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National Archaeological Survey, Strathdon

With the completion of the survey of Eastern Dumfriesshire, Strathdon, in Aberdeenshire, has been selected as the next large district survey. Initial preparation has already taken place and the survey programme will begin in earnest at the beginning of 1996.

DES 1995, 114

1996 has also seen the first full season of work in central Aberdeenshire, essentially concentrated in the catchment of the Don. Most effort has been channelled into reconnaissance, but surveys have been carried out of the forts on Mither Tap o' Bennachie and Dunnideer, together with several of the smaller prehistoric and medieval earthworks. Agricultural improvement has penetrated into most parts of the area, and it remains to be seen whether any extensive areas of landscape comparable to the Howe of Cromar survive. The pattern of surviving rig and furrow cultivation hidden in old plantations in the lowlands suggests that most of the areas cultivated today had been taken in before the Improvements.

DES 1996, 118

1997 has seen the second full year of fieldwork in central Aberdeenshire, with the winter months spent in the lower-lying ground to the east of Inverurie and Peterculter, and the remainder of the year up to the end of October spent largely on the highland estates to the west of Kildrummy. Within the former area, where the landscape has been heavily cultivated and surviving archaeological remains tend to be found in small areas of woodland and rough ground, new discoveries have mainly been of an agricultural or industrial nature with rig and furrow and quarries representing over 90% of the recorded sites. In the highlands, however, the pattern of survival is very different. Among the large number of new sites that have been recorded there, prehistoric remains include large burial cairns, unenclosed settlements and field-systems, while those of the medieval and later periods range from farmsteads and field-systems to groups of shieling-huts.

With the emphasis this year having been placed on carrying out prospective walking and noting, little detailed survey of individual sites has been undertaken. Those that have been surveyed in detail include two well-preserved souterrains at Kildrummy and a third at Glenkindie House, a henge at Wormy Hillock, Rhynie, an air-raid shelter near New Machar, and a burial cairn at Migvie.

DES 1997, 87-8

This has been the third full year of fieldwork in central Aberdeenshire, with the emphasis placed on prospective reconnaissance of the highland estates to the west of Kildrummy and the mapping of new monuments by EDM survey, detailed surveys of recumbent stone circles and farmsteads have also been carried out. A large number of new sites have been recorded this year: the prehistoric monuments include burial cairns, unenclosed settlements of hut-circles and field-systems, while those of the medieval and later periods range from farmsteads and crofts to groups of shieling-huts and the remains of rig-and-furrow cultivation. At Tyrebagger, to the W of Aberdeen Airport, where the recumbent stone of the recumbent stone circle had recently been badly damaged by fire, a survey was completed in advance of remedial work.

At Tomnaverie, Tarland, outside the survey area, a detailed survey of the recumbent stone circle was carried out in advance of excavation by Professor Richard Bradley in 1999.

DES 1998, 108

This year, the fourth full year of fieldwork in Strath Don, has seen the reconnaissance phase of the project almost completed, with the emphasis of the work on survey and noting. The assemblage of funerary and ritual monuments has figured largely in the programme, and twenty-two recumbent stone circles have been recorded this year, including Loanhead of Daviot. Other stone settings and cairns, as well as the Neolithic henge and avenue of standing stones at Crichie on the outskirts of Port Elphinstone. have been drawn in detail. Other surveys have included the remains of a multi-period landscape in Leuchar Wood, Peterculter, but the most spectacular plan that has been prepared is undoubtedly that of Tap o' Moth, Rhynie. The heavily vitrified fort on the summit was surveyed conventionally with a plane table, but the much larger enclosure that takes in an area of about 15ha (38 acres) on the slopes below were surveyed with the GPS, again demonstrating the utility of this technique. The detailed drawing of the fort on the summit has shown the vitrifaction in the massive wall is only visible as a result of extensive stone robbing, but it has also revealed possible traces of a large timber round-house within an earlier enclosure visible within the interior. The outer enclosure has produced evidence of no less than 300 features, mostly small circular and oval platforms. A major component of our work this year has involved checking the sites of farms, crofts and buildings indicated on 18th-century estate plans. As might be expected, most of the structures shown lay in areas that are now heavily cultivated and consequently have been destroyed. However, within Clashindarroch Forest, W of Rhynie. extensive elements of the mid-18th-century landscape of crofts and small walled fields have survived beneath the trees. The full extent of this landscape is depicted on a plan of 1776 showing the Lordship of Huntly, but many of the names also appear in earlier records, such as the poll tax.

DES 1999, 95

Work in Strath Don has been concentrated on the completion of basic mapping and recording across the area as a whole. However, detailed recording of the recumbent stone circles has also been completed, as have site plans of the henge at Broomend of Crichie and of the fort at the Barmkin of Echt.

DES 2001, 105

Fieldwork in Strath Don was completed in 2002 and preparation of the text is underway.

DES 2002, 126

After many years of survey the Strathdon project is nearing completion, having added some 8500 entries to the RCAHMS database. However, work in the north-east will continue with for a while with two associated survey programmes – the Recumbent Stone Circles Project and the completion of the recording of the areas Early Medieval carved stones.

The preparation of the report on Strath Don is at an advanced stage, and the publication of the volume is expected in 2004-5.

DES 2003, 139

Work on the preparation of the volume on Strath Don has continued and arrangements are in place for its publication in conjunction with the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

DES 2004, 141; cf. 2005, 150; 2006, 186