A Dundonald Detective’s Diary

Holey Moley!

Unlike most gardeners, at Dundonald Castle, we love nature’s little excavators, the moles. Recently our furry helpers turned up a few interesting ancient artefacts – including some human remains!

We received a visit this week, from representatives at Historic Environment Scotland: Richard Strachan, who is their Senior Archaeologist, and Adrian Cox, Cultural Resources Advisor. The original 1980’s and 90’s excavator, Gordon Ewart, from Kirkdale Archaeology, accompanied them, and we were fascinated by the detailed information and dig memories he shared with us. He told us that the archaeology sits on the hill, and includes Iron Age round houses, the remains of a burnt out prehistoric fort, and Anglo-Norman timber structures that pre-date the stone castle building phases.

Their visit was in advance of the geophysical survey, due to start on Monday 6th March. Whilst here, they took the time to look over the moles’ important contributions, and several pieces were taken away for further analysis.

What Lies Beneath

Many of you will be wondering, what exactly is a geophysical survey and may even have heard of ‘Geofizz’ – a word made popular by TV programmes over the past 20 years.

Geophysics is a catch-all term, which covers several different types of non-invasive or remote-sensing investigating techniques, which penetrate land, and even sea surfaces. Images of buried archaeology are produced, without having to dig into the soil, and these are often used to inform archaeologists where best to put excavation trenches.

Dundonald Castle is about to undergo this exciting archaeological survey technique for the very first time next week.

The most commonly used methods are magnetometry, magnetic susceptibility mapping, resistivity and ground penetrating radar (GPR). Which technique you use depends upon the type of ground you are surveying, whether it is wet or dry, and whether there are iron based or magnetic rocks in the soils and bedrocks. The best results come from flat, open, level ground, so at Dundonald Castle, we really are going to test our Geophysicists’ skills to the limit!

Our contractors, Rose Geophysical Consultants, will be working from Monday 6th March, through to Sunday 12th March. School sessions, on Thursday 9th and Friday 12th, are full already! Children will experience a range of hands-on archaeological activities linked to active learning in STEM based subjects and perhaps see some of the first castle results hot off the printer!

On Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th March, we’ll be welcoming the whole community. There will be opportunities to meet Rose Geophysical and ask questions, hear talks, or take part in a guided walk through of the site by Adrian Cox, from Historic Environment Scotland.

More details of these weekend activities will follow soon, but please contact us if you need any more information at info@dundonaldcastle.org.uk, or at 01563 851496.

 Marcia Cook, Project Archaeologist