Excavating rock art in Strath Tay day 4: Further surprises

Yesterday, I had focussed almost all of my attention upon Trench 2. At the same time, Ronnie had been working in Trench 1 to investigate what appeared to be a crop mark part way down the slope of the natural mound. Now, he was to reveal the second surprise of the project.


Above: Ronnie expanding Trench 1 downslope from the decorated outcrop to investigate a faint crop mark visible in the pasture (Photo: Aaron Watson, 2017)


As Ronnie began to trowel he discovered that there was indeed an archaeological feature: a ditch. The question now was whether this ditch was related to either the rock art, or the findings in Trench 2.


Above: Ronnie excavating the fill of the ditch, which shows here as a darker coloured soil (Photo: Aaron Watson, 2017)


Having completed Trench 3, Amanda began work in Trench 4. This was situated upon the highest plateau of the natural dome. In some lights it appeared that there wasan earthwork in this location. Could this be a prehistoric cairn?

It did not take long for Amanda to begin to reveal a shallow rubble layer which could not be a part of the outcrop. Furthermore, she found pieces of worked quartz that had been pushed in between the stones, and that the rubble core appeared to be contained by larger earthfast blocks which acted as a kerb. Surely this had to be prehistoric.


Above: Amanda cleaning Trench 4, the rubble core a possible cairn already becoming clear (Photo: Aaron Watson, 2017)


eanwhile, I continued to clean Trench 2. This revealed more of the area of rubble around the cup marked stone. The rubble was not random but carefully placed to define an area alongside a small exposure of bedrock. Outside this area there were few stones but the soil was dark and compact. I wondered whether this dark layer was the old land surface upon which people had walked in prehistory. As I was speculating a fleeting burst of sunshine illuminated the trench. Who was the last person to have had their shadow cast upon these stones?


Above: My shadow falls across the trench, showing the small outcrop in the top corner, the area of rubble, and the cup marked stone to the left of the bucket and in line with the shovel (Photo: Aaron Watson, 2017)


This project took place in collaboration with Richard Bradley, Amanda Clarke, Ronnie Scott, Maria Cowie and Moyra Simon. Many thanks to the landowner and estate staff for their support.