked after very well by the guide with the trek route taking them up to a vantage point where they were able to get a fantastic view of the castle and the grounds. However, they did run into a rather curious group of young cows who had apparently never seen a horse before, resulting in some of the cows having a good sniff around the horse and generally unnerving Rachel, Shannon, Heather and Kristin.

As for Michelle, Tom and I, it was off to have a look for Wade’s Road in the castle ground... because doing that all week was not enough for Michelle and Tom! After that, it was off to have a root around St Bride’s Kirk, the resting place of the Dukes of Atholl.  Another noteworthy individual laid to rest there is John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee, the Jacobite commander at the 1689 Battle of Killiecrankie, during the first Jacobite rising in Scotland. Viscount Dundee is a truly fascinating figure from 17th century Scotland, and an extremely divisive and controversial one at that. His brutal suppression and hunting of Covenanters in the South West of Scotland earned him the name “Bluidy Clavers”, while in other parts of the country he was idolised as “Bonnie Dundee”. To his men at Killiecrankie, Dundee was a charismatic and enigmatic leader, who inspired them on to victory and provided cohesion through the army. The legend goes that he was killed by an injury sustained from a silver coin fired from a Government sniper in Urrard House at the Battle of Killiecrankie, which only emphasises his legend and status in history. In reality, he died as a result of a musket wound sustained as he was leading a daring, and rather brave, cavalry charge down the centre of the field at the Battle. Dundee’s armour was robbed from his tomb in the chapel vault and sold onto a group of tinkers, however, it was recovered, and the breastplate is now on display at Blair Castle. The area we stay and work in during the project is awash with Jacobite history and archaeology, with Blair Castle and the Dukes of Atholl playing vital roles in every Jacobite rebellion in Scotland, and as such, it is a great place to stay, particularly when we have many participants who have never been to Scotland before.

After our visit to St Brides, Michelle and I explored the secluded, quiet and extremely beautiful Hercules Garden at Blair Castle, which contained some very interesting follies, sculptures, and plants. We even found an estate map from the mid-18th century that included the path of Wade’s Road through the castle grounds! It would be fantastic to have a closer look at this particular map.  We also managed a quick visit to the Killiecrankie visitor site so Tom could have a look around, as he had not been before, he seemed delighted to get pictures of the A9 road bridge that hugs the side of the Pass and the railway viaduct completed in 1863. The day our was completed with a hangover busting dinner and a pint in Pitlochry before we headed back to pick up the students who had been visiting all the highlights of Blair Atholl. 

Aside from surveying, data entry, and GIS work, the second week was broken up by Wednesday’s field trip to Ruthven Barracks, The Highland Folk Museum and a tour around the magnificent Dalwhinnie Distillery. (https://www.discovering-distilleries.com/dalwhinnie/) Everyone seemed to really enjoy the trip, with Highland Folk Museum, in particular, being marked out for praise. Tom was particularly taken by the café and shop and general set-up of the museum… and also the 18th century wheelbarrow. 

The reconstructed 18th century township of Easter Raitts is a great place to visit whilst on a project investigating the post-medieval period in Scotland. The township began life as an experimental archaeology project and has grown since then. It clearly demonstrates the various styles and methods of house building and it really helps us to understand the sites that we come across in the field, especially buildings. It is a relaxed and informative heritage site that allows for a really immersive experience of the post-medieval and recent past in the Highlands. 

Although it is sad that the time has come to leave the Forest Lodge, one thing is for sure, the future is bright for this project, and maybe others, in terms of conflict archaeology, prehistoric archaeology and post-medieval archaeology. The Atholl Estate and the surrounding areas are alive with a great variety of archaeology.

HARP's year so far!

posted 17 May 2017, 10:54 by Harp Archaeology   [ updated 21 Jan 2018, 11:44 ]

What a great start HARP has had to 2017! Grace has been writing some interesting blog posts which if you haven’t checked out, I highly recommend you do. And we had a wonderful group in Cyprus in April with our Introduction to Archaeology, Bioarchaeology and Lithics courses! This year, we decided to run the Introduction and Bioarchaeology courses at the same time at the Lemba Archaeological Research Centre, which meant that we had a lovely group of 13 people studying and working on archaeological material. I thought I woulduse this blog post to go through a bit of what we do at each Cypriot course, and especially to talk about our new Lithics course. 

Spring in Cyprus! 

The Intro to Archaeology is really an introduction to archaeological field recording and artefact identification and recording. It gives participants the chance to learn the skills needed to record various features on a site and practice those skills while they develop a portfolio record of their work. This all sounds a bit dry, but at a time when the infrastructure projects (particularly in the UK) need qualified and experienced archaeologists, being able to show that you have the skills to identify and record archaeological featurescan give you the edge in the job market. The course is set around the Lemba Experimental Prehistoric Village which is beautiful and provides the perfect setting. Not only do we do on-site recording – drawing, photography, registers, and context sheets, but also post-excavation recording and artefact identification – drawing, photography and some analysis. Typically, we have had participants with a range of experience, some who have dug elsewhere and some who are new to archaeology. What is great, is that all of them have told us that they feel that they really get the chance to build their skills and to better understand that archaeological process through this course. 

This year we had a really international group for the Intro course, from Norway, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Germany and the United States. It’s interesting when people come from different disciplines and with different understandings of archaeology, based on where they have worked or studied. For example, archaeology in Australia and New Zealand actually has a lot in common with North American archaeology when dealing with the archaeology of indigenous peoples, though it differs in some key areas, sharing their understanding of archaeology from their part of the world, gives participants a wider view of archaeology globally. This is an important aspect of the discipline now, as evidenced by projects like Kate’s last year (www.globalarchaeology.ca) and conferences like this one in Cambridge

The Bioarchaeology course again brought together a group of individuals from different backgrounds and countries… though this time with a bit of a North American leaning. We had a really lovely group of Canadians, Americans and Irish with us this year. Some came with no prior osteological experience and some with an introductory course under their belts, while others had done some osteological studies but had been away from it for a while. By keeping it to a small group, I am able to give the students a little bit more one-on-one attention and really give them the chance to ask questions and focus on things they have an interest in. We use archaeologically-derived skeletal material and the students have the chance to clean it, identify and record it. It’s highly fragmented and quite a challenge for the students to work with! The hands-on experience is interspersed with lectures and talks on the human skeletal anatomy and visits to interesting archaeological sites in the area. 

With all the HARP courses in Cyprus, we try to introduce the students to some of the local archaeological sites and get experts in various material cultures to talk to the students about the practical side of their research. This year Dr. Lindy Crewe was able to give us a talk on pottery – how it’s analysed, what to look for and record, and some of the types of pottery on Cyprus. Dr. Paul Croft gave us a great talk on animal bones in archaeology, and what we can learn from the analysis of animal remains in terms of diet, cooking habits and herding or hunting practices. Sarah Douglas was also able to enrich the course with a discussion and talk on gender in archaeology and how we need to make sure we are keeping an open mind about what we interpret, and bring together biological data with material culture to help create a narrative. One of our participants, Marc McAlester, is a photographer and it was such a pleasure to have him explain cameras and how to take the perfect picture, either on site or especially in the laboratory. Finally, some of our students stuck around (or came out to join us) for an intensive lithics training week with Dr. Carole McCartney.

This was our first Lithics Course, but it won’t be our last! Carole was a great teacher, who has an unbelievable wealth of knowledge about lithics, local geology and the processes involved in making lithics. Using her own site, Ayia Varvara-Asprokremnos as the focal point, students had the chance not only to understand how lithics are identified, studied and recorded, but also to work with material from the 10,000 year old site,and learn about the earliest peoples on Cyprus. The students for this intensive lithics week got to learn how to identify, record and even make some of their own chipped stone tools. We had a fun excursion, river pebble hunting to find chert sources and then taking them back to Lemba to have a go at flint knapping. 

As well as learning all about chipped stone, students had the opportunity to participate in some ofthe environmental processing of the samples from Ayia Varvara-Asprokremnos. This not only contributed to the overall processing of the site material, but gave students the chance to learn more about how environmental samples are processed and why. 

All in all, it was a great 3 weeks in Cyprus this spring. Made truly enjoyable because of the nice group of students we had, who jumped in to every task and lesson with enthusiasm, energy and interest. So a big thank you to all who participated and contributed to the courses. The specialist and general skills acquired on these field schools will help students achieve their archaeological goals we hope, and make them more employable in both research and commercial excavation. 

Next up, we have our Jacobites, Clearance and Scots project, where we get to return to the amazing Atholl Estates and stay at the Forest Lodge while we set out to survey more of the military roads in that area. If you are interested in reading more about this, check out the July/August issue of History Scotland where Ian and I have written an article about the work that has been done so far. Following quickly on the heels of the Jacobites project, we’ll be heading up to the Isle of Mull for another excavation season at Kildavie.

So it’s going to be a busy and exciting couple of months ahead and we’ll make sure to get a few more blog posts up here to keep you up to date with the latest and greatest of HARP’s 2017 field season. With the lovely start that we’ve had this year, I can’t help but be excited with what’s to come! 



Visiting the National Museum's Japanese Collection

posted 28 Feb 2017, 13:28 by Harp Archaeology   [ updated 21 Jan 2018, 11:46 ]

The National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh has been undergoing a ‘Masterplan’ of refurbishment for over a decade, and it is now entering its fourth phase. This will involve the creation of new galleries for the museum’s East Asian and Ancient Egyptian collections, to open in 2018. 

As a museum enthusiast myself, and about to embark on an adventure to Japan, I got in touch with the museum to ask if I could have a look at their archaeology collection. I was put in touch with the East Asia curator, Dr Rosina Buckland, who was very willing to show me some of the ceramic material.

The National Museum has a Japanese archaeology collection primarily thanks to the efforts, contacts and commitment of Neil Gordon Munro (1863 – 1942), who is known as being one of the first Westerners to befriend the Ainu people of northern Japan. He went from training as a doctor at Edinburgh University to eventually living much of his life in Japan and using his physician’s training to give free medical care to the Ainu people. After the mainland Japanese had colonised the northern island of Hokkaido, the homeland of the Ainu, these people became very socially disadvantaged and marginalised within Japanese society. So his treatment of them allowed an increased level of dignity during a difficult period of identity negotiation for them. Since about ten years ago the Ainu have had official recognition as a minority people, and they work actively to preserve elements of their traditional culture. 

Munro was given a large number of objects by members this community – some of which are on display in the museum’s ‘Living Lands’ gallery – as well as gathering c.1,600 archaeological objects from his personal interests in archaeology. He conducted his own excavations at three key shell mound sites around Yokohama, west of Tokyo, where much of the material I looked at came from. Through this material, he created connections with Japan which have lasted into our time. Rosina told me stories about excited Japanese museum curators recently visiting these collections, and gathering together the very items of pottery they had seen in Munro’s published writings. She described Ainu people coming all the way to Scotland to learn something of their own personal cultural history – analysing the craftworks which Munro had collected from their kinsmen years before. They then recreated these older craft styles, to share the skills within their modern community. The objects had also travelled, touring around various Japanese museums.

I also met Dr Louise Boyd, the new assistant curator for these collections, who walked with me around some of the galleries – Inspired by Nature, Artistic Legacies, Living Lands – where a few of the East Asian items are displayed in amongst other collections. She told of her own experiences living and studying in Japan. She explained that things work quite differently there – connections and personal acquaintances being very important. As a representative of a company, known to someone within another organisation and introduced through those connections, exploring Japanese cultural heritage is relatively easy. Acting on my own, as I was doing that day just out of interest, would be deviating slightly from the Japanese norm.

 When asked about the future stories to be told from the archaeological material when the new galleries are established, Rosina told me their intentions to ‘highlight the shared foundations of East Asian civilisation.’ She showed me many items whose form and production technology – such as kilns in which the ceramic would have been fired – crossed to Japan from the Korean peninsula. A mug-shaped object, large enough for a decent cup of tea, represents one example of shared vessel form I was shown. Stone materials, tools and decorative items too have been shared across seas and diverse people groups in East Asia. Magatama, curved comma-shaped pierced stones, are also found in both areas – featuring from the Japanese prehistoric Jomon period (c.10,000 BC to 300 BC), into the Kofun (3rd – 6th centuries AD) period.

The Jomon (‘cord-marked’) pieces were generally larger and coarser than vessels from other periods – made using the coiling production method. There was still a huge amount of investment in their production, evident in the intricate marked and sculpted decoration, much of which was on the vessel rims. Some even had crude, accidental glaze on the exterior – as ash fell during firing and melted onto the clay fabric, which soon became a deliberate decorative addition.

The next ceramic period in the collection, Yayoi (300 BC – 300 AD), is represented much less. It is a shorter time period, so less time for pottery creation and development. Pieces become markedly different in appearance – finer, and colour begins to change. 

The following Kofun period is named as such because of the large mounded tombs that began to appear, housing much of the ceramic material. Vessels become finer still, greyer, and acquire the name sueki (offering ware). Some shapes continue – such as the pedestal, persisting since the Jomon – whilst new, oddly lopsided jug-like items appear. 

From these large tombs, specifically funerary material was also obtained. Miniature ceramic architectural pieces and guardian haniwa figures surrounded the interred, and the entranceways to their final resting place. These rather comical figures had rounded bases, which were designed to be placed in the ground– posing dynamically in what was likely quite an intimidating display to represent the deceased. 

The collection contains some prehistoric figural ceramics, with the dogu from the Jomon. Unfortunately there are no complete figures in this collection, but the parts that are represented still inspire intrigue and speculation as to what motivated their creation. Rosina says that the odd goggle-eyes especially have led some to consider connections to North American communities. One theory even suggests a connection to aliens!

Although I had seen less than a third of the collections which will be selected from to form the new East Asia gallery, I came away with a much greater knowledge of how sharing and understanding between peoples stimulated the growth of East Asian culture. The new gallery is set to stimulate more people into learning about different ideas, with a planned outreach programme and interactive elements to enhance visitor interaction. 

By telling the story of a connected East Asian past, the gallery will continue to make connections between the museum and East Asia. Through interacting with these objects and their stories, visitors will be interacting with a piece of East Asian culture – making their own connections. 

Grace Macpherson

Museum website: http://www.nms.ac.uk/

Trusty's Hill

posted 17 Feb 2017, 06:57 by Harp Archaeology   [ updated 21 Jan 2018, 11:46 ]

Trust a Hill to be the place
to burn and bring this little place
out from the Dark.

Ages young and old inspired.
Legends re-told; All Our Stories required
to GUARD carefully what was shown
to be beyond the ‘Pictish’ stone.

Objects of fine craft
coming all the way from France.
Royalty and creativity both here.

Bowle-d over by new knowledge,
Tool(i)-s more advanced than Thomas – 
the Solway landscape exceeded expectations,
uniting times and spaces ‘at the forefront of culture creation.’

The ‘Dark Age’ kingdom of Rheged has until now been a kingdom with a history – records and stories – but absent of a materiality. Many of these records are poems written by the Welsh bard Taliesin in the 6th century to praise the kingdom’s rulers Urien and later his son Owain mab Urien. An archaeological investigation in the town of Gatehouse of Fleet has now revealed promising evidence of Rheged’s material existence, so I thought I would add to the records by composing my own poem about said investigation!

On the 21st of January in Gatehouse of Fleet (Dumfries and Galloway), the results of this archaeological investigation were made widely available in the new publication which was launched that day. 

The enthusiasm in the room was palpable, with audience members excited to hear more about what cultural treasures this landscape holds; presenters Ronan Toolis and Christopher Bowles clearly eager to be sharing the results of their research project; and hosts from the Dumfries and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society still celebrating the society’s 150 year anniversary with this investigation – the Galloway Picts Project. The presentation at the book launch, like the publication itself, was very much a collaborative effort, as Ronan and Christopher both communicated some of the highlights of what was found. 

Trusty’s Hill had sparked the imagination of many who could actually find the place (sign-posting is not one of its strongpoints as a cultural landmark) for years, as there is a curiously carved stone to the side of the path to the summit. First recorded by Stuart in 1856 with the title ‘Trusty’s Hill,’ the symbols were always a key component which made this place important – linking it to hill forts with similar Pictish carvings, such as Edinburgh castle and Dunadd. The symbols have been variously classified over the years as Pictish Class I, Pictish Class II, graffiti, ‘strays outside the main distribution’, etc. But these classifications don’t give us much of an idea of the role they actually played within the landscape in which they were created, or who the people were who lived alongside them. That’s where archaeologists, and their completely scientifically justified obsession with context, step in. 

Sometimes that’s done wading through mud, with a few pennies of change clinking in their pocket to fund the project and only a couple young lads from Dumfries Academy to help out – as the first archaeological investigation at Trusty’s was done, under the supervision of Thomas in the 1960s – producing less than encouraging results. But nowadays, thanks to ‘more resources (people and equipment), better techniques (modern CIfA standards and professional archaeologists) and better weather!’ (Toolis) this archaeological search for context at Trusty’s Hill ‘exceeded expectations’ (Bowles). 

The carvings were found to be part of an extremely connected landscape of people and cultural interaction , representing a probable local adaptation of the Eastern/Northern Scottish Pictish art – the artist was ‘likely familiar, but not an expert’ (Toolis). The pottery too, revealed Trusty’s Hill to be the dwelling site of people with far-flung contacts, extending to Merovingian Gaul in the Loire region of France. And looking at the distribution of this Merovingian E-Ware pottery across the rest of the UK, we can see that they appear only at ‘power centres’ along the West coast, including the nearby sites of the Mote of Mark hillfort and the ecclesiastical centre Whithorn – giving the site a suggested prestige status.

The Anglo-Saxons from across the Northern Sea, were also having an impact in the activities happening at this Galloway hillfort – potentially influencing the shape of a cross-shaped metalworking mould found, and imparting the Germanic II animal motifs displayed on a circular horse head mount. Metal working was very well represented at the site, at the fine and high standard ‘hallmark of an elite power centre’ (Bowles). Christopher Bowles described the people living and working at this site as ‘at the forefront of culture creation in the Solway,’ ‘taking from the past, to create in the present, making objects for the future.’ 

It was exciting to hear the two principle investigators make these temporal connections when presenting the lives and products of the former residents of Trusty’s Hill. It was also exciting that they presented their discoveries from many different scales of analysis – small finds and the relationships, activities and ideas they represented; the site itself, closely related in form to the site of Dunadd royal centre of Dalriada; the local landscape of settlement and ecclesiastical centres; and the broader scale of Britain as a whole. It is from this multi-scalar perspective that the ‘lost’ kingdom of Rheged emerged – traditionally thought to have been within Cumbria, presenting interesting questions as to what will now happen to the map of ‘cultural heritage’ across the country.

There were over a hundred people present at the event, many of whom had been volunteers at the excavation or else involved in the Heritage Lottery Funded ‘All Our Stories’ project within the community which followed. The Gatehouse Development Initiative (GDI) played a key role to continue and keep up local enthusiasm for Trusty’s Hill, by encouraging the Primary School pupils to write sagas, create artwork and get up on the hill itself. An exhibition was also created at the Mill on the Fleet Museum with the assistance of Ronan Toolis, along with further guided walks. At the book launch, Ken Smyth was there as the GDI representative, encouraging increased inter-generational enthusiasm for what has been found at Trusty’s Hill, spreading word of the poetic efforts of the school children. When asked about what the future holds for Trusty’s Hill, Ronan Toolis hands it very much over to the local community – leaving many trained as tour guides, and many more enlightened by the details in the publication. So the more passion for local heritage the community can share, the better the future will look for this newly crowned ‘royal centre.’ That passion was definitely stirred at the launch of this publication. 

Grace Macpherson

Additional links:

http://www.gatehouse-of-fleet.co.uk/ - for further information on the work of the Gatehouse Development Initiative, and town news

http://gallowaypicts.com/wordpress/ - the blog of the project, including summary reports, teacher resources and research strategies

http://www.oxbowbooks.com/oxbow/the-lost-dark-age-kingdom-of-rheged.html - where you can get yourself a copy of the publication and find out more

https://www.poemhunter.com/taliesin/ - the poems of Taliesin and some biographical information about the bard

Meet Grace! Guest Blogger for #HHA2017

posted 13 Feb 2017, 10:25 by Harp Archaeology   [ updated 21 Jan 2018, 11:47 ]

2017 is a big year for archaeology, and for us here at HARP, with the launch of Visit Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeo
logy, and our own launch of new projects and tours!  To continue the theme of new launches, and as part of #HHA2017, we are delighted to announce a new guest blogger who will be sharing stories from local archaeology enthusiasts to national collections of Far Eastern treasures.

Grace Macpherson is a recent graduate of Archaeology from the University of Glasgow, and we’ve been fortunate enough that Grace has joined us on a couple of HARP projects in the past whilst completing her studies. Hailing from Dumfries and Galloway, Grace is about to embark on a life changing adventure to Japan, but has happily agreed to be our guest blogger for the next few weeks before jetting off! 

We’ll be sharing Grace’s stories in our blog space here so be sure to check in over the next few weeks to see what she has been up to! And keep up with all things #HHA2017 

Top 10 HARP moments for 2016

posted 30 Dec 2016, 10:29 by Harp Archaeology   [ updated 21 Jan 2018, 11:47 ]

In the spirit of the holidays and the end of the year, I have decided to join the general masses and create a top 10 for HARP this year. It’s been a great year for us, with lots of wonderful students and new opportunities. We are hoping that we will continue to grow and expand in the coming year, with new projects, tours and research. I hope that you and yours are enjoying the holiday season and are looking forward to a healthy, happy and prosperous 2017. Here are my top 10 memories from HARP 2016!

1. 1st bioarchaeology field school in Cyprus. This year we were able to run our first bioarchaeology school at the Lemba Archaeology Research Centre in Cyprus with three very enthusiastic and interested students. We had a wonderful time working at the Lemba Archaeology Research Centre and with our colleagues at the Paphos Museum.

2. Recording Craig settlement. The Jacobites, Clearance and Scots project is always one of my favourite projects, and this year we had such a good time recording the settlement site of Craig on the Atholl Estates. The site commands an absolutely beautiful view and the standing remainsof the 18th century settlement are really impressive.

3. Another highlight for me this year was the insight into the vegetation by one of our participants on the Jacobites, Clearance and Scots project. Victoria is a biochemist by training and her experienced eye at the settlements and along the survey of Wades’ Roads was able to pick out non-indigenous plants and tell us about the previous land-use of an area. This kind of landscape analysis is quite unique and combines a specialist understanding of archaeology and botany

4. Visiting Killiecrankie. We hadn’t had a chance to visit Killiecrankie in 2015, but this year, we got a great talk by one of our students, Kieran, who has been studying the Jacobite uprisings. This battle site is really very picturesque and when taken alongside the history of the uprising there, it becomes even more evocative of a location. The image of a hoard of half-naked Highlanders charging down the hillside is one that is sure to make an impression. 

5. Dr Kate from Global Archaeology at Kildavie. Kate Leonard, a fellow Canadian, was able to come and join us at Kildavie this year which was really great. Kate has had a super exciting year of archaeology and travel, moving around to a new country and new archaeological experience each month. Check out her website here:  www.globalarchaeology.ca She was really great to work with and made a rather rainy season a bit easier. 

6. Kildavie excavation. This was a memorable one… compared to previous seasons where we have had lovely, sunny and warm weather… this year was a bit wild, weather-wise. Moments that stick out: the tent snapping and nearly blowing away, rain coming sideways, the last day winds which nearly blew us away! Not to mention the rather precarious convenience on the top of the hill in the tent. Our student team was awesome! Resilient and enthusiastic, they worked so hard in all weather and really made some great progress on the excavation. 

7. Skalia skeletons. While the excavation at the Chalcolithic through Middle Bronze Age site of Kissonerga-Skalia is not strictly speaking a HARP project, withso many HARP employees working there, it feels like it is! And for me, nothing is better than getting the chance to excavate a skeleton (especially in the sunshine of Cyprus). This year, we had some Chalcolithic skeletons in the north east corner of the site come up during excavation by Paul Croft and his team which were quite interesting and will be part of the bioarchaeology field school next year.

8. Kildavie report. Ian has put together the excavation report for the work done at Kildavie over the last three years of work. This is a preliminary report, and it’s been a lot of work, bringing together all the paper work and drawings from the last few years. It is really neat to see the synthesis of the work; each context sheet contributes to the overall understanding of the site or area. It really shows how important it is to look at the bigger picture, but how each little piece or context helps create this big picture. 

9. Working with Archaeology Scotland. Ian has worked with Archaeology Scotland in the past, and this year I was able to help out on a project in Motherwell, to the south east of Glasgow, looking at the preservation of a small cemetery within a nature reserve. This was a chance to work with groups of individuals who do not typically engage with archaeology and history, and I really enjoyed it. We cleaned and made notes about the grave stones, and it was really interesting to see how people became engaged and invigorated by the thrill of identifying and reading old grave stones. 

10. The Real Outlander Tours. By far and away, this is the most exciting thing for me. Building off our Jacobites, Clearance and Scots field school, Ian and I are planning to run tours for those with an interest in archaeology and Jacobite history. Spending the time putting together the tour and realising not only how much work we have done in the Perthshire area, but also how interesting this time period is, and how much of an impact it has had on the face of Scotland today, is really inspiring. I really can’t wait for these tours! For anyone interested: www.therealoutlander.uk

That’s it from me for this year. I am looking forward to 2017! We have a great programme of field schools ahead – both the Bioarchaeology and Introduction to Archaeology courses in Cyprus are fully booked, and we are looking forward to our first ever Lithics course in collaboration with Carole McCartney. We still have some spaces available on the Jacobites, Clearance and Scots project in June, and we are still trying to determine when Kildavie will be running. The Real Outlander tours will be running in May/June and September and we still have some spaces available. Hopefully 2017 will be the biggest year yet for HARP! Have a very Happy Holidays!! 



#TheRealOutlander ...... TOUR!

posted 3 Oct 2016, 02:41 by Harp Archaeology   [ updated 21 Jan 2018, 11:48 ]

This blog post is a particularly exciting one for me, as it is sort of a culmination of the last couple of years of research and interest to announce and explain The Real Outlander Tour that Ian and I will be running next year, 28th May- 4th June, and 17th-24th September. We have had a wonderful field school season this year – with successful, fun and interesting projects in Perthshire in June and at Kildavie on Mull in September. We have had, without fail, great groups of students who have really gotten on board with our research programme and have learned and practiced archaeological methods on the survey and excavation of 18th century sites. 

Now, I have been a fan of the Outlander (or Cross-stitch in the UK) books for a very long time. I think Diana Gabaldon is a really wonderful story-teller, but she also really picked the right time period and place. Jamie and Claire’s world, 18th century Scotland, is an incredibly interesting and evocative time and place – the Jacobite uprisings in combination with changes in science, philosophy, technology and medicine with the Enlightenment, made it a volatile and exciting time. And with all that, there are the normal, everyday people – not the princes or chiefs, but the crofters, farmers, fishermen, seamstresses, etc… whose lives were irrevocably changed by economic and agricultural transformations beyond their control. 

We see some of the effects of these changes in the archaeology, with the abandoned settlements scattered through the Highlands and the field system changes involved with a shift to sheep grazing, but what are the changes on at the local level? We all know the stories (and Outlander highlights much of this displacement and despair) of families too poor to sustain themselves after the uprisings, of Scots forced from their ancestral lands by changes in agriculture and economy. But surveying these sites and seeing the abandoned townships, and people’s homes, creates an immediate desire to understand more about the lives of the people who built these places and lived here for generations.

Ian and I began thinking about our Jacobites, Clearance and Scots project from the aspect of The Grand Tours that naturalists, antiquarians, explorers and young students were undertaking from the 17th century, with them reaching their peak in popularity in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. These individuals were coming to the Scottish Highlands to see the locals in their natural habitat, ironically, at a time when things were irrevocably changing for them. Our survey of the military road network in Perthshire is intended to follow some of the roads that these travellers would have traversed and we want to try and see what they would have seen, as well as recording the different elements of the road construction. In recording all different aspects of the visible archaeological record, we have been able to start to un-pick some of the details of the changing landscape of the 18th and 19th centuries in our survey areas. 

So, it is with great excitement that Ian and I are embarking on our next venture with HARP – and offering our version of The Grand Scottish Tour. We will be taking small groups of people along the roads that the 18th and 19th century travellers took and looking at the sites where these major political events took place, but also where the ordinary crofter lived, worked and eventually left. This is such an amazing opportunity to talk to people about archaeology, what we do as archaeologists and specifically, to talk about the stories and history of 18th century Scotland. When I have done tours in the past (tour guide on Hadrian’s Wall), my favourite part was being able to talk to people about the archaeology and then get to see them engage with the visible remains of the past; and this tour will be essentially that – a chance for people to engage with the history, archaeology and landscape of one of the most interesting, challenging and haunting time periods in Scotland’s past. 

In this tour, we will bring together the grand-scale history with the local archaeology and introduce our visitors to the best of 18th century Scotland. Big thanks in all this are owed to the students who have come out to the Kildavie and Jacobites, Clearance and Scots field schools in the past few years, as without their help and hard-work, we wouldn’t have nearly as much amazing stuff to talk about and show others. Looking forward to a future blog post about the tours… 

In the meantime, check out the new tour website at www.therealoutlander.uk and our Facebook page.



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