Busy day on the dig site – Cattle Jaws and Mini Diggers


Another couple of busy days on the dig site. Most interesting for me, the great excitement when a Cattle jaw was found in the terminal/stone socket.  Once again the wooden Rhynie Man Lookie-likie came out and prove to be a very good likeness. Thank you to the @NorthernPicts for the photo – have a look out for them on Twitter and Facebook for more updates and follow the #REAP blog here.


The number of diggers more than doubled today with the primary school’s annual visit to the dig site.  The children were met with a huge container full of spoil to sift through and find lots of interesting things.  They were also interviewed by Fiona Stalker, radio presenter from BBC Radio Scotland – have a look out for the photos on the Northern Picts facebook page, here’s a sneak peek of one of our young at heart local volunteers getting involved.


Listen out tomorrow on BBC Radio Scotland “Out For The Weekend” Friday August 28th 2-4pm for more information about our open day on Saturday 29th August 2015 at 10 – 4pm.

Keep up to date with all the activities and events on Saturday by following the Rhynie Woman Facebook Page and twitter @therhynieman  Hope to see you there!

Busy day on the dig site – Cattle Jaws and Mini Diggers

Oh Boy Oh Boy!!!! we’ve hit the headlines

The dig in Rhynie is gathering momentum and Dr GN and his team of intrepid archaeologists and volunteers have been clearing the site around where I was found.  The media is just starting to pick up early promising indications that there are interesting features to be found and as they work their way through victorian coins and pottery there are more things to be found.

Photo thanks to Bruce Mann
Photo thanks to Bruce Mann


One thing they would like to find out is where I was situated!!! My bolt hole, if you like.  keep all your fingers and toes crossed that they find it and I can finally get an idea of where my cold toes were placed in the warm Rhynie soil.

For further information follow the REAP blog which gives you a day by day breakdown of the events on site.  http://reaparch.blogspot.co.uk/

Oh Boy Oh Boy!!!! we’ve hit the headlines

Welcome home Rhynie Man – The Rhynie Gala

This weekend, although wet and cold, was the annual Rhynie Gala.  Rhynie Man put in an appearance and so did the talented people of Rhynie.  Here are some behind the scenes photos of making the mementos for #Rhynie15 big dig starting this week and a few photos from the event.

I’ve been ably assisted by Anne and Rachel this week to make some lovely mementos which will be on sale at the Rhynie Gala and Open Days.  Rachel is a soon to be fourth year Anthropology student at the University of Aberdeen.  Apparently students are stereotyped as being lazy and unmotivated, well not this one!  Over the past few months, amongst other things, she has been volunteering with Rhynie Woman and me over the summer and is interested in how a community’s landscape can influence cultural activities.  I think she’s come to a very good place to use as a case study and Anne and Rhynie Woman appreciate all her help and enthusiasm.

Lovely day although it was very wet, but it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm for the hill climb and the other activities around the Market Stance.

There are still a number of events happening with the dig over the next few weeks, keep up to date with the event listings here.

Welcome home Rhynie Man – The Rhynie Gala

The journey home!

As you may know I live in Woodhill House in Aberdeen, and while I would love to visit my friends in Rhynie, it is not possible at the moment.  Well I’ve been trying to think of routes and things I would like to see on my way home and have come up with a plan.  Much as I would like to go home, there is the small matter of being a weighty stone, so Im going to send Anne. She’s small, but i’m sure she’ll manage, it’s only about 50km!

Having had a good look at your maps, there are still some symbol stones out there, so Anne and I plotted them out on the map and most of them are where I remember, mostly along the River Don.  Over the next few days Anne will walk between Aberdeen and Rhynie, visiting all the stones and then reporting back on what she finds.

Wish her well, and if you see a wee walker with her stick and pink trainers give her a wave, she’s got a bit of walking to do!

Route from aberdeen to Rhynie
Route from aberdeen to Rhynie
The journey home!

Pictish technology: Something old and something new

The reconstructed axe created by SSW
The reconstructed axe created by SSW

I’m having a look through some of the photos Anne has been taking over the past few months; ones that stick out for me are the ones with tools in them.  The SSW reconstructed axe is amazing and gave the makers and archaeologists a chance to get hands on with the weight of the object as well as experiencing and seeing the sheer amount of effort it took to transform ground into metal.

Helmsdale (5)

Another interesting place was at Timespan in Helmsdale, where they have reconstructed a smithy and other spaces from

150 years ago (that) capture many aspects of a way of life – now long gone.  Each reconstruction has its own audio narrative including a Gaelic lullaby and recollections about one of Helmsdale’s best loved blacksmiths.

The blacksmith’s space was the one that brought back the most amount of memories, it’s sights, sounds, smells and atmosphere were encapsulated into the narratives and video and took me right back.

Helmsdale (92)

The 14 second video gives you an idea of the sound an anvil makes.  Imagine a lot of them being used in the landscape of Rhynie and the Northern Picts.


When I talk to people about the Picts in the landscape, they imagine the stones, and maybe people doing their daily work, but few think about the sights, sounds and smells of what would have been there.  Imagine the sound of the bellows…

Helmsdale (90)

the roar of the fire…

Lumsden turf to tools (11)

and the smell of Rhynie Woman baking, cattle being cooked, possibly a tannery not to mention the latrines!  The sound I miss the most is the sound of the wind, something that Barflats has a lot of and on very special days, the sound of birds and smell of the Gorse.

//embeds.audioboom.com/boos/3425396-listening-to-the-wind-on-barflats-field/embed/v4?eid=AQAAAIZ-u1V0RDQA gorse sunshine

Returning to the smithy, can you see any familiar shapes?  do you recognise any of the tools in the Symbol Stones? like this one at Abernethy in Perthshire?  what do you see?  a tuning fork, hammer, anvil? or something else?  http://canmore.org.uk/collection/936493

Helmsdale (89)

Perhaps us Picts weren’t that different from the people of today?  even though you’ve moved on in your making techniques the traditional crafts were around for thousands of years before the industrial revolution.  ‘Modernisation’ broke the tasks of making into their component parts and aimed, in the pursuit of profit, to disconnect people from making objects and ultimately their connection to where they were made completely.  What would happen if you had to go back to this way of working in the future?  How would you manage?

Have a look at some of today’s Traditional Skilled Makers in the Northern Picts area, these skills continue to be used and could link back directly to the Picts and other groups of crafts people that lived before and after us in the landscape.

Pictish technology: Something old and something new

Going beyond Rhynie….

If you’ve made the effort to come all the way to Rhynie, it would be rude not to find out more about the area surrounding my field and the other symbol stones.

34 Rhynie from Stone circle  (57)
Rhynie village and Tap o’ Noth taken from the Cottown

Rhynie is situated in the AB54 postal area in the far north west of Aberdeenshire, it is a place with a deep history: from the earliest geological evidence of cellular plants 410million years ago[1], to evidence of a long history of human habitation ranging back to the Neolithic Period (4000 – 2500BC)[2].  Traces of human habitation are found in the area’s recumbent stone circles, standing stones, Roman battles, Pictish symbol stones, churches, castles, architecture, beautiful natural history and evidence of pre ‘improvement’ features in the landscape.  This area of Aberdeenshire lies adjacent to the Moray region, part of Highlands and Islands and out with the highly supported and promoted areas of the Cairngorm National Park, Deeside, Whisky and Victoria Tourist Trails.

Putting Rhynie right in the centre of things and the context amongst other pictish centres
Putting Rhynie right in the centre of things and the context amongst other pictish centres

The area offers the visitor and community an amazing place to live and work.  There are a whisky distilleries, added value food producers, the spiritual home of the Gordon Highlanders, a car club, train and transport links, hundreds of social groups and clubs and an interesting cultural corridor that runs from North to South of the area[3].  Employment is mainly dominated by Forestry, Agriculture and public services and a growing number of creative industries.  However, accommodation is in short supply, which can lead to higher prices and with few new houses being built it is thought that the lack of growing communities is restricting the further enhancement and development of the area.

makay of uganda
sign to commemorate Mackay of Uganda. The church he grew up in is one of four church buildings in Rhynie

Around the time of Culloden[4], during the early part of the Industrial Revolution, Huntly (the area’s market and administrative town) was at the center of weaving and spinning and was responsible for a third of linen production in Scotland[5].  However with the introduction of cotton from America and the Napoleonic Wars, the areas importance declined.  Despite this change in fortune Huntly and its districts thrived and supported by the train network was a thriving centre for leather, cloth, machine works, beer, sport and fashion which attracted the fashionable, intellectual and philanthropic.  The patrons who grew the town and its wide range of schools and community groups also travelled throughout the world; taking newspapers to China[6], music[7] and literature[8] to the heart of academia and missionaries and engineers to the ‘developing’ world[9].

Huntly in the 19th Century, looking towards the Clachmach and Rhynie 9 miles to the south.

Since the 1980s and the closure of a few major employers in the area AB54 is in a transition period[10]; shops are closing and the town and surrounding district is dominated by two large supermarkets, charity and empty shops, a shortage of housing, properties that require investment and a closed museum.  Tourism is slowly taking hold with a wide range of outdoor sporting facilities, fishing, wedding venues, estate activities and Huntly Castle, however visitors are generally bussed in and out spending little time in the surrounding villages or town.  Without facilities, available houses and reasons to attract people to the area, there is little to encourage new people to gaze, linger and share their experience of the AB54 area with the outside world.

25 Leith Hall (9)
Wolfstone (http://canmore.org.uk/site/18163/newbigging-leslie) found at Newbigging Farm, Leslie now installed at Leith Hall, 4 miles from Rhynie.

Despite the economic and geographical challenges, the area’s rich history, sporting and cultural facilities, train links and community participation all present opportunities for the future of the AB54 area.  It is becoming increasingly apparent that the AB54 area has a lot to offer the visitor and community and perhaps it should be promoted more widely[11].  With the range and diversity of history, natural resources and outdoor facilities Rhynie and AB54 have a lot of potential, which could help develop and sustain the area now and into the future.  I want to return and would love if you came and visited as well.

[1] Rhynie Chert was found in Windyfield at the base of Tap o’ Noth on the outskirts of Rhynie dating back to 400 – 412Million years ago.  For more information take a look at the Rhynie Chert Learning Resource Site http://www.abdn.ac.uk/rhynie/.  The Chert is one of Rhynie’s many interesting geological features.

[2] Although there is evidence of Mesolithic (8000 – 4000BC) habitation in Aberdeenshire there are no finds reported on the Aberdeenshire Council’s Sites and Monument’s Records in Rhynie, however there are a number of Neolithic (4000 – 2500BC) features found in Rhynie, indicating that the area was inhabited during this period.  The most interesting feature is that of Wormy Hillock a Class I Henge Monument within the boundaries of Rhynie Parish http://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/smrpub/shire/detail.aspx?refno=NJ43SW0001

[3] A quote from a discussion with Jason Williamson, Exhibitions Manager at Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums.  He was referring to Deveron Arts in Huntly, Rhynie Woman in Rhynie and Scottish Sculpture Workshop in Lumsden.

[4] http://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/built_heritage/HuntlyConservationAreaReviewPublicConsultationv3.pdf

[5] In 1730-40s ‘Huntly accounted for about one-third of all the linen cloth produced in the country, worth £40,000 to £50,000 per annum.’ (Scott, 1997, pp. 96, 5)

[6] James Legge (1815 – 1897) http://www.scotsman.com/news/james-legge-the-chinese-connection-1-776306

[7] Ronald Centre (1913 – 1973) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronald_Center

[8] George MacDonald (1824 -1905) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_MacDonald

[9] Alexander MacKay (1849 – 1890) was born in Rhynie and introduced engineering and Christianity to Uganda.  He is celebrated by the people of Uganda. http://www.rhynie.net/news/mackay-of-uganda/

[10] Rhynie falls within the administration area of Marr – and local rural partnerships involving volunteers have been set up to‘work with and promote the common issues affecting the local communities, and work to empower, support and help develop community groups’. http://www.ouraberdeenshire.org.uk/marr?id=345

[11] http://www.acsef.co.uk/uploads/fileUploads/Final%20ACSTP%20Strategy.pdf  Despite the economic and geographical challenges, the area’s rich history, sporting and cultural abilities, train station and community involvement, present opportunities for the future of the AB54 area

Going beyond Rhynie….