Our Heritage Skills project primarily aims to engage and support young people through training and apprenticeship opportunities. Across the three years of the project a number of Modern Apprentices will be recruited, creating a network of young people working together for Callander. All of our apprentices are hosted by Callander’s Landscape partner Callander Youth Project
Two of our apprentices, Niall and Lisa, are working in Cultural and Natural Heritage, thanks to funding from Historic Environment Scotland. Since they started in September they have been heavily involved in our Archaeology programme and we asked them to share their experiences so far.
Niall: Before I started the apprenticeship, I had never had any experience doing archaeology. During my time in college studying Countryside Management and as I grew up, I was always more interested in the landscape itself, but now from the first few months of the apprenticeship I’ve seen the value in archaeology first hand. It plays a role in tying together an overall picture of the landscape, together with other factors, like geology and the environment.
Lisa: I have always been fascinated by Scottish history, so when I first found out that we would be able to participate in archaeological digs, I was very excited! In our classical studies class at school, we did a small module on the theory behind archaeology, the aim of excavations, and the equipment used. This was complemented by watching a few episodes of Time Team, a programme which I thought at the time was a true representation of archaeology. Now having worked on some digs and spoken to some archaeologists, I realise this is a rather touchy subject!
Niall: As part of the Callander’s Landscape Archaeology programme, we first worked with AOC, focusing on a site near Bridge of Keltie just outside Callander. The site had been identified as a potential Neolithic monument, with evidence of large posts in the ground creating some sort of boundary, spanning some 25 metres. We began by digging 1x1m test pits on an area where we hoped the posts were located. I gained experience in proper digging techniques with a trowel by scraping the soil off layer-by-layer so that changes in soil type and colour could be identified and recorded. I also gained experience in geophysics, specifically resistance testing.
Lisa: Later, during our placement at Canal College, we worked with Archaeology Scotland at The Pineapple in Airth, a National Trust for Scotland Property. This project was aimed at discovering more information about a particular area of land within the grounds of the walled garden, the possible site of an old greenhouse.
Niall: The area had several layers of archaeology, with different foundations visible from later structures. This project ran for several weeks and we gained experience in many different aspects, building on our digging skills and trying out some planning. Our plan focused on the paving stones on a notable wall surrounding the area we were digging. This involved standing directly over the stone, drawing it to scale, and measuring any notable features or defects. We recorded our own thoughts as to why the specific types and sizes of rock were used and we estimated a rough date for the construction of the wall.
Lisa: As time went on, we all became more confident and began to take ‘ownership’ of a section of the dig site, which we would go back to each week. The only problem was that my ‘section’ was a big hole in the upper-left corner that constantly filled with rain and covered me knee-height in sludgy mud! I was really getting a flavour of archaeology at this point. Later on Jordan from Archaeology Scotland taught us how to do finds cleaning. This important process involves cleaning all artefacts found at the dig site and recording and storing them effectively so that they can be archived later. We used small brushes and water to gently take away any dirt or debris – the artefact was then placed in a bag, labelled, and given a context number. I found this was a rather therapeutic part of the job!
Niall: Along with archaeology at Canal College we have also been working towards achieving a Level 2 Award in Cultural Heritage. Lisa, the Cultural Heritage Advisor for Keep Scotland Beautiful, took us on a guided tour around the local Camelon area. We explored the old route of the Union Canal, where it ran prior to the Falkirk Wheel. This guided tour served as preparation for delivering our own guided tour, which we planned and delivered on something culturally or environmentally significant which related to the Union Canal. My guided tour was delivered on the origins of wildlife that can be found in the Canal, with a focus on non-native invasive species.
Lisa: For my guided walk, I chose to research the local war memorial, which I discovered was actually quite a recent monument, having only been built in 2016. We were also able to plan and create an exhibition too. My role within the exhibition was to create the “Skills to Success” stairway, where I got each participant in the course to write down a skill they had learned and place it in a bubble to be hung from the staircase in the College. I came up with the tagline for the exhibition: ‘Canal College – Changing Lives’.
Niall: The most recent archaeological dig we were involved in was at Cambusbeg West, a site also located just outside Callander. This site had been identified by the Callander Heritage Society as a potential Iron Age broch. Working with Gavin from Northlight Heritage and volunteers, we spent a day clearing the bracken off the site to make it accessible for digging the following week. We returned for the dig where we were involved in the digging of 1x1m test pits as well as the digging of the main 10x1m trench that spanned over the most notable lump of the hill, likely the site of Iron Age activity. The site was interesting due to later history being present, with the foundations of Victorian-era farmhouses.
Lisa: The first day of this dig involved choosing and marking out where we would like the trenches to go. It was great to be involved in this as the archaeologists on-site, such as Dave from Clyde Archaeology, very much included us all in that process. We then marked out the main trench and began taking off the top soil. Underneath we started to find a lot of stone and rubble, which then became the topic of chatter for the remaining days: How did it get here? Why was it put there? Who put it there?
Niall: This was perhaps my favourite dig due to the incredibly unique location – right in the middle of a coniferous woodland plantation. This created a grove, which, complete with the Victorian-era well and triangular drystone dyke surrounding it along with two large trees either side, created quite a spooky but interesting vibe. On this dig I carried out more planning, with myself and Lisa planning and drawing the full 10 x 1m trench. This was quite difficult at first and knowing this was the official drawing of the trench meant the pressure was on, but Sue from the Callander Heritage Society was a big help in keeping us right!
Lisa: Working with Sue was a great opportunity as she is very knowledgeable about planning and survey drawings. Niall and I both took it in turns to draw sections of the main trench and together we created our rather abstract piece of art!
Niall: Following this dig, we got our Archaeology Skills Passports filled in with commendations from Gavin. I hope to expand the passport throughout 2020 with more projects both within the apprenticeship and beyond.
Lisa: I have thoroughly enjoyed the archaeology part of our apprenticeship and look forward to many more surveys and digs!
Thanks to our funders, Historic Environment Scotland, for supporting this apprenticeship project through their Archaeology Programme, which helps to deliver Scotland’s Archaeology Strategy.