Newbarns Project update for 2009 Excavation has been carried out on the two Northern Cairns only this season and we have uncovered more evidence of medieval occupation and more Prehistoric burials from the Bronze and Iron Ages, confirming the importance of the site as an ancient place of worship as well as a cemetery. An expanse of cobbled flooring of a medieval stone founded building has been uncovered and dating evidence from this feature places the last occupation on this site as c 1250-1350 AD when it was most likely a sheep rearing and wool producing community perhaps working on behalf of one of the local Abbeys. Further excavation of a Neolithic Passage Grave confirm its construction as c 2700 BC and this makes it the oldest feature on site and the small satellite cairn immediately to the east of the main cairns has proved to be the burial place of a VIP of the Bronze Age community whose cremation ashes have been placed in the ground underneath a huge granite capstone weighing several tonnes. An arrow was placed over his cremated remains and this gives us valuable dating evidence. A small complex of later prehistoric burials has been uncovered towards the eastern perimeter of the large cairn and here are at least two which exhibit evidence of having been cist graves of the Early Iron Age. Although no trace of bones remain it is postulated that there would have been complete bodies placed inside these beautifully constructed burial features. Volunteers are welcome to come and help us, but children under 16 must be accompanied by a supervising adult at all times.
Excavation has continued on the north- east end of the perimeter defences of the motte hill where the excavation levels have reached the burnt clay base of the original timber tower. This has revealed further evidence of fallen burnt main support timbers in the form of charcoal and nails. An unstratified section of trench, approx 1.0 meter wide has been discovered and at this stage of excavation must be speculated to have been the remnant of the rather hurried excavation carried out by Coles in the latter years of the 19th century. Further examination of the southern and western perimeters of the summit of the motte hill have revealed an extension of the area of cobbling previously reported to the south of the earlier excavation. Important finds recorded this season include a gilded bronze ring loop with screw and decoration in the form of animal heads at each end of the circle (see photograph). A clench nail of approx. 8.0 cms in length was recovered and proved to have been annealed by extreme heat and, as a result, was in almost perfect condition. Numerous iron nails, daub, charcoal, butchered animal bone and the local green galena glazed pottery of the region of the type previously reported in D & E 2008: 52; have been recovered in profusion from the later medieval layers. Progress has been drastically curtailed once again by the record rainfall of August which precipitated to the record breaking amount of 12.50 inches for the month, an amount never previously recorded and Dumfries & Galloway since records began. Excavation will continue once the site has dried out!
Project Director’s Report This is the 8th season and we had reasonable weather early on until August. It was still raining by end of September.We concentrated on the N. Cairn and left S. Cairn due to weed killing regulations and presence of sheep.North Cairn passage grave 2800BC – 2500BC. Tree root damage there and awaits further investigations once water has receded. It had been under water for 2 months. There was a stone guarding the entrance, “The Beast.” Eddie Peterson came down to have a look. Thinks it had once been upright. It could also be “totemic” and fallen over. Lot more excavation needed. Smaller boat burials in Area 6-8 towards E perimeter. At least 2 exhibit evidence of late Iron Age. Half a millstone? Quern? Also a large reclining stone possibly looks like a human.Cobbled burial, lot of smaller round it. Paving smashed and burials in it. Series of post holes, half a rectangle to date. May have had a covering over it. Think we have half of it but could be more going up the hill. No. 46 capstone used in the picnic area.Further 11 possible capstones. Biggest about 5 tons in weight. Possibility of further burials up hill. Long way to go.Satellite Cairn has 4 burials and a medieval platform. Possible stone missiles scattered over it. On top of the pre-historic cairn.Suffering from wet and stuck in peat. Needs cleared.If we can get South Cairn weed killed we can carry on SE. NE burials to look at.Standing Stone? Found further up the lane but once we look at it in depth we will discuss further.
A 13th season of excavation on the summit of the Motte Hill at Ingleston Farm was undertaken by a few experienced volunteer diggers and advanced students. Previous work has been reported in DES 1997, 24: 1998, 27-28: 1999, 23-24: 2000, 29: 2003, 45: 2004, 45: 2005, 44: 2006, 50: 2007, 62: 2008, 52: 2009, 57-58. Excavation has been largely completed on the north-east perimeter defences of Motte Hill. The burnt clay level of tge earlier timber tower has been uncovered as previously reported in DES 2009 and no further dateable artifacts are apparent below this level. This season’s excavation has concentrated upon the western and southern perimeter of the Motte Hill and summit to extend the existing excavation. A hearth was uncovered close to the cobbled area previously reported and this was excavated, sectioned, photographed and recorded. Further excavation of this feature will continue in Season 2011. A putative drain in close proximity to the cobbled area is also being investigated on the assumption that this could be a soak-away of one side of the later tower. Postholes surrounding a third stone founded tower base was discovered towards the end of the season and further excavation next season will give a further indication of the geographic layout of the defensive timber towers on the summit of the Motte Hill. Artefacts recovered this season include a flint flake, further furnace slag, sherds of reduced greenware of local galena-glazed pottery, two further sherds of high status pottery with patterned rims and a quantity of fiddle-key head iron nails. Limited excavation will continue as usual during the latter part of 2010 and through 2011.
A ninth season of excavation by volunteer diggers, students and mature certificate students from various universities, of the Stewartry Archaeological Trust has continued. Previous work has been reported in DES 2003, 44: 2005, 42; 2006, 48: 2007, 60: 2008, 51 & 2009, 54-55. The North Cairn: Further cremation burials were excavated near to the summit of the cairn and one, Burial 49, proved to have a cup-marked shale capstone in place. Unfortunately due to weathering this was broken but on exposure it was found that all surfaces other than the top had a 27 cup marks on it. The top of the capstone exhibited a single, larger cup mark, whereas the base exhibited 5 cups and an axe, the cups varying in size from 0.05 to 0.15 cms. The present expert opinion is that this piece of remarkable rock art symbolism suggests part of the ceremonial ritual appertaining to the transfer of the spirit of the deceased to the heavens and the Gods. Postholes of a timber construction have become apparent in the area of Burial 30 and it must be hypothesized at this time that the entire area around this burial has been a shrine comprising a paved area around the burial and a roofed construction sheltering the whole. From scattered evidence it is clear that not only were there many fixed religious locations in South West Scotland focusing around small timber built shrines but that many, if not most, of these sites continued to be revered into and throughout the Roman period in Galloway which would gave been the late Iron Age. This can be backed up with the evidence of the finding of the Newbarns Bell, a votive offering dated to c 100-200 BC in the peat between the South and North cairns. Two further cremation burials outwith the shrine area exhibited a different style to the earlier Bronze Age ones in that it was obvious that the capstones had been placed in position utilizing a ramp set into the side of one burial and the end of another. The present premise is that in the earlier cremation burials the capstones may have been positioned during the winter months when the use of ice and snow could have been vital in the movement and placing of such heavy and unmanoeuvreable items. This later and different method of moving the capstones could well point to a climatic change with no really cold weather during the winter months to aid the movement of monoliths. The possibility of this method of capstone positioning being used after a decline in climatic conditions during the later prehistoric period must be considered as it is known that the climatic changed from the very cold to warmer and wetter winters. Cairn Number Three, the Satellite Cairn: Further excavation and the extension of this feature into the peat revealed a number of new cremation burials and numerous dateable items in the form of both saddle and rotary querns along with some stone tools. Later medieval evidence of use became apparent with the excavation of a series of later postholes set on top of the stonework of the cairn and this must lead to the hypothesis that the later occupants of the settlement were unaware that a smaller cairn was set into the peat and innocently placed constructions over them. On investigation of the clay platform found last season it was apparent that another, later one had been constructed over the first. In conjunction with this the founds of stone walled building on the northern perimeter edge of the cairn were excavated and dating was determined as being of the time of the Anglian occupation of Galloway and would have been contemporary with the nearby Anglian settlement of the Mote of Mark at Rockcliffe. A later, medieval building had been constructed on top of the Anglian one and dating could be arrived at by the depth of peat between the upper wall of the Anglian building and the lower course of the medieval one. A doorway was apparent set into the walls and inside the building the remnants of neat cobbled flooring of either one large room or the floors of two rooms stretched northwards for 3.10 metres. This was overwhelmed by a clay structure rising to the north-east and supporting a number of granite boulders. Adjacent and to the west of this was a clay lined pit which had been backfilled with large granite boulders in antiquity. This pit measured 2.40 metres in width at the southern end and continued northwards for 8.80 metres until it narrowed to 2.20 metres and proceeded to run into the section of hillside, the base of the motte hill, adjoining the site,Further excavation during the 2011 season will be required to ascertain the total length of this feature which, at this stage, cannot be identified as having a specific purpose other than that it had contained a liquid.
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