Though by no means the only activity undertaken by archaeologists, excavation is by far the best known, and certainly is very important. During the Bennachie Landscapes Project, both full-scale excavation of entire structures and small-scale test pitting will be undertaken in order to recover as much information about the lives of those living in the Colony as possible.
Shovel test pitting
This type of excavation involves setting up a grid over a large area, and digging small holes in order to locate artefacts. At each intersection on the grid, a 20l sample of soil is excavated and sieved, with all artefacts recovered. As the test pits that the artefacts are removed from are plotted, we can map how far the influence of the colonists spread over the hill. As manuring practices at the time often involved the spreading of rubbish middens over the fields, we can trace this activity through the presence of broken pottery, glass and other items that would have been discarded in the midden.
Over the course of 2011 and 2012, test pitting was undertaken at the Colony crofts of Shepherd’s Lodge, Hillside, Gouk Stone and A-Frame. We were very fortunate to have so many enthusiastic volunteers, without whom none of the artefacts would have been recovered. From this work we have discovered several hundred ceramic, glass and metal artefacts. Preliminary results indicate widely differing agricultural strategies across the Colony, perhaps one of the first indications of how life on the hill varied between different households. A selection of the artefacts recovered can be seen here (Links to artefacts page).
Full Scale Excavation
Over the first two weeks of July 2013, the team from the Bennachie Landscapes Project, along with community volunteers and a number of University of Aberdeen students, will undertake full-scale excavation at two (possibly three) of the dwellings in the Colony with several questions in mind.
- How were the buildings constructed?
- Do the buildings conform narrowly to ‘Improvement ideals’; are there other kinds of influences being expressed?
- How were the buildings used?
- Did this use change over the life of the Colony?
- Can we identify similarities and differences between each farmstead within the Colony?
- What do the artefacts we uncover tell us about daily life for those living on the Colony?
As our survey and test-pitting work builds towards the full excavation, we will be adding to, and refining this list of questions as we find out more about how the colonists lived and worked on this land.
For more information on the practice of archaeological excavation follow the links below.