Our Excavations Have Begun!

The first weekend of our Aberlady Angles Community Excavation has come to a glorious end. Volunteers were able to learn all about the processes prior to opening up a trench, whilst enjoying the East Lothian sunshine.

Andy introducing the volunteers to the project.


We began with our first two workshops ‘Digging up the Past’ and ‘It’s all in the Soil’. Dr Andy Heald, Managing Director of AOC Archaeology Group, led the participants through the Anglo-Saxon context of the site before introducing them to archaeological methods for excavating and recording. We then spent the latter part of the morning discussing soil changes, relationships between structures and objects, and the principles behind dating sites.


Our next object of focus was the Aberlady High Cross reconstruction, in the memorial garden beside the church. Andy gave us a 360 degree presentation of the cross, focusing on the different styles, animals and symbols present in the carving. The cross is based on a fragment of an 8th Century High Cross, found built into the wall of the Old Manse.


A closer look at the complex symbols of the Aberlady Cross. Not easy to carve!

When the afternoon came, our practical training was well and truly underway. Ross and Jamie (our fieldwork and survey experts) gave volunteers the chance to learn a variety of survey skills: using a GPS to position the trench and where we believe our structures may lie under the soil, using a total station to record the remains of Kilspindie Castle and using the more traditional method of building recording (using pencil, drawing boards and permatrace- an all weather tracing paper used by archaeologist).


Ross introducing the volunteers to the principles of using GPS.


Recording the upstanding remains of Kilspindie Castle- not an easy task!
Some fantastic drawings produced by the group.


Our Sunday morning began with the chance to put all of our newly learned knowledge to the test, and we started some small excavations. Groups were tasked with test pitting the area contained within the trench. Volunteers had to deturf and excavate 1x1m squares, to enable us to discover the depth of the plough soil.

Time to dig!

This gave us great opportunity to examine the varied finds which can be found during an archaeological excavation. Bone, pottery, glass and shell were just a few of the common materials being unearthed and volunteers were shown how to distinguish between materials. Our digger will arrive tomorrow to strip our area of excavation, so we are now excited as to what might be uncovered.



Andy and Ross talk to the volunteers about the process of ploughing and how that can affect what we uncover. Hundreds of years of activity may be mixed together, and churned up, as the field is ploughed over and over.
Our test pits get deeper as the afternoon rolls on.

It has been a thoroughly exciting two days- with a lot of new skills and experiences being gained. This is just the start of a two week dig, which will see around 60 community volunteers and 300 school children experience an archaeological excavation in progress.

If you are in the area, please come down to the Glebe Field, accessible through the Kirk Stables, Aberlady High Street. We would love to show you even more of our discoveries!

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