25 February 2015

crucible fragments from Trusty's Hill

crucible fragments from Trusty's Hill

Alongside the evidence for ironworking, there was a variety of debris associated with non-ferrous metalworking recovered from Trusty’s Hill. XRF analysis of crucible fragments demonstrate that copper, tin, lead and silver were worked. It is notable that a high proportion of the crucibles show a combination of copper, tin and lead, suggesting the production of leaded bronze objects. The very small size of the crucibles indicates that it was very fine objects that were being created. This is supported by the identification of gold and silver on a heating-tray fragment, and three clay mould fragments. These yielded traces of copper, zinc and lead indicating that all three had been used to cast copper-alloy objects. Most likely these were pins and jewellery given the comparisons one can draw between the Trusty’s Hill clay moulds and clay moulds from other sites like the Mote of Mark and Dunadd.

This evidence for the production of fine metalwork, and not simply the mending of objects, is particularly significant to understanding the status of the inhabitants of Trusty’s Hill around AD 600. By instigating and controlling craft production, the inhabitants here had the power of patronage. Early medieval Scotland was a non-monetary economy so the control of production of high status objects was used to tie individuals into wider socio-political relations. In other words, a chieftain or king who could produce fine objects could attract and gather a large following of clients, who in return for his largesse owed him service. With the increased martial power that might come with a larger following of armed supporters and clients, a leader might acquire more resources with which to attract further clients and followers.

clay mould fragments from Trusty's Hill

clay mould fragments from Trusty's Hill

8 December 2014

stone anvil

stone anvil

This pock-marked stone poking out of the rubble collapse of the rampart on the west side of Trusty’s Hill turned out to be an anvil stone, one of a number of finds examined during specialist post-excavation analysis that demonstrate that iron metalworking was carried out here back in the sixth century AD.

The early ironworking process can be split into two basic stages; smelting and blacksmithing. Smelting involves heating ore in a furnace to produce a bloom of iron, while the blacksmith heats and hammers the iron into an artefact. Smelting slag was recovered from the occupation deposits on the east side of the summit of Trusty’s Hill. Its amorphous shape suggests it was raked out of the furnace whilst still hot and soft, rather than being left to accumulate in the base.

One smithing hearth base was also recovered from this part of the site. Smithing hearth bases are plano-convex accumulations of iron smithing slag which form in the hearth as the iron is moved in and out of the hearth.

Small magnetic flakes of hammerscale become dislodged from the iron’s surface during the hammering and as such are diagnostic of blacksmithing. Trusty’s Hill produced very small quantities of hammerscale but with no obvious concentration indicating the focus of activity.

As is normal for ironworking assemblages, many of the pieces are small and fragmentary iron slag, but a quantity was recovered from the eastern side of the hill.

Though the ironworking assemblage from Trusty’s Hill was small (but then only a relatively small area – c. 1% – of the site was excavated), it provides a valuable glimpse of craft activity during the early medieval period, and demonstrates that repeated blacksmithing as well as smelting (which is much rarer amongst early medieval sites) took place here.

stone anvil

stone anvil

1 October 2014

Inspired and intrigued by Chris Bowles’ talk about Trusty’s Hill at the Scotland in Early Medieval Europe Conference back in February 2013, Richard Strathie went to have a look at the site. We thought the aerial photographs he took of Trusty’s Hill might be of interest, particularly as they show how Trusty’s Hill lies within the surrounding landscape:

1 September 2014

The summary results of the excavation of Trusty’s Hill was published recently in the latest volume of the Transactions of the Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society (Volume 87, 2013). This report is intended simply as an interim report, in advance of a book reporting the full analyses and results, to be published by Oxbow Books next year. But it sets out a summary of the findings from the 2012 fieldwork, in particular why we think there is now a compelling case for locating the core of the elusive kingdom of Rheged in Galloway. This is based on the accumulating archaeological evidence emerging from Galloway for a kingdom without an historical record in a blank part of the map of Dark Age  Britain, where Rheged, an historical kingdom without an archaeological record, has long been considered but never proven to be somewhere located. Offprint copies of this summary report are being distributed to the many volunteers and supporters who helped the Galloway Picts Project recover so much archaeological evidence.

If you can’t get hold of the latest volume of the Transactions, then tune into S4C at 20:25 on Wednesday 10 September, where the case is made (in English!) on the Darn Bach o Hanes programme examining Yr Hen Ogledd (The Old North).

Hard copies of Transactions of the Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society (Volume 87, 2013)

Hard copies of Transactions of the Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society (Volume 87, 2013)

30 July 2014

Revisited Trusty’s Hill recently with Welsh TV company Cwmni Da, who were making a programme on the ‘Old North’ for the S4C series Darn Bach o Hanes (A little Piece of History). With the fantastic summer weather, the site is looking a little overgrown! Would never have guessed we had opened up a few trenches here, which is probably a good sign that our excavation resulted in no damage to the site. Cwmni Da’s presenter, Dewi Prysor, made a herculean effort to climb the hill, due to his recently broken ankle. But I think he was glad he made it once he had reached the Pictish Carved Stone and heard and seen the evidence for why the elusive Dark Age kingdom of Rheged can now be fixed to the ground somewhere for the first time, that is in Galloway. Look out for the programme on S4C in the Autumn!

Cwmna Da TV filming at Trusty's Hill

Cwmni Da TV filming at Trusty's Hill

Cwmna Da TV filming at Trusty's Hill

Cwmni Da TV filming at Trusty's Hill

Cwmna Da TV filming at Trusty's Hill

Cwmni Da TV filming at Trusty's Hill

18 June 2014

Trusty’s Hill has once again been at the fore in Gatehouse recently. Following Stuart McHardy’s talk on the Pictish Carvings at Trusty’s Hill in the Faed Gallery during the Big Lit Festival on 18 May, the Ayrshire Archaeological and Natural History Society visited the town on an outing on 24 May. After visiting the new exhibition at the Mill, local guides took the Ayrshire Archaeological Society members on a guided tour of Trusty’s Hill. Shortly after, on 28 May, 21 delegates from nine EU countries, who were taking part in a Grundtvig Life Long Learning project called Rural Heritage Promoter, were hosted by the Mill on the Fleet Museum, where the Gatehouse Development Initiative used the Trusty’s Hill projects as an example of good practice in making local people ambassadors for their local heritage.

Stuart McHardy's Talk on 18 May

Stuart McHardy's Talk on 18 May

Guided Tour of Trusty's Hill 24 May

Guided Tour of Trusty's Hill 24 May

European Rural Heritage Promoter Meeting at the Mill on the Fleet 28 May

European Rural Heritage Promoter Meeting at the Mill on the Fleet 28 May

16 May 2014

An expanded exhibition of Trusty’s Hill has now opened at the Mill on the Fleet, just in time for this weekend’s Big Lit Festival in Gatehouse of Fleet, and will run until 20th July. This new exhibition builds upon the previous one, by presenting more of the antiquarian background to the site, the processes by which the new finds were discovered in 2012, the forgotten cultural legacy of Rheged and the subsequent emergence of Galloway in the medieval period. These new panels were created for the Gatehouse Development Initiative’s All our Stories HLF project, which sought to build on the local legacy of the dig.  I understand that the Mill on the Fleet aims to add a further section of the exhibition to cover the activities of Gatehouse Primary School and the local volunteer guides who, as part of the same project, were trained to give guided tours of the site. I also understand that author Stuart McHardy is giving a talk on The Picts of Trusty’s Hill at the Mill on the Fleet this Sunday (12 – 1pm), to discuss how his distinctive views of the Picts have led him to an interesting ‘take’ on the importance of Trusty’s Hill. Sounds intriguing!

5 April 2014

I was given a very warm welcome in Gatehouse of Fleet today, when I gave a talk on the excavation of Trusty’s Hill to the Galloway Preservation Society, who have been kind enough to support the Galloway Picts Project, providing funds specifically for publication quality photographs of the best of the finds from the Trusty’s Hill dig. I think the 55 members and visitors who turned up today were engaged by the archaeology that has been unearthed, judging from the number of questions and discussions I had following my talk. A few more of the last of the Discover Dark Age Galloway Leaflets were taken away, hopefully leading to many more visits to Trusty’s Hill in the future.

10 March 2014

The P5/6 pupils of Gatehouse Primary School hosted a special event today – the recitation of their Trusty’s Hill saga and unveiling of their Dark Ages Panels. The work they have done is very impressive and was supported by the Heritage Lottery Funded All our Stories project – Gatehouse of Fleet in the Dark Ages – organised by the Gatehouse Development Initiative. It is really heartening to see the kind of local legacy for Trusty’s Hill that the Galloway Picts Project has fostered in the local community.

Gatehouse Primary School pupils reveal panels to the rest of the school

Gatehouse Primary School pupils reveal panels to the rest of the school

Panel 1

Panel 1

Panel 3

Panel 3

Panel 4

Panel 4

13 November 2013

Pupils at Gatehouse of Fleet Primary School are currently in the middle of doing a project on Gatehouse in the Dark Ages, part of an HLF funded project led by the Gatehouse Development Initiative. The school resource pack created for the Galloway Picts Project forms the basis for this project, but which has been expanded to include elements of artistic and literary creativity.

As part of this the children visited Trusty’s Hill at the beginning of last week. They were very excited to see a figure standing on the hill above and couldn’t believe he was real. When they reached the summit of the hill they discovered he was Androth Siggursson, a Bernician from Northumbria, whose grandfather had burnt the fort!

He talked about the different roles woman, children and men had at the fort, the structure of society in the Dark Ages and a typical day in the life of a young boy/girl. He also told them about what he was wearing , ‘translating’ the cost into modern day items (his sword = BMW car for instance), which the pupils were fascinated by, and linking his clothes with the making of cloth, leatherwork, metal working and trade.

This proved to be a great way of provoking lots of questions from the children about life on Trusty’s Hill all those centuries ago.

With the help of a local writer, the children also started working on short poems based on the different roles people may have had at Trusty’s Hill. Already there is the start of some good poems using the information the children got on the hill about life in this Dark Age stronghold.

The school followed up the visit on Monday with another session with the writer on Thursday, learning how to edit their poems, and playing the ‘rubbish game’ to look at and talk about the finds we made at Trusty’s Hill last year.

Perhaps the highlight of Thursday afternoon was an oral storytelling exercise where the children created a saga/story about living at Trusty’s Hill. They really got into this – what started as a large circle of them on the floor got smaller and smaller as the story kept going around and getting more exciting and they kept edging closer and closer together. They used lots of the information they had gathered at the site on Monday and earlier in the afternoon for the story.

I wish I had done things like this when I was at school!

School visit

The school group approaching Trusty's Hill

School visit

The past come to life at Trusty's Hill

School visit

Education can be fun!