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Field Walking

Date January 2015 - March 2015

Event ID 1026112

Category Recording

Type Field Walking


NH 53 48, NH 53 49, NH 54 48, NH 54 49, NH 55 48, NH 55 49 Fieldwalking continued from January to March 2015 in the period between ploughing and sowing. The aim is to walk every ploughed field within the Tarradale study area at least twice. The fields nearest Tarradale House have now been walked twice and in 2015 the project concentrated on fieldwalking further W around Gilchrist Church, the old parish church of the former parish of Tarradale (now a mausoleum). Increased presence of medieval pottery was identified in the fields close to the church along with a specific concentration of medieval pottery suggestive of a homestead site. A silver sixpence of Queen Elizabeth I (dated 1581) was found near Gilchrist Church.

Stone axe probably from Creag na Caillich axe factory, near Killin The usual range of lithics was found throughout the wider study area, including artefacts identifiable as Mesolithic, as well as Neolithic and Bronze Age projectile points, blades and scrapers. Two barbed and tanged flint arrowheads were found as well as a broken leaf shaped arrowhead. A small piece of Rum bloodstone debitage was found but the most significant lithic find of the fieldwalking season was the major part of a polished green-stone axe, probably from Creag na Caillich, Killin. All lithic finds are plotted by GPS and a distinct pattern of concentration of Mesolithic type lithics has been identified immediately inland of a post-glacial abandoned shoreline which is present today as a degraded sandy cliff. A number of shell middens has been identified above and below this former shoreline and fieldwalking identified an additional shell midden site near Bellevue Farm.

In addition to fieldwalking, NOSAS members also sorted and identified medieval and post-medieval pottery, slag, nails and other metals found by fieldwalking This indoor activity is helping to create an understanding of the source of the medieval and post-medieval pottery and other found artefacts which can be used for further analysis as well as a reference collection. Controlled metal detecting also yielded a considerable number of mainly post-medieval artefacts including 17th-century Scottish coins (ie Turners) as well as shoe buckles, pieces of horse harness, musket balls and other commonplace metal detecting finds. A 13th-century silver penny was found, making a total of six silver pennies found in the area around the inferred site of Tarradale Castle.

The most significant activity of the season was a small excavation on the site of one of the shell middens close to Tarradale House. This was unexpectedly discovered during coring in a small area of the presumed site of Tarradale Castle. The coring had been undertaken to assess the archaeological potential of a small area of land which is not currently ploughed. No trace of the medieval castle was found in the area tested (apart from one piece of medieval pottery) but a test pit revealed a clear layer of shells below an older plough soil. The test pit was extended into a trench, and this showed that the shell midden covered at least 10m² and probably considerably more. This small excavation, in October 2015, showed that the shell midden lay directly on a former raised beach largely made up of cobbles, pebbles and gravel which probably represented materials sorted by marine action from the fluvio-glacial sands and gravels that underlie the whole area of raised estuarine beaches.

In addition to a wide range of molluscs similar to that found in the shell midden investigated four years ago, the current shell midden also yielded a number of pieces of animal bone including two dog teeth as well as an antler tine and small deposits of charcoal and what may be carbonised

seeds. The upper levels of the midden had been disturbed by the creation of rig and furrow, of indeterminate date, and the upper horizon of the midden reflected the wavelike pattern of rigs. Where the furrows had been created, the surviving shell midden was thinner and there was evidence of the furrows having initially been hand dug, with spits of midden material mixed with soil thrown up on top of the surviving rigs. The rig and furrow is just apparent on the

current ground surface and has probably survived as this area is too small for ploughing with modern machinery and has been left fallow.

The main area of the midden appears to be at a height of c9m OD (the midden excavated four years ago was at a height of over 20m OD) and it is not known how the current midden may chronologically relate to the previously investigated midden and other middens in the study area. The southern extent of the midden had clearly been destroyed where modern ploughing had truncated the site. One piece of flint with use wear on two edges was found in the midden, but in the field immediately to the S of the midden a considerable number of lithics and bone fragments have been found during fieldwalking, and they are now considered to have come from near or at least been associated with the recently excavated midden. At the time of writing, post excavation

analysis of the finds had just commenced.

Archive: Tarradale House (currently), Highland HER and National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) intended

Funder: NOSAS (In kind plus some post excavation costs)

Eric Grant - NOSAS

(Source: DES, Volume 16)

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