What's going on with Scotland's eroding coastal heritage
In our latest ShoreDIG project, the SCHARP team have joined forces with locally-based archaeologists to investigate archaeological remains revealed by storm damage over the winter of 2012/2013. Stone walls and thick layers of ash, shell and other rubbish deposits have been exposed as a result of erosion of the coast edge below the coastal path in front of Reeds Fields.
Although it was known that the centre of medieval of Cromarty lay on the east side of the current village, convincing evidence of a medieval centre in this area has never been located. This might be about to change.
Medieval pottery found within the layers in the eroding coast edge give every indication that the walls in the section belong to buildings that once stood in the heart of medieval Cromarty; now exposed by storms after hundreds of years of obscurity.
The archaeology exposed in the coast edge is particularly fragile because it rests upon very soft beach sand which is undermined at every high tide; and the deposits themselves are made of ash and loose shelly layers. So the purpose of this ShoreDIG is to find out as much as we can about what has been revealed and what it can tell us about medieval Cromarty before it is too late.
We will do this by carefully excavating sections through the archaeological deposits in the coast edge and recording every layer in as much detail as possible. Every layer will be sieved so that even the tiniest fish bones are recovered. Samples will be taken from each deposit so that we can look for plant and pollen remains that may tell us about what crops were being grown and what the immediate environment was like.
In the fields behind the eroding coast edge, we have stripped off the topsoil from a large area to be able to get a plan view of the structures and deposits exposed in the sections. This gives us the best of both worlds. The section provides a timeslice through the deposits so that we know how deep they are and what to expect. The open area gives us a great opportunity to reveal the layout of the buildings and see and investigate much more than could be achieved in the section alone.
As you can see from the photos, the scale of this community excavation is quite ambitious! Thank goodness, because the people of Cromarty and volunteers from the surrounding area have been out in force – and there is plenty of room for everyone and plenty to get your teeth into, whether you are 7 or 70.
The excavations will continue until Saturday 10th August, and the site is open every day.
If you live nearby or are in the area, do visit the site. You’ll be made very welcome and shown around. If you’d like to volunteer, email the Dig Team at firstname.lastname@example.org
or telephone on 01381 600726. More information can be found on the project website http://www.medievalcromarty.org/index.asp