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Dig Cochno

8 Nov

Between 5th and 22nd September 2016, the Cochno Stone was revealed, recorded and reburied. For 10 days the complete surface of the stone was completely exposed and visitors were able to see the rock-art and the paint and the graffiti on this magnificent rock dome for the first time in 51 years. Analysis of the data we collected during this period is ongoing and we will continue to disseminate results and images as we go forward (follow @cochnostone and see the project outline). In the meantime, I am using my blog to publish here the summary report of the archaeological results of the work to date so that everyone who wants to find out what we were up to can find out. A brief account of the preliminary 2015 phase of excavation can be found in an earlier blog post.

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REVEALING THE COCHNO STONE

Phase 2 excavation and digital recording summary report

Summary

The Cochno Stone, West Dunbartonshire, is one of the most extensive and remarkable prehistoric rock-art panels in Britain. It was however buried by the authorities in 1965 to protect it from ‘vandalism’ associated with visitors and encroaching urbanisation. A proposal has been developed to uncover the Stone, and 3D scan it, to allow detailed study of the stone, and an exact replica to be created and placed in the landscape near where the original site is. Two seasons of excavation have now been carried out to enable an assessment of the condition of the Cochno Stone and gather high quality digital and photographic data for future analysis and replication of the Stone. This summary account is an archaeological report on the main 2016 season of excavation of the Cochno Stone, where the Stone was completely uncovered up to the edge of the modern retaining dry stone wall, recorded, and then buried once again. Key discoveries include the survival of paint on the surface of the stone from the 1930s, the extent of modern graffiti, and the recovery of very high resolution digital data and photographic imagery of the complete surface of the stone. The third phase of the project, the creation of the replica and legacy activities, will follow on from phase 2 when funding is in place.

The Cochno Stone: a brief history and background

The Cochno Stone (aka The Druid’s Stone and Whitehill 1; NMRS number NS57SW 32; NGR NS 5045 7388), West Dunbartonshire, is located at the foot of the Kilpatrick Hills on the north-western edge of Glasgow, in an urban park in Faifley, a housing estate on the north side of Clydebank (Figure 1). It is one of up to 17 panels of rock-art in this area (Morris 1981, 123-4) but by far the most extensive. Indeed, the Cochno Stone is one of the largest and most complex prehistoric rock-art sites in Britain. The zone of rock-art on this large outcrop measures some 15m by 8m, and is covered in scores of cup-marks, cup-and-rings marks, spirals and other unusual motifs. The surface is dome-like, sloping sharply to the south and west, less so to the north, and is a ‘gritstone’ or sandstone; the most concentrated zones of rock-art are on top of the dome and on the southern and western slopes of the outcrop. The stone location has extensive views to the south and over the Clyde valley and when fully exposed in prehistory would have been a localised high point.

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Figure 1: Map showing the location of the Cochno Stone

The Stone was first documented by the Rev James Harvey of Duntocher, who came across the incised outcrop in 1885. Harvey explored beneath the turf around the Cochno Stone and some other examples in the area to test their extent, and then published his results in volume 23 of the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland (PSAS). He included a detailed description of a profusion of classic and unusual rock-art motifs across a large sandstone block (which he called Stone A). Soon after this John Bruce produced a review of other rock-art sites in the region which was published in PSAS in 1896, and here he included a full sketch of the Cochno Stone by W. A. Donnelly (Figure 2). Donnelly’s drawing was the basis for Ronald Morris’s own sketch plan (see Figure 4) although Morris was dismissive of its reliability based on his own observations of photographs of the Stone (when Morris visited the Stone was already buried (1981, 124).)

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Figure 2: Sketch of the Cochno Stone by W A Donnelly (dated 1895), which was reproduced in Bruce 1896 – this is the only known drawing of the Cochno Stone based on direct observation

The Stone subsequently became the focus for archaeological attention in the mid-1930s when Ludovic Maclellan Mann took an interest in it, located as it was relatively close to the remarkable Knappers prehistoric site on what is now Great Western Road (Mann 1937a, 1937b). Mann infamously ‘painted’ the motifs to make them clearer, apparently for a visit of the Glasgow Archaeological Society in 1937 (Ritchie 2002, 51). Mann added his own speculative grid as well (see Figure 12) and it likely that other motifs he painted onto the rock were fanciful on his part. Some black and white photos of the Stone from this time suggest more than one colour was used. Mann believed the Cochno Stone was used to help predict eclipses and ‘celebrate the defeat of the eclipse-causing monster’ (Mann 1937b, 14, and see below).

The Cochno Stone was buried in 1965 under a thick layer of soil to protect the stone surface from being walked on by visitors and graffiti and paint being added to the stone, a decision made by the Ministry of Works and Ancient Monument Board early that year. Records held in the Scotland’s National Archives show that from the 1930s onwards the two landowners of the Cochno Stone (it is located on a historic land boundary) were becoming concerned about damage to the rock surface, a process that seems to have accelerated after the site was publicised by Ludovic Mann. A dry-stone wall with a style had already been constructed on and around the stone before the 1930s in part to discourage visitors and demarcate the stone location, and this was used as a boundary and container for the soil that was dumped on top of the stone. But this was deemed insufficient protection for the Cochno Stone and it was buried beneath up to 1m of soil.

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Figure 3: Ludovic Mann (right) on the Cochno Stone in 1937, which is covered in his paint. His companion may be George Appleby. © HES CANMORE image SC01062363

This remained the case until the current project was proposed in 2014. Revealing the Cochno Stone has as a long term the objectives the creation of an exact facsimile of the Cochno Stone to be placed near the real thing. To realise this ambition, a staged process has been adopted.

  1. Trial excavation [completed September 2015]
  2. Full-scale exposure of the Cochno Stone and 3D scanning [completed September 2016]
  3. Post-excavation analysis of data (ongoing, late 2016 into 2017)
  4. Production of a 1:1 facsimile of the stone, placement in landscape and legacy activities [funding now being sought for this phase of the project]

 

Phase 1 (2015) summary (link for full report in introduction to this blog post)

A small-scale excavation was undertaken in September 2015 to assess the current condition of the Stone, and to inform a potentially larger clearance of the surface of the Stone in the future. A small trench, 4m by 1m, was opened by hand on the northern side of the Cochno Stone location. This revealed that the Stone is buried beneath between 0.5m and 0.7m depth of clay-silt-loam, and that the dry-stone wall surrounding the Stone was partially destroyed during burial. Seven deeply incised cup-marks were recorded, three with rings around them, and the Stone was shown to be in good condition, albeit soft in character. Evidence for vandalism was also found including graffiti and melted plastic; samples were taken of the latter. At the end of the excavation, the trench was backfilled. The excavation allowed several observations and recommendations for future work to be made. These included:

  • The Cochno Stone remains in good condition despite its burial, but the stone surface is soft so care must be taken when cleaning the stone surface;
  • It is likely existing drawings of the Cochno Stone are inaccurate in terms of content and certainly in scale;
  • The surface of the stone will have extensive modern graffiti on it;
  • The wall surrounding the stone appears to have been pushed over during stone burial but its lower courses and foundations remain extant.
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Figure 4: The red box indicates the location of the Phase 1 trench (drawing from Morris 1981)

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Figure 5: Modern graffiti and a cup-mark on the exposed surface of the Cochno Stone

 

Phase 2 – Excavation and 3D scanning September 2016

The second phase of excavation of the Cochno Stone ran from 5th to 22nd September 2016. This consisted of three phases of work:

5th to 12th September Removing topsoil and cleaning the Cochno Stone by machine, water and using hand tools
13th to 19th September Laser scanning, photogrammetry, archaeological recording, hi-spy and ongoing light cleaning
20th to 22nd September Reburial of the Cochno Stone, by hand on the 20th, followed by two days of machine work

The area of the Cochno Stone bounded by the dry-stone wall was chosen as the focus of all the work: an area measuring 15.2m E-W by 8.6m N-S. The outcrop continues beyond this zone but almost no rock-art has been found on these fringes, and these zones of the rock outcrop were in any case not buried in 1965. The overburden was removed by a closely monitored mini-digger with a mini-dumper ensuring spoil was taken well clear of the site, with large stones removed by hand and placed on a separate spoil heap. Once the digger had cleared to within 10 to 15cm of the surface of the stone, the remainder of the spoil was removed by hand using plastic shovels and scoops to avoid damage to the stone surface. All large stones were also removed by hand so that the digger could not scrape them along the surface of the Cochno Stone. Once completed, the Stone was then carefully washed down by a firefighter using a hose, to ensure slow but safe cleaning. The site was also brushed with soft hand brushes and sponges after this, and it was only permissible to walk on site with socks on or specially designated clean plastic shoes. A stone conservator, Richard Salmon, was on site at all times and able to advise on these matters.

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Figure 6: Mini-digger clearing the overburden on top of the Cochno Stone

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Figure 7: A firefighter helping to clean the Cochno Stone

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Figure 8: Excavated area (in yellow) within the walled compound, and the dotted line shows the extent of the outcrop as a whole. The stone heap in the end was located to the east of the main spoil heap rather than to the south of it as initially planned.

 

Phase 2 results

The following research questions and objectives underpinned the Phase 2 full exposure of the Cochno stone: here provisional answers to these questions have also been presented, and some key findings will be discussed in more depth below.

No. Research question Provisional observation Implications / further research
1.1 What condition is the Cochno Stone in? Very good condition with no obvious decline due to burial Management – stone burial stable in short term even with no geotextile breathable layer
1.2 Has the overlying topsoil had a detrimental effect on the stone? No obvious problems associated with soil lying on the stone surface. Black areas may be staining? Investigate nature of the black areas – paint or staining?
1.3 Could any damage be reversed or stopped? Not applicable although we have no way of assessing long-term stability Geotextile laid on the stone surface before re-burial at the end of the excavation
1.4 Has the collapsed wall caused any damage to the fringe of the stone? No damage of any note was recorded although large stones were found lying on the surface No stones were laid directly on the Cochno Stone surface during backfilling
2.1 How clearly visible are the motifs? The carved symbols vary from very clear to very faint Analysis of data will reveal all visible symbols and some not apparent with the naked eye
2.2 How accurate are the old drawings we have? They appear to contain most of the symbols but there are clear issues of scale and spatial arrangement New plan to be produced using survey data

Comparison with older drawings and analysis

3.1 Can phasing be identified amidst the rock-art? Yes, some cup-and-rings marks overlay one another, and symbols had different depths and wear evident

Different methods of pecking evident

Analysis of data but also adoption of MacKie’s methodology adopted at Greenland (MacKie & Davis 1988-89)

Scan will enable analysis of pecking methods employed

4.1 Does the rock-art run beneath or continue beyond the boundary wall? Not as far as we could tell although our SMC conditions set out that we could not remove the wall. Where one section was removed for drainage, no rock-art was found Outcrop beyond dry-stone wall to be re-examined for any motifs other than those recorded by Morris
4.2 How is the wall attached to the stone? The wall was laid directly on the surface of the Cochno Stone with no binding as far as we could tell The wall remains have been left in situ as it has a historic connection to the Cochno Stone
5.1 Is there any evidence for activity contemporary with the rock-art panel being in use? Nothing was found and the surface of the stone had no cracks Future investigation of the fringes of the outcrop e.g. downslope, worth doing
6.1 Do any traces of Ludovic Mann’s paint remain? Yes, we found extensive evidence for his paint work including use of various colours: white, yellow, green, blue, red Samples taken of paint

Digital reconstruction of how the stone would have looked in 1937 to be undertaken

Research into Mann’s work

6.2 Were any objects associated with the 1965 burial of the stone found? Nothing we can directly connect to the burial, but we did find two marbles, two coins and a Red Cross medal on the stone surface / wall base Analysis of topsoil finds

Identification and conservation of coins and medal

7.1 How extensive was the graffiti on the surface of the Cochno stone? Graffiti was concentrated on the southern and western sides of the stone, and for the most part did not overlap with prehistoric rock-art. Mostly names and dates

Several possible ‘modern’ cup-and-ring marks were identified

All graffiti was photographed and logged

Attempts made to contact those who did it

Analysis of content, location, form of graffiti to be undertaken

7.2 How extensive was visitor damage to the surface of the Cochno stone? Nothing obvious on the surface of the stone

One zone near the centre of the stone may have been bleached by a fire

Data analysis should reveal wear patterns e.g. near the style into the walled area

Investigation of ‘fire’ area

7.3 Was anything found adhering to the surface of the stone? Nothing additional to what was found in 2015 Melted plastic to be analysed

 

Reburial

At the end of the fieldwork, the Cochno Stone was reburied. We covered the surface of the Stone with a breathable geotextile layer, initially weighed down with rocks carefully placed by hand. A layer some 10cm thick of soil was placed back on the Stone by hand, with care taken to ensure no large stones was amongst this material. Finally, the remainder of the overburden was placed onto the Stone by a machine, and the mini-digger landscaped the site back to its initial form.

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Figure 9: The Cochno Stone being reburied on 20th September 2016, with a layer of geotextile laid over the Stone

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Figure 10: Pagan ceremony, led by Grahame Gardner, to mark the reburial of the Cochno Stone

 

Archaeological recording

During the cleaning of the overburden, we collected a sample of the objects found within the deposits on top of the Stone. Once the surface of the Stone had been completely revealed and cleaned, detailed scale photography was undertaken of the Stone, as well as sampling of various paint deposits and other materials adhering to the surface . We did not draw the Stone as a new plan will be generated from the digital and photogrammetry data collected.

Small finds: During the cleaning of the Cochno Stone, a wide range of objects were collected, none of which had a secure context. These were mostly the kinds of material one would expect to find in agricultural topsoil, hinting at the origins if the clay-silt-loam material the Stone was buried with. These included broken ceramics, tiles and field drain pipes, glass, brick fragments and metal objects such as barbed wire and nails. Notable finds included two glass marbles, found separate from one another at the base of the Stone and wall, which we assume rolled there during play on the Stone, as well as two coins and a Red Cross medal. The small finds will all be cleaned and catalogued at the University of Glasgow, and the coins and medal conserved and analysed.

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Figure 11: Red Cross medal found in the topsoil (photo: Alison Douglas)

 

Samples: Samples were taken of the various paints found on the surface of the stone, as well as the melted plastic (initially found in 2015). These will be analysed using a portable XRF reader for chemical content and to identify their sources – in particular, it will be interesting to know what kind of paint Mann used. The location from which each sample was taken was marked on a plan of the site which will be included in the site archive.

Sample Number Material sampled
CS01 Black melted plastic [sample also taken in 2015]
CS02 Green-white paint from the largest cup-and-ring mark
CS03 Red paint
CS04 Yellow paint
CS05 Red-white paint
CS06 White paint

 

Scanning and digital recording [Ferdinand Suamarez Smith] 

The 3D scanning of the Cochno Stone represented one of the largest high-resolution digital recording projects of a cultural heritage artefact ever undertaken.

The process of digitally recording The Cochno Stone made use of several different techniques. The first method employed was aerial photogrammetry (using a DGI Phantom 4 drone) which was intended to capture the entirety of the form of the stone and provide a ‘map’ onto which higher-resolution data, capturing the detail of the surface, could be added to. Photogrammetry is a process by which 3D information is extracted from 2D photographic images. 2D images are made of the subject in a sequence, then a computer programme (in this case, Capturing Reality) recognises features from across the different images and triangulates the distance between them, placing points and building up a ‘point cloud’ of the surface (see Figure 12).

The data from the drone was better than expected and provided details of some of the graffiti, although not high enough resolution for the bench mark of what the ultimate end of the project is, the creation of a 1:1 facsimile. To achieve this end, we also gathered much higher resolution photographic data using a 50 megapixel Canon 5DS R on a horizontal linear guide with a ring flash attached. This was moved across the surface of the stone sequentially (using the same principle as described above), taking all due care to protect it using rubber feet on the tripods and foam shoes for the operators (see Figure 13).

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Figure 12: Provisional image from the Drone survey. North to the bottom © Factum Foundation

 

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Figure 13: Photogrammetry at the Cochno Stone

The final stage of the process was laser scanning undertaken by a team from the Scottish Ten, using a Leica P40. Unlike photogrammetry, laser scanning measures distances by shooting light at the surface of the object then measuring the time in which it takes to return, thereby creating a point cloud of the surface. Like the drone, this was aimed at capturing the broad form of the stone rather than the micro level of detail. However, it has an additional advantage of superior accuracy and when used in tandem with the other techniques provides a basis for making the model geometrically accurate.

 

Laser scanning (Lyn Wilson)

A laser scan of the Cochno Stone was undertaken by Historic Environment Scotland’s Digital Documentation Team who digitally surveyed the site using a Leica P40 terrestrial laser scanner. Several scans were captured at a resolution of 3.1mm @10m around the perimeter of the exposed and cleaned bedrock and at key locations on the bedrock itself. Individual scans were registered using high definition targets. High resolution data capture resulted in a very dense point cloud. Data was registered using Leica Cyclone software to create one database. The data was exported to ASCII format (.ptx) and has since been transferred to Factum Foundation for further processing and integration with photogrammetric data within Reality Capture software (see Figure 16 for an early snapshot of results).

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Figure 14: Scottish Ten team’s Laser scanning taking place, with a camera from the History Channel team set up to record the process in the foreground

 

High-spy

The Historic Environment Scotland hi-spy unit also came on site, to take photographs of the Stone from above, in order to help enhance the NMRS records for the site.

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Figure 15: HES high-spy unit on site

 

Provisional results

At the time of writing this report, very little analysis of the digital, laser and photographic data has been carried out. It is possible though to offer some observations based on the archaeological work that was carried out on site, with the proviso that our understanding of these matters will greatly benefit from integration of the digital data in the coming months. Five significant phases of activity will be discussed: prehistoric rock-art, antiquarian recording, Ludovic Mann’s painting, modern graffiti and activities, and the burial of the Stone in 1965. It is hoped that these disparate elements will come together to offer a comprehensive and unique biography of the Cochno Stone over the past 4,000 years.

(1) Prehistoric rock-art

The revealing of the Cochno Stone simply reinforced the impression that the Stone is one of the outstanding examples of a cup-and-ring marked outcrop in northern Europe. The full range of motifs expected were discovered as well as some other markings that had not previously been noted.

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Figure 16: Very early view of part of the laser scan data, where carvings not evident on previous drawings, and differential pecking styles, are both evident © HES

Hints of phasing were identified with different depths of carving, overlapping symbols and differential weathering all pointing towards extended and multiple phases of carving on this rock, presumably in the third millennium BC (however, exactly when this was done in prehistory is something we will not be able to shed light on). Different methods of creating rock-art were also evident, something that we will also be able to explore, and this may help to shed light on whether some of the carvings (the footprints, cross-marked stone and some cup-and-ring marks) were modern additions.

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Figure 17: The footprint motifs – modern or ancient? © John Devlin, photo initially published in The Scotsman newspaper, reproduced with permission

These phenomena will be investigated as the data becomes available. Perhaps of special note is simply the variety and scale of the rock-art on the surface of the Cochno Stone, something that means that this was a significant and highly visible place in prehistory, as well as of remarkable note today. We also know from a ragged NE edge of the Stone that the rock-art may once have been more extensive; part of the stone seems to have been quarried away.

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Figure 18: The sheer scale of some of the cup-and-ring marks is breathtaking. This is the motif that was sketched by Ludovic Mann (see Figure 22).

 

(2) Antiquarian recording

Only one drawing of the Cochno Stone has ever been undertaken, by Donnelly in the 1890s. This was later updated by Morris based on photography, but Morris did not actually see the Stone for himself (Figure 4). It is clear from out excavations that the scale on Morris’s drawings, which was added based on his own calculations, is flawed but also that the motifs are not arranged quite as shown on Donnelly’s drawing. The digital recording of the Cochno Stone will enable us to produce a definitive plan of the Stone, including motifs to scale and in the correct location. We will also be able to add carvings that had not previously been recognised, and rule out some that had been included by Morris and Donnelly that do not convince.

 

(3) Ludovic Mann intervention

The activities of Mann on the Cochno Stone in the 1930s are perhaps the strangest of his long and eccentric career (Ritchie 2002). Mann believed the Cochno Stone and other rock-art in the Glasgow area encoded cosmological and mathematical ideas and although he published little on the Cochno Stone itself, his activities in 1937 at the Stone were a significant and radical intervention in the story of this rock outcrop. There, he could demonstrate his theories in a dramatically tangible way on the surface of the Stone, painting everything that he regarded as an ancient symbol and adding an extensive ‘megalithic grid’ to the Stone (see Figure 3). As noted above, Mann believed that the Cochno Stone portrayed a legend associated with the prediction and ‘defeat’ of eclipses; ‘The sculpturings cover an area of 2000 sq.  ft., and represent an extraordinary diversity of symbol pictures relating to important episodes in the heavens’ (Mann 1937b, 14).

Our excavations have shown that Mann used several colours of paint – red, blue, yellow, green and white were all identified (Figures 19) – and that each colour had a specific meaning, with yellow, red and blue used for different elements of his grid for instance. Some patches of the rock were almost black, which may either have been black paint, or discolouration at the damp fringes of the rock. Grid lines were apparent across much of the stone, even when coloured paint was not evident, and these ghostly lines suggest perhaps that Mann incised his grid lightly onto the stone surface to ensure the accuracy of his work.

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Figure 19: Mann’s yellow grid paint lines clearly visible in the surface of the Cochno Stone, standing out clearly where the stone appears coloured black.

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Figure 20: Painted circle, presumable the handiwork of Ludovic Mann, found at the NW corner of the Cochno Stone.

We also know that he painted spirals and symbols that were either natural variations in the rock surface, or modern graffiti. And he appears to have drawn in at least one circle of his own making (Figure 20). Unfortunately, we were unable to find evidence (at least through visual observation) of the ‘ruler’ like markings made on the northern edge of the Stone (Figure 21). Samples were taken of the paint (see samples list above) for analysis and it is remarkable that the paint has survived, especially as it was exposed to the elements for 28 years before burial.

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Figure 21: The epicentre of Mann’s grid, located at the northern edge of the Cochno Stone. Note the ruler-like design along two grid lines. Even on this B&W image it is clear that more than one colour was used for the paintwork. © HES

Mann’s painting of the Stone could be viewed as an act of vandalism that simply encouraged further damage to the Stone. It could also be considered an incredibly creative act, that entailed a huge amount of work and craft. Perhaps we should see his work in both lights. In the next phase of the Project we intent to explore Mann’s theories about the Stone and the work he did there, with the addition of some unexpected technicolour.

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Figure 22: Mann’s sketch of the big cup-and-ring marks with a narrative associate with the Sun God and other cosmological myths (from Mann 1937b). The top motif here is the one shown being cleaned in Figure 18.

 

(4) Modern graffiti and damage

One of the main reasons that the Cochno Stone was buried in 1965 was the profusion of graffiti and we found ample examples of this across the Cochno Stone, with over 50 individual instances of graffiti found from full names, to initials. These ranged from careful, almost bookplate writing of full names, to untidily scrawled and almost illegible words. Some of these names and initials had dates associated with them, ranging from the 1930s right up to 1965. A few pieces of writing had additional flourishes, such as spirals beneath the writing (mistaken as prehistoric spirals by Mann) or boxes around the name.

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Figure 23: ROSE and assorted other graffiti written in various orientations.

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Figure 24: Graffiti. Here it is also possible to see Mann’s yellow grid line and white paint in one of the cup-and-ring marks.

The graffiti appears to be concentrated in the lower southern zones of the Cochno Stone, although some also is evident amidst rock-art towards the high point of the rock notably the DOCHERTY graffiti found in 2015 (Figure 5). Writing occurs in various orientations although strong preferences and clusters of graffiti may well relate to episodes of writing on the Stone e.g. by a group of individuals at the same time facing to the east. Dates in 1964 and 1965 are commonplace, suggesting that an upsurge in vandalism played a role in the burial of the Stone around this time. Several cup-and-ring marks are pecked in appearance and irregular, and may be modern copies; it is hoped that analysis of the data will help identify such instances (see Figure 16 for instance). We also identified an area of the Stone that appeared to have been burned perhaps by a fire set on the surface (Figure 25); this may be related to the burnt plastic we found nearby stuck to the stone (see Brophy 2015), and it is presumed this happened near the time the Stone was buried.

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Figure 25: Possible fire spot towards the centre of the Stone, which appears to post-date graffiti in this area.

It is hoped that some of the writers of the graffiti can be identified so we can interview them and find out their motivations and means of creating the graffiti, which will help us make sense of the social history of what was known locally as the Druid’s Stone. A study of the graffiti will be undertaken for an Undergraduate dissertation at University of Glasgow by Alison Douglas.

(5) Burial of the Stone in 1965

Little more light was shed on the burial of the Stone during the 2016 excavations. The depth of soil on the Stone varied considerably from c0.5m at the highest point of the Stone to up to 0.8m deep at the lower, southern extent of the walled zone. No damage due to the wall collapse was evident, but upper courses of the wall had clearly been thrown into the clay-soil matrix as the Stone was being buried. It may well be more can be learned about this event by continued archive research, as well as collecting the oral history of the Stone.

 

Conclusion and next phase of the project

The uncovering of the Cochno Stone for 10 days in September 2016 was a great success, with extensive media coverage but also great local interest in the project. We were also able to engage with both local schools.

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Figure 26: Media interest in the Cochno Stone project included three slots on Radio Scotland, two on BBC television and widespread newspaper coverage.

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Figure 27: Using the Cochno Stone to educate and inspire, in this case talking to pupils from Edinbarnet Primary School (photo: Alison Douglas)

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Figure 28: Drone view of the ‘chalkno’ stone drawn by pupils from Edinbarnet Primary School © Factum Arte

In archaeological terms, we succeeded in removing the soil from the top of the stone without causing additional damage to it, and we carried out all the recording work that we wanted to. This has given us an incredibly powerful dataset to work with going forward into the future, with the intention of raising funds to create an exact replica (or facsimile) of the Cochno Stone amongst our plans although we can also use the data to study the surface of the stone, create 3D visualisations of the Stone and create materials for information boards, exhibitions and social media. The data gathered also gives us a tremendous opportunity to engage with the local community in Faifley and Hardgate, to find out stories and memories of the Cochno Stone, many of which were shared with us during the excavations.

The Cochno Stone has been buried for the second time in 51 years, but its future remains open for debate and discussion. It is hoped the Revealing the Cochno Stone project has been a catalyst for an exciting future of the stone whether it remains buried or not.

 

Acknowledgements

The excavation would not have been possible without the permission of the landowners, Mrs Elaine Marks and her son Gary, and West Dunbartonshire Council, and we are very grateful that we could carry out this work. Our main point of contact with the Council was Donald Petrie, whose help and support throughout was very much appreciated; thanks also to David Allen. We also received permission from HES in the form of Scheduled Monument Consent (SMC) and we are grateful for their advice in navigating our way through this process successfully as well as manage what was a unique project, we would like to thank HES’s John Raven and Stephen Gordon. Richard Salmon was on site at all times to advice on working on the surface of the Cochno Stone, and this was greatly appreciated.

Revealing the Cochno Stone was funded by the Factum Foundation and the University of Glasgow.

Many people worked on the site and we would like to thank them all. The team of archaeology students from University of Glasgow was supervised by Helen Green. The team included Aurume Bockute, Liam Devlin, Alison Douglas, Hannah Dunn, Jo Edwards, Taryn Gouck, Anemay Jack (Aberdeen University), Jools Maxwell, Scott McCreadie, Joe Morrison, Katherine Price, Jennifer Rees, Elizabeth Robertson and Lauren Welsh. Alison Douglas has also carried out some initial analysis of the modern graffiti. Thanks especially to Alison, Taryn, Lauren and Jools for their help with the school visits. The Factum team would like to thank Dani Trew and Tom Don, Lucie Salmon, Jules Salmon, and Alison and Fergus Leckie for all their help. The machine work on site was carried out brilliantly by the digger driver Davie and banksman Danny; thanks also to George McKenzie of Greenlight Environmental for help and advice throughout the project.

We would also like to thank the teams from Scottish Ten and the History Channel for helping to record the stone and document the project. Figure 16 appears with permission of HES.

Many other individuals played a vital role in the project. Danny Docherty helped on site, and was also instrumental in arranging for the fire service to help us out. Cleaning of the Stone was undertaken by the Clydebank Fire Brigade and we are very grateful for their support. Friends in the media were on site frequently documenting what we were doing, notably Huw Williams and John Devlin (who kindly allowed us to reproduce Figure 17), and the media coverage was organised by Jane Chilton. Thanks also to Gil Paterson MSP for being supportive and for giving the project a positive mention in the Scottish Parliament. And many thanks to Grahame Gardner who visited us several times and was kind enough to conduct the pagan ceremony before the Stone was reburied. Thanks as well to Anne Teather who drove almost 500 miles to see us!

Finally, we would like to thank all the people who visited the Cochno Stone, and who treated the Stone with respect while it was open and exposed. Their enthusiasm, support and stories inspired us. Special mention here to Owen, May Miles Thomas who started it all, and to Stevie, the guardian of the Stone.

 

team-cochno

Some of the University of Glasgow team on site (photo: Jan Brophy)

Many people worked on the site and we would like to thank them all. The team of archaeology students from University of Glasgow was supervised by Helen Green. The team included Aurume Bockute, Liam Devlin, Alison Douglas, Hannah Dunn, Jo Edwards, Taryn Gouck, Anemay Jack, Jools Maxwell, Scott McCreadie, Joe Morrison, Katherine Price, Jennifer Rees, Elizabeth Robertson and Lauren Welsh. Alison Douglas has also carried out some initial analysis of the modern graffiti.Thanks especially to Alison, Taryn, Lauren and Jools for their help with the school visits.

Many other individuals played a vital role in the project. Danny Docherty helped out on site, and was also instrumental in arranging for the fire service to help us out. Cleaning of the Stone was undertaken by the Clydebank Fire Brigade and we are very grateful for their support. Friends in the media were on site frequently documenting what we were doing, notably Huw Williams and John Devlin, and the media coverage was organised by Jane Chilton. Cleating the bulk of the soil on top of the Cochno Stone was the machining team who did a great job. Thanks also to Gil Paterson MSP for being supportive and for giving the project a positive mention in the Scottish Parliament. And many thanks to Grahame Gardner who visited us several times and was kind enough to conduct the pagan ceremony before the Stone was reburied. Thanks as well to Anne Teather who drove almost 500 miles to see us!

Finally, we would like to thank all the people who visited the Cochno Stone, and who treated the Stone with respect while it was open and exposed. Their enthusiasm, support and stories inspired us. Special mention here to May Miles Thomas who started it all, and to Stevie, the guardian of the Stone.

stevie-low-res

Stevie

 

References

2015 Cochno Stone report (aka Brophy 2015)

Cochno Stone CANMORE entry

Bruce, J. 1896 Notice of remarkable groups of archaic sculpturings in Dumbartonshire and Stirlingshire, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 30, 205-9.

Harvey, J 1889 Notes on some undescribed cup-marked rocks at Duntocher, Dumbartonshire, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 23, 130-7.

MacKie, E. & Davis, A. 1988-89 New light on Neolithic rock carving. The petroglyphs at Greenland (Auchentorlie), Dunbartonshire. Glasgow Archaeological Journal 15, 125-55.

Mann, L M 1937a An appeal to the nation: the ‘Druids’ temple near Glasgow: a magnificent, unique and very ancient shrine in imminent danger of destruction. London & Glasgow.

Mann, L M 1937b The Druid Temple Explained. London & Glasgow. [4th edn, enlarged & illustrated, 1939.]

Morris, R W B 1981 The prehistoric rock-art of southern Scotland (except Argyll and Galloway), Oxford: BAR British Series 86.

Ritchie, G 2002 Ludovic MacLellan Mann (1869-1955): ‘the eminent archaeologist’, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 132, 43-64.

 

 

Endangered species

18 Dec

Endangered species saved

 

A suggestion to begin with

Urban green spaces are great locations for urban prehistory to hide itself away, existing in the cracks in the city that still exist, offering entry points to wormholes that go way back in time. And yet for some reason these precious prehistoric portals are often unheralded, and frequently ignored. And not just by visitors to the park. But also by park authorities, those who market and map parks, make signs, host park websites, produce publicity material and whose task it is to engage the public in park life.

Urban prehistoric sites may sometimes be partial, and often difficult, but they are seldom unrewarding.

In this post I would like to recount a recent visit to see one such site, a rock-art panel in Rouken Glen park, East Renfrewshire. I naively imagined before my walk that this amazing resource would be something that was viewed as a visitor attraction and point of interest within the park. I foolishly believed that when I parked my car and walked into the part itself signs would point me the way, thus supplementing the rather poor maps I had been able to source online. Yet what happened surprised me, and what appeared initially to be a simple task turned into a more of an educated guesswork wander which took me off the beaten path until I found a beaten path with the rock-art hidden and almost forgotten, 5m from a railway line.

Thankfully, as the entirely fictional news clipping above suggests, the gaze of archaeologists and park managers – and hopefully visitors to the park – may well be turning towards this rather sad and lonely piece of railway rock-art. The light of lasers has been shone on the rock and it has to be hoped that it will illuminate it so that it becomes as bright as it once was, several thousand years ago. But in the meantime, I have this suggestion:

comments card

 

Then a walk to find cup-marks on the 25th October 2015

My walk, overlain on the official park map

My walk, overlain on the official park map

I arrived at the car park on a damp Sunday morning and proceeded to walk straight to the small pavilion which I knew hosted an exhibition about the park itself. Beside this building an extensive and well-used playground throbbed with sound and nice screams, and children climbed on megalithic blocks and ran around within timber roundels.

The roundel in the playground

The roundel in the playground

Inside the pavilion was a light and airy exhibition with a focus on the heritage and geology of the park. I found little here on the rock-art however. One panel was entitled Mystic marks on the stone. Beneath a grey picture with some shadowy holes was a bit of text that said: ‘There are two rocks in the park with Neolithic … or later Bronze Age carvings”. Two?? That was a surprise. The label then concluded unhelpfully, ‘No one is sure what they mean’. Great. At least try!

Mystic marks in the stone low res

There was no indication of where either of these rock-art panels might be, and they were not marked on any of the fistful of maps and leaflets I picked up as I left. I was on my own.

leaflets low res

There were also no signs outside saying helpful things like ‘Rock-art this way’. And so I randomly headed along one of the paths that cut southwards across the wide open green expanse of park.

Then, almost immediately, and right in front of me, was a standing stone, on a low grassy mound just to the west of the path I was on. It was clear this was a stone with an affectation, namely an asymmetrical profile with a needle sharp protrusion on top. In front of this monument was a little board that told me that this stone was erected in 2006 to mark the centenary of the park. A tiny council logo sat beneath these rather grey words. The slate grey monolith emerged from a scuffed grassless patch and an green-orange-leaved tree overhung it. Sun rays painfully wriggled through the leaves to illuminate the backside of the stone.

standing stone low res 1

standing stone low res 2

chalk low res 1

I negotiated a few paths of various widths and surfaces, as well as dog walkers and joggers who were being timed by a trainer in a tracksuit and decided to head down towards the river with an aim of crossing a bridge further south which would take me to the rough ground where I knew the rock-art must be located. I walked along this silent path, with sandstone outcrops jutting out below me. Alone with my thoughts.

And my chalk.

chalk low res 2

After a while, the wooden barriers and fence posts began to take on rock-art motifs, transforming in front of my credulous eyeballs.wood low reswood low res 2

I realised there would be no signs. So I followed the official park map with my own annotations. Emerging at a crossroads I crossed a bridge. From one of the bridge barriers was a wet toy donkey hung on a rainbow noose, a symbol from a crazed alternative tarot card. Lost, like me.

The hanged donkey

The hanged donkey

Beyond the bridge was a huge rock outcrop. I scanned the surface. I crawled all over it. There was no ancient rock-art here. But there were fag packets, broken glass, cigarette butts. And the faintest traces of weathered writing, indistinct letters and words, in pen and chalk. A rock that was not marked in prehistory. But marked now, breaking an ancient taboo.

big rock low resgraffit low res

Beside the rock I found two train tickets, separated from one another by several metres. Both tickets bought by or for a child, from different places, to different destinations. Both outbound, but neither to here.

This is a transitory place, near a railway line but curiously not a station. One-way only, a place for the young, for concessions with restrictions of carriage.

found items - tickets

And from my hog-backed rock viewing position I could see a circular enclosure, defined by small trees and differential lawn mowing regimes, a space fine trimmed. In its centre was a megalithic capstone, and beside that, a red lipstick contained within a purple bullet-like capsule, make-up for the dead.

enclosure low res

megalithic capstone low res

I sensed I was getting closer. The planets were aligning. But to get to my goal I had to leave the path and so I did this at a suitable location and plunged into the trees and the mud and the long grass and the weeds. Soon I was thoroughly lost and apparently no closer to my destination.

where are the cupmarks low res

I climbed up a slope and emerged, blinking, onto a golf course, with golfers lurking nearby holding their golf sticks and golf balls and golf bags. Back down into the woods I hid from them, afraid that a twig snapped underfoot would bring down their wrath upon me. Then I though ‘sod it’ and climbed back to the fringe of the golf course and used it as a shortcut to get to the edge of the railway line.

golf course low res

Then the vegetation got really thick. I forced my way through branches and weeds, with roots clinging onto my ankles and brambles tripping me up.

Like Frankenstein’s monster, I lurched through the chest-high plants, my arms raised in surrendered, a face full of confusion for a world I no longer understood due to a recent re-arrangement of my limbs.

brambles low res

Then suddenly I found a nice clear path that ran beside the railway line and I realised there was probably an easier way to get here than the route I had just taken. But I had come through a rite of passage (I consoled myself), I had got here the hard way (so I told myself), I had gone off the map but had found the rock-art.

rock art low res

A single, solitary cup-mark. Lonely. Quietness punctuated by trains speeding by a few metres from where I stood.

leaf and rockart low res

The cup-mark has a wonderful organic quality and alone in the woods I found it difficult to determine the soft edges of the pecked hollow motif on the pliable and plastic rock. The cup circle held some water and a curled brown leaf when I had arrived but as I stayed and stared, it took on a new character, organic and vital, life-giving and potent, fecund.

And so after staying here for quite some time, under the influence of the vibrating tracks behind me, I set off, along the path.

knot low res

Ambiguity abounded. Trees, spirals, cuts, knots, twigs, tree rings, rock-art rings, stone and wood, blurred together in this place and on this path.

There was a tree that beneath the bark was blood red. I shivered as I passed it but made my mark.

blood red tree low res

Back out of the woods, the confusion seemed to pass, and soon I was just another person out for a Sunday stroll, with my path back to the car more certain as I got my bearings. En route I passed more stone monuments, this time in the form of lime kilns, some of which had candles and shrines in alcoves. These monuments to industry had been split open, half-sectioned, to expose the megalithic workings within, creative voids, spaces for air and material transformation, now places of candles, coins and flowers.

lime kilns low res

lime kiln shrine low res

Then – my walk was over. The rock-art had been found. My boots were muddy and my hair was ruffled.

But it was done.

 

 

Followed by A More Formal Record of my own making

UP record card for RG rockart

 

Notes on an exhibition

During 2015 Archaeology Scotland carried out a series of events in the Park to engage local people and park visitors to its archaeological heritage. These included walking tours, talks, survey and mapping workshops, laser scanning, a Heritage Festival and small-scale excavations. This was part of the DigIt! year of events and appears to have been a success. The project had a high visibility within the park with notices and posters up all over the place advertising the programme of events.

notice low res

In early December a small exhibition based on the work done was launched with a lecture by Phil Richardson. I visited the exhibition about a week after it launched.

exhibition sign low res

exhibition low res

This is a really good example of how archaeological methods and techniques can be used to involve and energise the public (although in the photos I saw a lot of well-known amateur archaeologists and some of my students). Crucially, for me, this is not about saying something new about the past – although this can be an outcome – but rather it helps people today, to come together, work on something, see tangible outcomes and have a positive experience. It is also about the improvement of the green space for all users, whether this is displays like the exhibition, or better information about the park itself, and augmented visitor experiences.

Sadly, so far, this has not resulted in the new cup-and-ring-lings being any more visible in the park, and perhaps this exhibition, and the results of the work that underpinned it, will be as ephemeral and short-lived as my chalk markings. I hope not. I hope the cup-marks can become signposted and foregrounded in some way so dog walkers no longer rush past, children don’t need to create their own – and flâneurs will never again struggle to find them.

The rock-art, to benefit Glaswegians and other visitors today, can’t stay hidden anymore, off the map.

The cemetery in the quarry

9 Nov

Fragments of a site, documented poorly, beyond living memory. The excavation of a Bronze Age cist cemetery in a sand pit on the south-west fringe of Glasgow in 1928. By Ludovic Mann, who else? Piecing together the pieces, re-telling the story, making sense of it all. All we are left with: fragments, pots, photos, rumour, myth, mystery. Only fragments of a site, material clues, things, both familiar and unfamiliar. Found in a sand pit on a ridge beside Mount Vernon: a place now a quarry and landfill site. Fragments. That’s all we have. As archaeologists, as (pre)historians of Glasgow, the voice of the past drowned out by the quarry machine, the truck, the motorway. The quarry and the cemetery. The cemetery and the quarry. The cemetery in the quarry. The quarry on the cemetery.

Green-oak-hill

Brown-sand-ridge

Mount Vernon.

Windy Edge.

Fragments of a site, documented poorly, all we are left with.

But it is – thankfully – enough.

old map extract

canmore_image_SC01332949

(c) Crown Copyright. Source: http://canmore.org.uk/file/image/1332949

Herald newsclipping

 

Complete Skeleton. Find Near Glasgow. A poem.

 

LONDON, Wednesday

Ludovic Mann –

well-known archaeologist –

discovered a complete Bronze Age skeleton in splendid condition

when carrying out excavations recently

on a sandy hillock at Mount Vernon near Glasgow

the skeleton is about 4000 years old

and it is quite possible

that a number of others may be found in the vicinity

as it was the practice of the people of that age

to have tribal burying grounds

over which they raised cairns.

 

The discovery was made

at a [sand pit] worked

by the Greenoakhill Sand Company.
Until recently

a mansion-house which was built 130 years ago stood near the spot

and it is thought [that] the cairn raised

over the tomb

was demolished when the ground was being cleared to [make] a garden for the mansion.

 

When some workmen were removing sand

from the hillock

an earthenware vessel of beautiful design

rolled out of a cavity constructed of slabs of stone

the find was at once reported to Mann

who went out and started systematic excavations.

 

Found three feet below the level of the grass a walled chamber 3 feet 3 inches by 2 feet the sides of which were built of vertical red sandstone slabs as a rule these tombs have a solid stone cover but in this case the covering consisted of about [X] rounded stones carefully packed over the skeleton.

 

Above these stones

was a handful of bones

which it is thought had been food intended for the dead

but this matter will have to be more carefully investigated.

 

When the black earth and boulders were removed

there was discovered a skeleton

carefully placed in position facing south-east

exactly along the medial line of the structure

the head was that of the brachycephalic or round-headed type

usually associated with the Bronze Age.

 

According to the fashion of the time

bodies were some[times] cremated

and the reason why

some bodies were disposed of in this way

while others were simply buried in the usual manner

puzzles archaeologists.

 

Beside the skeleton was a vessel of earthenware,

in which it was the practice to place food to sustain the spirit

on its journey to

the other world.

Food Vessel Glasgow Story webpage image

Food Vessel from Greenoakhill, held in Glasgow Museums collection, who hold the copyright for this image

Mann with suits at MV Glasgow story

Ludovic Mann and assorted suited visitors – dead and alive – antiquarians and magistrates – at Greenoakhill (c) Glasgow Museums

 

Attempt at an Inventory of the Material, Sediment and Human Deposits Excavated by Ludovic Mann at Greenoakhill in the Course of the Year Nineteen Hundred and Twenty-Eight

 

Six Food Vessels, two pottery bowls.

Five cists, one wooden coffin

One crouched inhumation of an elderly man, one crouched inhumation of a young woman, one crouched inhumation of an adolescent, one fragmentary inhumation, two skeletons, one cremation deposit.

One flint arrowhead, two flint knives, one white pebble, one hair moss garment.

Two charcoal deposits.

Oats, rye, sand.

N soils.

 

(c) Crown Copyright. Source: http://canmore.org.uk/file/image/1337792

(c) Crown Copyright. Source: http://canmore.org.uk/file/image/1337792

 

A Perambulation to Wyndy Hege

Quarry sign low res

 

A place of restricted access. A gated community. Movement within mediated by fences, signs, barriers. Specialised and highly regulated clothing needs to be worn to secure entry to the scene. For your own safety. And the safety of others.

A Bronze Age cemetery? Or a modern industrial quarry?

Both.

The cemetery and the quarry, both places of danger, of transformation, places we need protection from, locations and activities that need to be contained.

The wearing of special safety gear is compulsory. Without exception. PPE. Personal Protective Equipment.

Hard-hats / Stag frontlets / High-vis / Low-vis / Identity badge / Pendant / Steel-toed boots / Leather wraps.

The quarryman and the mourner.

Personal Protective Equipment. Sealed off from danger. Wrapped up for safety. Clearly marked out from the others. Distinctive. Safe. Because these are taboo places. The quarry and the cemetery. The cemetery and the quarry. Places where digging into the ground is an act of devotion, an act of conviction, a dangerous and troubling activity, hidden away from the others.

Things happen here that have to be taken seriously and carried out appropriately, according to the rules and regulations.

Removal. Insertion. Extraction.

Digging. Burying. Replacing. Modifying. Regenerating.

And access has to be mediated by key individuals – gatekeeper, shaman, foreman, security guards, man in a wee wooden shed.

To enter the inner sanctum.

KEEP OUT. TRESPASSERS ON SITE WILL BE PROSECUTED.

Keep Out low res

DANGER. QUARRY WORKINGS.

Quarry sign 1 low res

NO ENTRY. DANGER!! PLACE OF DEATH.

No entry

Because the quarry and the cemetery are both polluted places. They have depth, they have power, and they are repositories of value and potential energy, derived from underground. Social capital. They are connected places, entangled across and beyond the societies from within which they emerged: Pastoralism / Capitalism. Entangled in networks of meaning that expand beyond this geographical location and its enforced boundaries, beyond the knowledge of any one individual visiting a grave, laying the dead to rest, driving a truck, reading the Daily Record in a cab. Exploded places, shrunk down to just this one place, a dot on a map, a high point, a special place, a pit. The quarry and the cemetery.

During the daylight hours: the traffic in and out of this place is incessant, unrelenting, tireless. It never stops. Back and forth, in and out, a hive of activity, of noise and light. It never seems to end.

trucks low res

By night, it is silent and dead. It reeks of death, of waste, of subterranean detritus. Landfill. Burying the very things and bodies of a community. Murmurations of crows and ravens and blackbirds fly overhead. There is a miasma. A stench. The long dead and their ancient bones. The assorted containers buried and put beyond use: Food Vessels and food vessels, Beakers and beakers, skulls and rusted beer cans. Encased in a shroud of stone and earth and grass. Put in a stone box. Fenced off.

A place of restricted access. A gated community. Movement within mediated by fences, signs, barriers. Specialised and highly regulated clothing needs to be worn to secure entry to the scene. For your own safety. And the safety of others.

A Bronze Age cemetery? Or a modern industrial quarry?

The quarry and the cemetery. The cemetery and the quarry. The quarry on the cemetery. The cemetery in the quarry. The quarry on the cemetery.

Neither one nor the other. Both.

The site today low res

The location of the cemetery today

Sources and acknowledgements: each element of the tripartite structure of this post depended on different sources and inspiration. Image credits are in captions; those with Glasgow Museums copyright came from The Glasgow Story website.

Complete Skeleton. Find Near Glasgow. A poem. The entire ‘poem’ is a very slightly adapted version of a newspaper story about the excavations that appeared in the Glasgow Herald on 27th July 1928.

Attempt at an Inventory of the Material, Sediment and Human Deposits Excavated by Ludovic Mann at Greenoakhill in the Course of the Year Nineteen Hundred and Twenty-Eight. The data contained in this inventory was derived from a summary of the discoveries that can be found in the CANMORE entry for this site. The site has NMRS number NS66SE 2. The title for this short section owes much to the Georges Perec piece ‘Attempt at an Inventory of the Liquid and Solid Foodstuffs Ingurgitated by Me in the Course of the Year Nineteen Hundred and Seventy-Four’. This first appeared (in the original French of course) in Action Poétique in 1976 and was translated and appeared in the Penguin collection of Perec writings Species of Spaces and Other Pieces (1997).

A Perambulation to Wyndy Hege. All images and words my own. The name of this section was taken from the supposed original name of Mount Vernon – Windy Edge or Wyndy Hege. According to Wikipedia.

Field notes

Field notes

Ludovic Mann’s excavations at Greenoakhill have never been published.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walking Ludovic Mann

19 Oct

This is a slightly updated version of the text of a paper I gave at a conference held in the Pearce Institute, Govan, on Saturday 17th October 2015. The event was ‘EcoCultures: Glasgow’s Festival of Environmental Research, Policy and Practice’ and it was organised by Glasgow University PhD students Kirsty Strang and Alexandra Campbell. For more information on this excellent event, see the festival Facebook site and twitter feed (@EcoCultures, #EcoCultures). I believe podcasts of lectures and round tables will be made available soon; I will update the blog to include a link when this happens. I would like to thank the organisers for inviting me to contribute.

My paper. Literally.

My paper. Literally.

 

Walking Ludovic Mann 

Ludovic McLellan Mann wrote the secret history of Glasgow.

He sketched out the shape of an invisible city.

He sensed the possibility of another Glasgow, beneath Glasgow.

Beneath their feet. Beneath their trams. Beneath their omnibuses.

The prehistory of Glasgow.

 

Ludovic McLellan Mann was present at the birth of this modern city.

A growing, expanding city.

A process that required the eradication of what came before.

The quarrying away of the past.

The burying of the ancient.

Building on the dead.

The price that had to be paid.

 

Ludovic McLellan Mann was busy. He was aware of opportunities. He took advantage of serendipitous discoveries. His ear was to the ground. He sniffed out the past. He called in favours. He took advantage. He seized control. He drove the agenda. He brought in his friends, the suits and the specialists. And he welcomed the glare of publicity that went with all of it.

 

Bronze Age pots and chunks of cremated human bone were extracted from graves.

Prehistoric stone coffins were dismantled in newly created back gardens.

Neolithic pits, hollows, quernstones and hearths were rescued from the quarry face.

Ancient carvings on rocks in parks and golf courses were drawn and quartered.

 He was everywhere. He was busy. He was aware of opportunities. He took advantage of serendipitous discoveries. His ear was to the ground. He sniffed out the past.

 

Ludovic McLellan Mann.

Glasgow’s gentleman archaeologist.

Accountant.

Insurance broker.

Showman.

Opportunist.

Digger.

 

Flamboyant antiquarian.

Amateur archaeologist.

 

Ludovic McLellan Mann wrote the secret history of Glasgow.

He sketched out the shape of an invisible city.

He was everywhere. He was busy. He was aware of opportunities.

He sensed the possibility of another Glasgow, beneath Glasgow.

Beneath their feet. Beneath their trams. Beneath their omnibuses.

His ear was to the ground. He sniffed out the past.

The prehistory of Glasgow.

 

Ludovic McLellan Mann (1869–1955) was a polarising figure in the world of Scottish archaeology. He was less controversial in his main trade: an insurance broker. In 1900 he patented his own system of consequential fire loss indemnity, which was widely adopted in that industry. However, in 1901 he became a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, hinting at a parallel career – as an aspiring archaeologist, although was he never truly accepted by the establishment even although he spent a good deal of time cultivating his reputation as an ‘eminent archaeologist’. In the end, leading academics took to print to condemn and mock him.

Mann in 1905 (c) Glasgow Museums and Art Galleries)

Mann in 1905 ((c) Glasgow Museums and Art Galleries)

However, Mann did have a high profile within the Glasgow Archaeological Society, and for the early part of his career had broad-ranging interests, and was published widely. In 1911 he curated the Prehistoric Gallery of the Scottish Exhibition in Kelvingrove Park. This was the result of two years of work by Mann, and the exhibition space he designed was crammed full of hundreds of pots, stone tools and metal weapons, reconstructions, scale models and the walls were adorned with 16 large wall charts. Prehistoric tableaux were created using the soil of Glasgow, extracted from excavation sites. The central feature of the gallery was the ‘life-sized statue of a typical man of the late Stone Age’ sculpted by Alexander Proudfoot.

prehistory gallery

A series of decent quality excavations, eclectic collecting activities and innovative research projects maintained his profile, but by the mid-1920s his reputation and activities began to change. Archaeologist Graham Ritchie noted that by 1923: ‘Mann seems to have lost the ability to prepare coherent excavation reports, perhaps because some of his discoveries were piecemeal and because site survey was not his strong point’. Mann also had a tendency towards losing interest in projects before bringing them to a conclusion, and in time, veered towards the fantastical and eccentric in his interpretations of his prehistoric discoveries, alienating himself theoretically as well as methodologically from his peers.

Workmen helping excavate a cist cemetery in advance of construction of a school in Cambuslang (c) RCAHMS image number SC01338023

Workmen helping excavate a cist cemetery in advance of construction of a school in Cambuslang (c) RCAHMS image number SC01338023

He started to bypass mainstream academic publishing. His methods were simple. He watched out for opportunities to help with and drive forward excavations based on chance discoveries, information for which was sometimes retrieved from the news clipping services he subscribed too. Neolithic settlement traces found in a quarry. Cremation urns discovered in advance of construction of new houses. Discoveries reported to him by the public, his network of sources. He would move in, and either take over entirely from whoever had been doing the archaeology, or he took on the role of eminent archaeological overseer and site director recovering and excavating things as they were found. And all the while, he was talking to local journalists and national newspapers, disseminating his results, reporting on his work, bypassing the conventional and traditional academic publications that rarely if ever published his work in the second half of his career. His outlet was the print media: national press, local papers. The Glasgow Herald. The Scotsman. The Express. The Hamilton Advertiser. He even set up his own eponymous publishing imprint and spoke widely to local historical societies and public audiences.

Mann was born and lived most of life in Glasgow. And he did much work, both in terms of excavation and recording, in Glasgow and the surrounds of the city. He was obsessed with the past of Glasgow – the ancient, occult framework of the city, the obscure origins of roads and churches and cemeteries, folk takes and myths of gods and temples. His own excavations underpinned his beliefs in an intelligent pagan ancestry for Glasgow – fine quality pots, wonderful stone tools and well-made graves attested to this.

Pots from the Newlands excavations, found in 1905 (c) RCAHMS image number SC01331866

 

Ludovic McLellan Mann wrote the secret history of Glasgow.

He sketched out the shape of an invisible city.

He sensed the possibility of another Glasgow, beneath Glasgow.

 

He took the city apart and put it together again.

He extracted the long dead.

He painted the past.

He exploited the past for its own good.

He celebrated prehistoric Mann.

 

A Bronze Age cemetery in Newlands, near where he was brought up, in 1905

A cist cemetery at Greenoakhill, Mt Vernon, near where he lived, in 1928

Two cists and a cremation deposit found during the construction of Dalton School, Cambuslang in 1930

Knappers cemetery and Neolithic timber structure in 1933 and 1937

The Cochno Stone in 1937

 

After his excavations, like a serial killer, he kept souvenirs – tokens – trophies – to remind him of his work. The Bronze Age cinerary urns from his first prehistoric dig in Glasgow, at Langside, remained in his possession until his death 50 years later.

Mann wrote a book on prehistoric Glasgow – a pamphlet he published in 1938 called Ancient Glasgow: A temple of the moon. Here, Mann laid out the occult history of Glasgow.

 

The mounds of Glasgow

Moon sanctuaries at the Necropolis

The ancient Grummel mound where High Street and Rottenrow and meet

The sanctuary of St Enoch

The sanctity of the Molendinar Burn

 

Ancient gods, ancient places, ancient traditions, ancient mounds, ancient temples. All beneath the modern grid plan of the city. Hidden – but still there is you knew where to look, where to walk. The ancient sacred geometry of Glasgow still informing the grid. Powering the grid. Shaping the grid.

 

Occult alignments.

Sacred roadways.

Unearthly mounds.

Secret temples.

Buried cemeteries.

 

All part of a network, connections spanning time and place, subverting the straight jacket of urbanisation, defying the order of the modern city.

Mann wrote the book. He created the past, with his trowel, his pen, his chalk and his paints. He reconceptualised Glasgow as a pagan city. He held in his hands the ashes and burnt bones of the noble savages that once lived in this place. He looked upon their fine pots, and their sharp, elegant axes. His work was at the cutting edge and on the fringe: the fringe of the discipline, the fringe of the city, the edge of modernity, the cusp of science, the past in the present.

He was the first urban prehistorian.

 front_cover Earliest Glasgow

Over the past couple of years I have been visiting the locations of various sites that were excavated or studied by Ludovic Mann both within and around Glasgow.

Mann’s research into prehistoric Glasgow can helped us piece together another Glasgow, an ancient one, in the heart of the city but also in its suburbs and arterial routes. By walking these routes, and visiting these sites, I am trying to foreground once again the prehistoric within these urban contexts, piecing together a narrative that is all but lost and forgotten.

Following maps within maps, a city within a city, secret maps, secret cities.

One of the oldest roads in Glasgow is Rottenrow, which runs towards the cathedral from the city centre. But before the cathedral, according to Mann, there stood an ancient earthen mound called Grummel Knowe, at the junction of High Street and Rottenrow.

Extract from Mann's Earliest Glasgow

Extract from Mann’s Earliest Glasgow

 

An ancient geometry, just beneath the skin of the city.

Walking between locations that no longer exist.

Following routes that have been forgotten.

Visiting sites that have been altered out of all recognition.

Remembering the lost and celebrating the dead.

Walking Ludovic Mann’s Glasgow is to walk prehistoric Glasgow.

 

Glasgow’s ancient past intrudes into the present in surprising and peculiar ways. One of the most famous sites excavated by Ludovic Mann was a Neolithic complex of timber structures and pits, and Bronze Age graves, at Knappers, on Great Western Road in Clydebank. This site was taken on by Mann after initial excavations had revealed a series of prehistoric features during quarrying in 1933. In 1937 Mann excavated an extensive group of features which he interpreted as stake- and post-holes, the remnants of a spiral timber setting with accompanying earthworks. He reconstructed this monument and went on a publicity drive, proclaiming it a major discovery. Literally thousands of Glaswegians headed down to Duntocher Boulevard to witness this spectacle and see Mann in full flow, lecturing to the masses. Mann even published adverts about the dig and suggested routes and means of travel to this site.

explained_routes low res

Knappers today is a very different place.

DIGITAL CAMERA

knappers today low res

Sketch from Knappers walk

fungal ring low res

chalk rock art low res

pit location low res

This is a location where the prehistoric traces are still evident in the fabric of the grass and tarmac. The architecture of urban dwelling and the car in particular reflects the Neolithic circular structures that were found by Mann: circular bays of garages, roundabouts, towering uprights, landscaping stone blocks in playgrounds.

The relatively modern housing estate across the road was constructed in the location of another Early Bronze Age cemetery that was excavated by GUARD archaeology in advance of development in 1997 and 1998.

The living and the dead.

The living on the dead.

Also in Clydebank is another site which Mann is intrinsically connected to – the Cochno Stone (for background, see a previous post on this blog).

Ludovic Mann on the Cochno Stone in 1937 (c) RCAHMS image number SC01062363

Ludovic Mann on the Cochno Stone in 1937 (c) RCAHMS image number SC01062363

Mann’s intervention here was not typical – it wasn’t an excavation. Rather, he took an interest in the esoteric patterns he saw on this rock – spirals, weird symbols, crosses, and stars. In order for visitors to better appreciate the stone in 1937 Mann painted the symbols with a white organic mixture (and perhaps other colours too). Overlain on the prehistoric markings was a measured and complex grid system of his own devising which helped him interpret the code. Mann was by now obsessed with the mathematical and astronomical properties of such symbols and it is almost certain many of the shapes he painted on the stone were fantasies of his own construction. He began to find what he wanted to find.

And this time his publicity-seeking activities backfired. In a letter which has just come into my possession, written by a solicitor on behalf of the man who owned the Cochno Stone in 1937, it was noted:

As a result of the activities of certain antiquarians who have expended much care on the decoration of the monument, a considerable amount of public interest has recently been directed to the stone, with the result that large numbers of people from the surrounding industrial district and elsewhere are in the habit of visiting the site, particularly at week-ends, where it is the destination of an almost constant stream of sightseers. As a result considerable damage is being done by the behaviour of persons who are attracted more by curiosity than antiquarian interest.

And when I opened a small trench over the stone in early September, evidence of this damage was very clear, with graffiti, perhaps carved just before the stone was finally buried in the Spring of 1965, and black paint splattered over the surface of the rock-art.

Vandalism to the Cochno Stone (photo taken during my excavation there in September 2015)

Vandalism to the Cochno Stone (photo taken during my excavation there in September 2015)

Here, Mann had enthused the public about a prehistoric monument to the extent that the establishment had to intervene. He was too successful. He had not predicted the hunger for this kind of thing. But the wider message seemed to be that a little knowledge was a dangerous thing where the wider public was concerned. And so attacks of Mann’s abilities and theories began in archaeological circles and the press.

His prehistoric Glasgow began to fall apart. Plans were set in place to protect the Cochno Stone – from Glaswegian visitors and from Mann himself. A decade after Mann’s death the wall around the Cochno Stone was kicked over. Earth was dumped on it.

Mann started this.

Landowners and the Ministry finished it.

Buried without a trace.

 

This paper comes at an early stage in my Walking Ludovic Mann project and in the coming months and years I intend to visit – and walk between – a wide range of locations of significance to Mann’s prehistoric Glasgow. Previous blog posts have reported on work Mann did outwith the city – Ferniegair cist cemetery for instance in South Lanarkshire, and Townhead Neolithic settlement on Bute. But I now want to retreat back to the city, to retrace the work of Mann with my feet, to see what remains of his secret grid and his sacred geometry beneath the fabric of this modern city.

 

The discoveries of Ludovic Mann in essence sketched out the structure of prehistoric Glasgow.

A Glasgow before it was Glasgow.

His eccentric research and eclectic interests allowed a different way of thinking about familiar Glasgow streets, landmarks and place names.

 A map within a map. A city within a city. A secret map. A secret city.

 

His probing mind.

His dirty hands.

His obsessive measuring.

Mann’s voracious collecting.

Mann’s prehistoric fetishizing.

Mann’s insistent storytelling.

 

Mann’s underground city, Glasgow inverted, Glasgow’s past dragged back into the present, raised from the dead. Passing through wormholes. Tears in space and time.

Prehistoric Glasgow revealed – for all to see – if they care to look.

Secret geography. Sacred geometry.

Deep time.

Timeless. Effortless.

Walk and talk and chalk Ludovic McLellan Mann’s Glasgow.

 

Sources and acknowledgements: much of the biographical information in this lecture came from Graham Ritchie’s excellent paper Ludovic McLellan Mann (1869–1955): ‘the eminent archaeologist’, published in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland volume 132, pages 43-64 (2002). If you google it, you can find this article freely available online. The front cover of the Mann pamphlet and the route to get to and from Knappers were sourced thanks to this really helpful webpage which has scanned and reproduced various ‘earth mysteries’ books and pamphlets. Various images, sourced from the former RCAHMS, have been reproduced under their creative commons policy with image codes in the captions.

 

 

 

Links:

EcoCultures: www.facebook.com/events/114920895512376/

Mann booklet source: http://www.cantab.net/users/michael.behrend/repubs/index.html

 

 

 

The Cochno Stone exposed

27 Sep

Between 7th and 9th September 2015, the Cochno Stone was revealed for the first time in 51 years – albeit only for 36 hours.

The results of this small-scale excavation are simple, yet exciting.

It is important that the results of the work we did, and the recommendations I am making for future work at the Stone, are made as widely available as possible. And so my full report on the excavation can be found below in this blog post.

For other accounts of this brief, but important, excavation, there are some excellent sources online:

Devil’s Plantation blog – Dig for victory

Factum Arte blog and photogrammetry

Clydebank post story

Adventures in Dowsing podcast (Aid047) – Revealing Cochno

My previous blog post on this subject – A matter of trust

Facebook group campaigning to uncover the Cochno Stone

 

The Cochno Stone: an archaeological investigation

Phase 1 report

Summary

The Cochno Stone, West Dunbartonshire, is one of the most extensive and remarkable prehistoric rock-art panels in Britain. It was however buried by archaeologists in 1964 to protect it from ‘vandalism’ associated with visitors and encroaching urbanisation. A proposal has been developed to uncover the Stone, and laser scan it, to allow an exact replica to be created and placed in the landscape near where the original site is. In order to do this, it was felt that an initial trial excavation should take place (Phase 1) in order to assess the condition of the Stone and the nature of its burial. This work was undertaken in early September 2015. The Cochno Stone was found to be buried less deeply than claimed, and the wall surrounding it appears to have partially collapsed or been pushed over. The Stone itself was uncovered and rock-art, as well as 20th century graffiti and damage to the Stone, was recorded. Recommendations for the next phase of the project can now be made and the future plans for the Stone opened up for dialogue.

 

Background to the project

The Cochno Stone (aka Whitehill 1; NMRS number NS57SW 32; NGR NS 5045 7388), West Dunbartonshire, is located at the foot of the Kilpatrick Hills on the north-western edge of Glasgow, in an urban park in Faifley, a housing estate on the north side of Clydebank. It is one of up to 17 panels of rock-art in this area (Morris 1981, 123-4) but by far the most extensive. The outcrop measures some 13m by 8m, is covered in scores of cup-marks, cup-and-rings marks, spirals and other unusual motifs. The surface is undulating, sloping sharply to the south, and is a ‘gritstone’ or sandstone. It was buried for ‘protection’ from vandalism in 1964.

Image 1: extract from Harvey's 1880s sketch (source: Harvey 1889)

Image 1: extract from Harvey’s 1880s sketch (source: Harvey 1889)

The Cochno Stone was first documented by the Rev James Harvey of Duntocher, who came across the incised outcrop in 1885. Harvey explored beneath the turf around the Cochno Stone and some other examples in the area to test their extent, and then published his results in volume 23 of the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland (PSAS). He included a detailed description of a profusion of classic and unusual rock-art motifs across a large sandstone block (which he called Stone A). Harvey concluded his largely descriptive narrative with this hope:

Evidently the district in which these sculpturings have been found, lying as it does on the pleasant slopes of the Kilpatrick hills, and commanding an extensive view of Clydesdale, had been a favourite resort of these ancient rock-engravers; and it is my hope that, in the course of time, with a little labour, more of these mysterious hieroglyphics may be brought again to the light of day, and perhaps the veil that shrouds from us their meaning may be withdrawn (Harvey 1889, 137).

 John Bruce produced a review of other rock-art sites in the region which was published in PSAS in 1896, and here he included a new sketch of the stone by W. A. Donnelly, this time showing (apparently) all of the stone rather than one part of it. There are some notable differences here from Harvey’s depiction (above) of the triple cup-and-ring mark arrangement. Donnelly’s drawing was the basis for Ronald Morris’s own sketch plan (see image 7) although Morris was dismissive of its reliability based on his own observations (1981, 124).

Image 2: Sketch of the Cochno Stone by W A Donnelly (dated 1895), which was reproduced in slightly different format by Bruce (1896) – image 3 - then rationalised by Morris (1981) – image 7.

Image 2: Sketch of the Cochno Stone by W A Donnelly (dated 1895), which was reproduced in slightly different format by Bruce (1896) – image 3 – then rationalised by Morris (1981) – image 7.

 

Image 3: Bruce’s version of Donnelly’s sketch, reduced in detail and context (Bruce 1896)

Image 3: Bruce’s version of Donnelly’s sketch, reduced in detail and context (Bruce 1896)

Bruce did not re-tread Harvey’s account but rather focused on unusual motifs found on the Stone:

Two features which had not hitherto been observed, viz., a cross within an oval border and a sculpturing resembling two pairs of footprints, which, curiously enough, show only four toes each, both being incised in the rock, casts of which can now be inspected, prepared by Mr Adam Miller, Helensburgh (Bruce 1896, 208).

Image 4: The enigmatic four-toed petrosomatoglyphs, with ‘old penny’ for scale (Morris 1981)

Image 4: The enigmatic four-toed petrosomatoglyphs, with ‘old penny’ for scale (Morris 1981)

Some international parallels for these symbols were found and they were considered as being contemporary with the prehistoric rock-art as opposed to modern editions. However, it is as likely that the cross and petrosomatoglyphs are much more modern additions. The fate to the casts is unknown sadly.

Soon the stone became something of a tourist attraction, and a wall with at least one style was constructed around it at some point to control entry. The few photos of the Cochno Stone (such as image 9) – mostly from the 1930s – show visitors walking over the stone, usually from learned societies, and this may well have contributed to damage to the Stone which subsequently led to its burial.

The Stone became the renewed focus for archaeological attention in the mid-1930s when Ludovic Mann took an interest in it, located as it was relatively close to the remarkable Knappers prehistoric site on what is now Great Western Road (Mann 1937a, 1937b). Mann infamously ‘painted’ the motifs white to make them clearer, apparently for a visit of the Glasgow Archaeological Society in 1937 (Ritchie 2002, 51). Mann added his own speculative grid as well (see image 12) and it likely that other motifs he painted onto the rock were fanciful on his part. Some black and white photos of the Stone at this time suggest two colours were used.

Image 5: Note the carved P H (Morris 1981)

Image 5: Note the carved P H (Morris 1981)

There was clearly a growing concern from this point onwards that the Stone was under threat, from visitors walking on the Stone, but also vandalism. A hint of this is evident in the rare image (pre 1937?) above showing a carved P H on the surface of the Cochno Stone beside the remarkable triple cup-and-ring arrangement shown in Harvey’s original sketch (image 1).

And thus in 1964, the stone was buried, although the circumstances of this act remain shrouded in mystery.

Morris (1981, 124) offers this account:

Morris 1981 text

The vandals were later identified in the same book as ‘from near-by towns’. Others repeated this story over the years since, naming Glasgow University as the driving force behind the burial and suggesting up to 1m of soil covered the Stone. Euan MacKie (in MacKie and Davis 1988-89, 127) noted that the Stone has been “buried for some years for its own protection” although a recent email conversation with Euan suggests he was not privy to the act of burial itself. Therefore the details of the burial of the Stone, and potentially other rock-art panels in the vicinity, requires further research.

 

Phase 1 overview: research questions and methodology

The first phase of work was carried out in order to allow a small section of the Cochno Stone to be exposed, under conditions akin to an archaeological watching brief. This small-scale excavation was viewed as being vitally important in establishing some baseline conditions ahead of the proposed more extensive phase 2 of the project.

Research questions and objectives underlying this small-scale intervention were as follows:

  1. What condition is the Cochno Stone in? Has the overlying topsoil had a detrimental effect on the stone? Could any damage be reversed or stopped?
  2. How deep is the topsoil? What is the nature of this material (soil, turf, stone content)? How easy is it to remove from the surface of the stone?
  3. How clearly visible are the motifs and can these be matched to previous drawings and records? How accurate are the old drawings we have?
  4. How was the stone buried and what happened to the wall that has been pictured around it?

This work was undertaken over three days, 7-9th September 2015, with a small team of students from the University of Glasgow; also present were Ferdinand Saumarez Smith of Factum Arte, and Richard Salmon, stone sculptor, who was on hand to assess the condition of the stone. The process was documented by film-maker May Miles Thomas.

Image 6: The current situation of the Cochno Stone, photographed a few weeks before excavation commenced

Image 6: The current situation of the Cochno Stone, photographed a few weeks before excavation commenced

In advance of the excavation, weed and vegetation clearing was required to allow access to the site and trench location. A small trench 4m by 1m was opened by hand on the north side of the stone, with turves, and the topsoil removed by a combination of mattocks, shovels and spades. At this end of this process, the site was re-instated through the replacement of soil and turves.

 

Results

A trench 4m by 1m was opened by hand on the north side of the stone, with long axis north-south. The trench ran from the northern extent of the stone (in the form of the remnants of the boundary wall). Due to the unreliable drawings of the stone that exist, the exact location of the trench in the context of the stone remains unclear.

 

Image 7: The red box indicates the approx. location of the planned trench, and the green box may be roughly where the trench actually sat in relation to the stone, with a void in the northern half of the trench (Stone drawing is Morris 1981 version of the original Donnelly sketch).

Image 7: The red box indicates the approx. location of the planned trench, and the green box may be roughly where the trench actually sat in relation to the stone, with a void in the northern half of the trench (Stone drawing is Morris 1981 version of the original Donnelly sketch).

 

Image 8: Plan of the trench, North to the right

Image 8: Plan of the trench, North to the right

Image 9: The Stone being daubed in white ‘paint’ by Ludovic MacLellan Mann in the 1930s. Note the style in the wall on the left of the image (circle); this was partially revealed during our excavations, which may well help tie down the trench location more closely when more photos become available © RCAHMS

Image 9: The Stone being daubed in white ‘paint’ by Ludovic MacLellan Mann in the 1930s. Note the style in the wall on the left of the image (circle); this was partially revealed during our excavations, which may well help tie down the trench location more closely when more photos become available © RCAHMS

 

Image 10: General view of the trench from the north, with planning going on in the foreground

Image 10: General view of the trench from the north, with planning going on in the foreground

 

Topsoil

The topsoil that the stone was buried in was mid-brown clay silt with infrequent pebble inclusions, and for the most part had the character of re-deposited plough soil. The occurrence of brick fragments, rusted metal nails, broken ceramic and glass in this soil layer suggests that this was transferred from a field nearby rather than derived from the immediate vicinity. The soil varied in depth from 0.5m towards the top of the stone, to 0.7m at the south end of the trench, which suggests the 1m depth occasionally quoted may only apply to the southern downhill portion of the stone. No indication was found of anything placed between the stone and the soil.

Image 11: The topsoil had a high clay content and was tough to remove

Image 11: The topsoil had a high clay content and was tough to remove

The wall

It is clear that the drystone wall which surrounded the stone is still there, albeit in a ruinous state. The top of the wall had been pushed, or fallen, over, but the lower section of the wall appears to be intact. Remnants of a stone style were also discovered, some of which was visible on the ground surface before the excavation commenced (and can be seen in image 9, above). This raises concerns that the wall was pushed onto the stone during the burying process and it may be that the stone itself has been damaged by this. We did not remove the wall rubble to assess this due to time constraints. But there did not appear to be a layer of topsoil between wall rubble and stone surface, only material that had trickled beneath.

Image 12: This 1930s photo shows the wall clearly overlying the edge of the Cochno Stone (source: The Clydebank Story, a now defunct website)

Image 12: This 1930s photo shows the wall clearly overlying the edge of the Cochno Stone (source: The Clydebank Story, a now defunct website)

 

Image 13: The collapsed wall, viewed from the south, showing rubble overlying the stone. The yellow arrow indicates a worked semi-circular stone that once topped the wall

Image 13: The collapsed wall, viewed from the south, showing rubble overlying the stone. The yellow arrow indicates a worked semi-circular stone that once topped the wall

The Cochno Stone

The stone was revealed in the afternoon of the first day of work, at varying depths beneath the surface and running beneath the wall rubble in the northern end of the trench. After the surface of the Stone was reached, heavy tools were removed from the trench and we continued to clean down to the Stone surface using trowels and then soft-bristle brushes. Water was poured on the Stone to assist cleaning and a water pump was used to remove excess water. The Cochno Stone was recorded via a sketch plan (image 8) and a photographic render produced by Factum Arte (image 14) which shows most clearly the motifs that were uncovered.

Image 14: Render of the stone generated from photography © Factum Arte

Image 14: Render of the stone generated from photography © Factum Arte

Six or seven cup-marks were evident, two of which had rings around them (one two, the other possibly three) and a further faint putative ring was identified at a third cup. The marks were all deeply incised and quite coarse in quality (cups up to 25mm in depth and 50mm in diameter), and in remarkably good condition given the burial of the stone and previous exposure for several thousand years. It was possible to determine small pecking marks in and around at least one cup-mark, suggesting the means of producing the marks may be revealed through further analysis. It may also be possible to identify phasing between one cup-mark and adjacent cup-and-ring mark which appear to overlap, as was the case at nearby Greenland (Mackie & Davis 1988-89).

A number of other surface additions were noted, all presumably related to activity in the late 19th or early 20th century:

  • A short section of metal pipe was found adhered to the rock surface, leaving a stain when removed; this likely ended up on the stone during the burial process.
  • White flecks identified within one cup-mark may be remnants of Mann’s white paint, but no other sign of this was identified, suggesting an organic liquid was used rather than a chemical paint. These flecks were sampled for further analysis.
  • A small red patch, about 20mm across, was noted adhering to the surface of the stone. This had the character of a paint of some kind, and adhered closely to the stone; no sample could be collected as this was so closely bonded to the stone; this could relate to another colour of paint used on the stone by Mann, or be the remnant of some kind of vandalism.
  • A large black blob was found towards the SE corner of the trench. This had the character of pitch, tar or melted plastic, and was sampled for further analysis. The irregular pattern of this deposit suggested it melted in situ or is some kind of ‘splatter’. This overlay at least two cup-marks and edges of rings.
  • Modern graffiti scratched into the rock. This was an extensive panel of writing , contained within a crude box with irregular boundary. The visible portion measured some 250mm by 300mm, running under the eastern baulk of the trench. The letters were deeply incised and most are apparent:

E F D B

B DOCHERTY

R D

J B 1905 [1945 / 1965 also possible]

Image 15: Cup-mark containing white flecks – Mann’s paint remnants?

Image 15: Cup-mark containing white flecks – Mann’s paint remnants?

 

Image 16: Writing on the stone and the edge of the black splatter / blob. 15cm ruler for scale

Image 16: Writing on the stone and the edge of the black splatter / blob. 15cm ruler for scale

During the course of the excavation, a few marks were also made on the surface of the Stone with a mattock. This highlights the softness of the stone, and once this happened, heavy tools were abandoned. One consequence of this was that we wore no shoes in the trench , and so we have to consider that even walking across the Stone may cause damage to its surface.

Image 17: Protecting the Stone before back-filling commenced.

Image 17: Protecting the Stone before back-filling commenced.

At the end of the excavation, the stone and wall were covered in a double layer of geotex, and the trench was backfilled and re-turved by hand.

 

Preliminary recommendations for Phase 2

  1. The Cochno Stone remains in very good condition despite being buried and so a project to uncover and record the Stone is considered to be feasible and of great value.
  2. The local community should be consulted at all stages of the development of phase 2 of the project and any subsequent outcomes from the Cochno Stone project.
  3. The exposure of the Cochno Stone can be done by machine, but under very close supervision and with various mitigating factors in place e.g. plastic or rubber blade on the bucket, machine stays out with the perimeter wall.
  4. The rock is very soft and therefore hand excavation should avoid metal tools where at all possible – appropriate tools and brushes will need to be identified. Consultation with archaeologists who have worked on other rock-art panels will be imperative to share best practice.
  5. It is likely that existing drawings of the Cochno Stone are inaccurate (what we found cannot be located on Donnelly’s drawing) and therefore a full and detailed new drawing is urgently required. A suitable individual to do this should be identified.
  6. Phasing of rock-art cannot be ruled out, and we may be able to establish the means by which the rock-art was carved into the rock. Methods to deal with both areas of enquiry should be developed.
  7. Initial photogrammetry suggests high resolution recording techniques will reveal more about the Stone than observation with the naked eye and therefore techniques such as this and laser scanning will be of fundamental importance.
  8. We must consider the possibility that the perimeter wall collapse has caused some damage to the edges of the Stone; the removal of wall rubble will add to the time and cost of the final excavation.
  9. A rough sample – our trench (and the P H carving on one photo) – suggests that the Cochno Stone is heavily vandalised – and the damage to the Stone will include graffiti but also paint splatters and wear from visitors walking on the stone. The removal of chemical and other substances from the Stone (if desirable) will add to the cost of the project.
  10. Ludovic Mann’s ‘paint’ has largely disappeared; but traces may still remain and so we should not discount this from project designs. Research to connect Mann’s work at Cochno with Knappers would also be of great value.
  11. The story and circumstances of the burial of the Stone – and others in the park – need to be investigated as a matter of urgency to help inform the phase 2 excavation, find other rock-art panels and add to the modern story of the Stone.
  12. Any work on the Stone should be accompanied by research within and beyond the local community for:
    1. Memories and stories associated with the Cochno Stone and other rock-art
    2. Pictures and other images of the Stone before its burial.

 

Acknowledgements

A small team of very hard working students gave up a few days of their time to work at the Cochno Stone which was very much appreciated – Liam Devlin, Alison Douglas, Taryn Gouck, Rebecca Miller, Joe Morrison, Rory Peace and Katherine Price. Helen Green visited several times with her thoughts for phase 2 and other Glasgow PhD students – Tom Davis, Jamie Barnes and Dene Wright popped in with useful suggestions. Thanks also to project partners Ferdinand Saumarez Smith and Richard Salmon for help and advice throughout the process, and May Miles Thomas was a constant source of encouragement, and documented the process. Thanks to West Dunbartonshire council for permission to carry out the work and for ensuring access to the excavation site by strimming weeds and vegetation. John Raven of Historic Scotland has offered support and advice throughout the process and ensured permission was secured to excavate this scheduled ancient monument. And thanks too for Mrs Marks, owner of the east half of the Stone, for visiting and entering discussions with us about the future of the Stone. I would also like to thank John Reppion for drawing my attention to the word petrosomatoglyph!

Most of all, thanks to all of the local people who have kept alive memories of the Cochno Stone, many of whom of all ages came and visited our dig: this project is dedicated to all of you.

 

References

Bruce, J. 1896 Notice of remarkable groups of archaic sculpturings in Dumbartonshire and Stirlingshire, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 30, 205-9.*

Harvey, J 1889 Notes on some undescribed cup-marked rocks at Duntocher, Dumbartonshire, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 23, 130-7.*

Mann, L M 1937a An appeal to the nation: the ‘Druids’ temple near Glasgow: a magnificent, unique and very ancient shrine in imminent danger of destruction. London & Glasgow.

Mann, L M 1937b The Druid Temple Explained. London & Glasgow. [4th edn, enlarged & illustrated, 1939.]

Mackie, E W and Davis, A 1988-89 New light on Neolithic rock carving. The petroglyphs at Greenland (Auchentorlie), Dumbartonshire’, Glasgow Archaeological Journal 15, 125-55.

Morris, R W B 1981 The prehistoric rock-art of southern Scotland (except Argyll and Galloway), Oxford: BAR British Series 86.

Ritchie, J N G 2002 Ludovic McLellan Mann (1869–1955): ‘the eminent archaeologist’ Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 132, 43–6*

References with * are free to view online – just google the title.

A matter of trust

5 Sep

This week I will be opening up a trial trench to examine a prehistoric site, on the fringe of Glasgow, that was buried 51 years ago beneath a 1m layer of soil and turf.

The site is called the Cochno Stone and it is one of the most spectacular and extensive panels of prehistoric rock-art in Britain. It is located in the lower reaches of the Kilpatrick Hills, in an area with dense rock-art concentrations on small outcrops and boulders.

In 1964 it was sealed, put beyond use and rendered inaccessible.

By archaeologists.

For its own good.

Ronald Morris drawing of the Cochno Stone derived from antiquarian records

Ronald Morris drawing of the Cochno Stone derived from antiquarian records

This rock-art splattered outcrop, rich with cups, cup-and-rings marks, spirals and two four-toed footprints was deemed, in the 1960s, to be under threat from the urban expansion of Glasgow. The Council-built estate of Faifley, now in West Dunbartonshire Council, encroached almost to the Cochno Stone itself. Too close apparently.

Houses were built. Infrastructure was constructed. Power towers and electricity cables were added.

Searching for rock-art beneath lines of power

Searching for rock-art beneath lines of power

The edge of the city cut through the land like a guillotine, with parkland created in the footprint of an old-style Estate, Auchnacraig. The ruins of old money and its trappings were slowly replaced with paths for dog-walkers, illicit gathering places in the trees and bridle tracks. (The location of one of the main Auchnacraig buildings is now marked by log seats, hearths and decorated tree stumps, a nice subversion.)

painted tree stump

Amidst this all lay the grand old Cochno Stone. Too close to the city for comfort, too vulnerable to the new Glaswegian overspill population armed to the teeth with knives, chalk, paint and pens, the tools of choice of the urban vandal. Academics at Glasgow University bristled, shook with fear. Fear for their stone, a scientific relic, becoming the plaything of the youth of today, the unwilling recipient of scars and scrapes in the form of initials and love hearts and dates. Expressions of love, friendship and regret carved in stone, daubed on stone, Glaswegian rock-art, Glasgow kissing the stone into submission and confusion.

We can’t have that.

Then, in 1964, a solution was reached.

The stone would be saved from itself and its new neighbours, saved for the future generations who might one day wonder why such effort was made to bury such a stunning stone. Saved from itself and its inherent wonderfulness and weirdness. Saved for a rainy day, for better weather, saved by the soil, piled high and deep, a last resort, a tidy solution.

Encase the stone in a tomb of soil.

The Cochno Stone location today

The Cochno Stone location today

Quietly, so no-one notices. In the dead of night. Furtively. Secretly. For the benefit of everyone and no-one, for the good of Glasgow but the disbenefit of Glaswegians.

A dirty secret, hidden from view, never mentioned except in secret conversations and obscure academic articles. Which are often one and the same thing.

Encased in a tomb of soil.

Decades went by and the stone fell from memory like a dream. Ronald Morris, solicitor and rock-art collector, kept the Cochno Stone alive with his field surveys, drawings and lists. Euan Mackie excavated the rock-art panel at nearby Greenhills and noted briefly the sad loss of the buried Cochno Stone. Like a video tape played too many times the story lost focus and sharpness and clarity however, a sob story that fewer and fewer people wanted to hear.

cups and cans

And even today the cup-and-ring marks of Faifley remain under threat apparently. Other rock-art panels, unburied, are located in what became designated as Auchnacraig Urban Park in the 1990s. Their location was not made public even although the public knew where they were. (Local people in fact know much more about the rock-art and where it is to be found than almost any archaeologist.) And at least one of these, shown above, has been vandalised. But other more impressive panels have been left alone.

cup and rings low res

Noticeboards were erected at the entrances to the park. Much of the information they contain (only one panel survives, the other having been removed from its plinth) concerns the modern history of the park and Estate. However, a brief paragraph concerning the prehistoric rock-art is present. A brief discussion of the nature of these sites is followed by this troubling statement regarding the rock-art outcrops in the urban park:

To provide protection from modern people their location is not publicised whilst some have had to be buried.

Similar comments appear in an online Council pdf leaflet which discusses the local history of the area with a walking tour:

Today, because of vandalism, the best of the carvings, including the Druid Stone [Cochno Stone], have been earthed over for protection by Historic Scotland.

There is no trust here (and it is a little unfair to blame HS here too!).

grotty noticeboard low res

But who can we trust?

Looking back on archaeological engagements with the stone, there is not much encouragement. In 1937 Ludovic Mann, a recurring character in this blog, took an interest in the Cochno Stone and other rock-art, located near his seminal excavations at Knappers. Mann painted the rock-art in white indelible paint, and to add to this middle class vandalism, he then daubed a grid of white lines all over the rock. It is almost impossible to find a photo where the Stone is not covered in this gaudy make-up. And it was enduring. Euan Mackie recently told me that when he visited the Cochno Stone in the early 1960s, it was still covered in Mann’s handiwork.

The Cochno Stone after its Mann make-over in 1937 (c) Crown Copyright RCAHMS

The Cochno Stone after its Mann make-over in 1937 (c) Crown Copyright RCAHMS

So who are the vandals here? The Cochno Stone is dynamic, not static. It seems possible that motifs were added in the 18th and 19th century, such as a cross, and possibly also the enigmatic four-toed footprints found on the Stone. Perhaps too my excavation will uncovered 1960s additions, and it seems probable that Mann’s paint will also be evident still. The Stone is a palimpsest, a surface upon which many individuals, for many motives, have felt the need to leave their mark over the past 5000 years.

Extract from Rev Harvey's drawing of the Cochno Stone, published in 1889

Extract from Rev Harvey’s drawing of the Cochno Stone, published in 1889

So can we trust the public? Apparently not, with recent media stories reporting vandalism at the Ring of Brodgar. There, earlier this month, the phrase AA2015 was carved into one of the standing stones. Historic Scotland plans to do some work to limit the damage, and their statement added: “Fortunately incidents such as this are rare, and we continue to work with the local community to educate people on the significance of these prehistoric sites.”

And here is the key to what might be a chance for the Cochno Stone to be rehabilitated and returned to the community from which it has been separated from by a barrier of soil for so long. My excavation is being carried out in collaboration with Spanish heritage company Factum Arte and the film-maker May Miles Thomas (director of the wonderful film The Devil’s Plantation). The plan is to make a super high resolution laser scan of the Stone once the topsoil has been removed, and then recreate an exact replica of the Stone, to sit in situ once the real Stone has been buried again. This is a very exciting project and it will be a privilege to be one of the first people to see the Stone since 1964 on Tuesday or Wednesday next week.

But might this be a missed opportunity?

chalk feet low res

Why not leave the Cochno Stone exposed, rather than cover it up again? What about engaging the local community in the project, enthusing them about the Stone, explaining the international significance of this prehistoric site in their midst. Surely the best stewards of urban prehistory are those who live with it?

To cover up the stone again, it could be argued, would once again be a case of the authorities telling local people that they are not to be trusted.

tree cup and rings low res

I am currently working with teachers and pupils at St Mungo’s Academy in Falkirk on a series of lessons based on decision-making: in this case, the kids are being challenged to answer this questions – should the Cochno Stone be left open, or covered back up, at the end of the excavations? Can we trust local people, or can they make do with the replica? I am really fascinated to see what the children come up with over the next few weeks. After all, these kinds of decisions can seem simple but can have significant ramifications.

final slide from presentation

Last year, Robert McNeil wrote in The Herald newspaper:

Can it really be true that there are nearly 90 Bronze Age (5,000-years-old) fantastic, mysterious rock carvings on a stone measuring 42ft by 26ft (55ft by 35ft on some counts) in a field on the edge of Clydebank and that these have been deliberately hidden under the soil by “the authorities”, so to speak, since 1964?

You. Are. Having. A. Laugh.

Every archaeological site that sits in the landscape, extant, does so by the combined will of society to allow this to happen. We have a set of values and make judgements about what can be changed, and what cannot. In some cases, those in power take decisions away from the people, with the addition of fences, charges and fees, warning signs, pathways and in extreme cases like Stonehenge security guards. The Cochno Stone is another extreme case – buried for its protection. But this was a decision from another time and should, in my opinion, be revisited.

 

The small-scale excavation of the Cochno Stone will happen on 7-9th September. I will be live tweeting during the excavations next week using #digcochnostone

 

Sources and acknowledgements: I must first thank Historic Scotland and West Dunbartonshire Council for permitting this 1st phase of excavation, and for Ferdinand Saumarez Smith of Factum Arte for inviting me to do the archaeology as it were. The St Mungo’s classes have been developed and mostly taught by Jan Brophy and Michelle McMullan, many thanks for their time and enthusiasm. The photo of the Cochno Stone in the 1930s is copyright RCAHMS, image number SC01062363, and reproduced under their new creative commons policy with regards their images. The Harvey extract came from his paper on the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland from 1889.

Urban prehistory walking tours

24 Aug

This summer saw the first two urban prehistory walking tours.

hat

These were the first of a series of free to the public walking tours that I am going to lead in various urban centres. Each tour will last for about two hours, and follow a circular route around a town or city exploring the prehistoric activities that once did, or might have, taken place in locations that are now urbanised. Through a series of stories, the tour guide (me!) will give a sense of what it was like to live and die in prehistory, drawing on a mixture of tales and information based on prehistoric discoveries made along the route, but also utilising creative storytelling drawing on aspects of prehistoric activities, such as burial rites, food gathering and tool making.

These walking tours will hopefully allow people to engage with the ancient past beneath their feet, gain a better understanding of life and death in prehistory, and surprise participants with tales (and some factual information) about the prehistoric heritage of the places that they live in. And encourage some walking of course.

The first two walks were undertaken in collaboration with others. The Glasgow Sighthill and Townhead walk was undertaken with Glasgow University’s Landscape Discussion Group who I must thank for taking up my offer to do the walk. The Crieff walk was conceived of, planned and carried out with Ally Becket of Northlight Heritage.

Here are some images and objects associated with the first two walks. I will publicise future walks via @urbanprehisto and this blog.

 

Walk 1: GLASGOW SIGHTHILL AND TOWNHEAD, 26th May 2014

An urban prehistory walking tour with the Landscape Discussion Group

glasgow walk map cropped

At Sighthill low res

Sighthill stone circle in the rain

early planning map of townhead

Notes taken when planning the Townhead section of the walk

Grummel Knowe text

at Callanish b&w low res

‘Steelhenge’ aka Callanish = rusty old girders

callanish from tour leaflet

glasgow walk notes

My notes

 

Walk 2: CRIEFF, 16th June 2014

Crieff Prehistoric Ghost Walk, part of Perth and Kinross Archaeology Month, with Ally Becket

extract from programme

ghost walk publicity

crieff ghosts poster

Pre walk raspberry tart

Pre walk raspberry tart

ghost walk photo b&w

Ally spins a fanciful take about Crieff Knock

routeway low res

city prices shop

This shop may be home to a coughing poltergeist and lingerie thief

props

Scary props

primary schoolm DES entry

outside primary school low res

Discussing horrible Bronze Age mortuary rites outside the new primary school

Crieff Community campus skate park and relevant graffiti

Crieff Community campus skate park and relevant graffiti

 

at the timber circle low res

The end: the Community Campus timber circle

 

Sources and acknowledgements: the Sighthill and Townhead walk photos were provided by Helen Green, thanks for taking them! The photo of the map from the Crieff walk was an image from a handout for the walk prepared by Ally Becket, who also designed the ghoulish poster for the event. The image of the City Prices shop was sourced from 192.com and the information about the poltergeist came from from David Cowan’s website. Thanks once again to Ally Becket and Helen Green.