In the News….

P&J coverageP&J 08.09.15

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A student at Gray’s School of Art has attempted to get under the skin of one of the country’s most enigmatic figures as part of her Masters project.

Anne Murray (Photo Credit: Ray Smith)Anne Murray, a creative practitioner about to finish an MFAContextualised Practice degree at Gray’s, has created a 21st century persona, complete with blog, Twitter account and film, for Rhynie Man – the name bestowed on a six-foot tall Pictish stone carving of a warrior discovered in the Aberdeenshire village in 1978.

The project, which was launched a year ago, has seen Anne working to raise awareness of Rhynie Man – which stands in the Aberdeenshire Council headquarters at Woodhill House in Aberdeen – among the local community via social media channels and engagement with local schoolchildren on various arts projects.

She has also created a map of the area which highlights areas of historical significance and set out on a ‘pilgrimage’ tracing a route from Aberdeen to Rhynie as a way of marking the stone’s spiritual return to the village.

An archaeological dig is currently on-going in Rhynie as part of the bid to discover more about the stone’s origins and the significance of the site.

Anne said: “We know very little about the Picts and it appears they used other means of communication such as their enigmatic symbol stones. Archaeologists are at an early stage of learning about them and this creates the opportunity for artists to be creative and playful.

Rhynie Man“Working with the artist collective Rhynie Woman and Aberdeenshire Council, I first set out to create a stronger presence for Rhynie Man in the community and help create awareness of the stone and its significance.

“This took the form of a blog, written in the first person by Rhynie Man, as well as a Twitter account. I also spent a day with the local school children creating Valentine’s cards and poetry for Rhynie Man which were then hand delivered to him at Woodhill House.”

She added: “The route that I am walking as part of Rhynie Man’s spiritual journey home takes in a number of other standing stones with carved symbols.

“Using the images on these stones, I have created a story about Rhynie Man’s journey home featuring six of the symbols and also created laser etched ‘alms’ to give out along the route to passers-by, as was the tradition of pilgrims.”

A stop motion film – ‘Rhynie Man: The Movie’ – created by Anne to tell the story of the stone was screened in the village on August 31, which posed an open question to the community.

“It asks them what they want to happen to Rhynie Man,” Anne explained. “It is a way of opening up that conversation and the project up until this point has really been laying the groundwork for that debate. This is just the beginning of what will be an on-going project. ”

Anne’s work is currently on display at Gray’s School of Art as part of the ‘C³: Collaborative Contextual Conversations’ exhibition showcasing a range of work by current full and part time Masters students. The show runs until Friday, September 11.

“I have set up the space so that visitors are effectively entering Rhynie Man’s enclosure, as the man himself,” Anne said. “As you come into the space, there is a full sized vinyl cut out on the floor of Rhynie Man which is his shadow being thrown as he comes into the room, then people must trace his route home from Aberdeen to Rhynie.”

On display as part of the exhibition are a number of objects linked to the project, including a hand carved staff, the laser etched alms and the stop motion film.

Looking back at the Masters course, Anne said: “It has been hard work, no one can deny that. I have enjoyed being challenged and reflecting on my own practice and seeing how my art fits into the world – it has been a really, really useful experience.”

Release by
Jenny Rush Communications Officer | Design and Technology

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In the News….

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

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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.

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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.

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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

Visit to the dig site and some (potentially) very exciting news!!!!

A flying visit to the dig site today to introduce some University Lecturers to the Art of Archaeology and Rhynie.  The tour took in the proposed cycle route between Aberdeen and Rhynie visiting a few of the Pictish Symbol Stone sites on the way.

The Rhynie Man way - Full route

Thankfully it was lovely weather and we arrived to see Rhynie Woman Daisy picking Yarrow to put on top of the now famous pictish pizzas.  The site was easily spotted with the great signage and flags.

The approach from the north
The approach from the north

We found Rhynie Woman Debbi and Rachel busy preparing dough and the Pizza Oven. Whilst the kettle was whistling and the oven getting up to temperature we had time to have a quick guided tour with the archaeologists.

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Rhynie Woman Hayley’s lovely photos taken at the weekend of the entrance to our outstanding pop up museum, cafe and dig site
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Come and visit just follow the Rhynie Man and Woman signs – Hayley Keane Photography

We met with DrGN and he introduced us to the background and context of the site and the series of digs that have been taking place in Rhynie over the past 5 years.  As we started to smell the aroma of pictish pizza there was a lot of activity around the dig site and we took a closer look!

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Now the archaeologists tell us that this amount of stones is VERY unusual on this site, there are signs of a fire and something possibly being removed from this socket….now what could that be?  Archaeologists don’t want to speculate but they can’t help wonder if the socket held up something heavy, large and potentially kite shaped.  I wonder what that could be.

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I recognise those feet!!!!!

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and that handsome face!  No it’s not Fred, but Me!  who’d have thought.  Well it is important to remember we don’t know for certain, and I’m keeping quiet on the matter, but I’m sure the archaeologists will be measuring and calculating things over the next few days with a view to establishing whether this could be the socket hole of Rhynie Man.  Wouldn’t that be amazing!!!!

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There were some more interesting behaviours and use of material culture being demonstrated on site today.  I’ve observed a large increase in this kind of behaviour over recent years; the raised arm, the heads inclined towards each other, the cheesy grins and after the event the discussion of whether it is tweetable or suitable for facebook.  On this occasion it was a definite positive reaction.  No doubt the image will be found online and around the world quite soon on a computer near you.  Here is recorded an image of the ‘selfie’ as the event is called.  I would recommend further study of this behaviour.

Visit to the dig site and some (potentially) very exciting news!!!!

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

Throwback Thursday – Crafting Kingdoms The rise of the Northern Picts

This weeks Throwback Thursday takes us back to the depths of winter, January 2015 and the opening of The Crafting Kingdoms exhibition at Kings Museum, Aberdeen University, Aberdeen.

After our trip to Aberdeen on the dark and chilly night we were given a warm welcome by the volunteers and members of the team who installed and curated this amazing summary of the Northern Picts.

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 exhibition told the story of the Picts in, what is now, Scotland and then focused into the domain of the Northern Picts (where I come from).  It also highlighted the key find locations in the North East called Cé (pronounced ‘he’ as in S’he’ and Bennachie) which includes Tillytarmont, Gaulcross, Rhynie and Burghead (which could now possibly be augmented with the find at Dunnicaer in April 2015).  The exhibition was jointly curated between the Museum and Dr Gordon Nobel the lead archaeologist on the Northern Picts Project.

The gallery above shows the range and skill of craft(wo)manship that we had and were on show at the exhibition.  I don’t think the Romans were that complementary about us but I would argue that we knew what we liked, had highly developed aesthetic skills and sense of style and design.  We were also skilled traders and knew how to get hold of the odd bit of Roman silver when they weren’t looking!

Rhynie a very royal place, of course!
Rhynie a very royal place, of course!

It’s great to see that our history has not been forgotten, even though the archaeologists have not found that much of what we produced and how we lived.  The exploration is continuing and inspiring groups and communities like SSW and Rhynie Woman.  I’m happy in the knowledge that we won’t be forgotten, we just need to support these groups to make things happen.

the team getting ready to climb Dunnicaer!
the team getting ready to climb Dunnicaer!

There are lots of opportunities to get involved, whether it’s being involved in a dig, supporting a project or funding further research, so keep an eye on the Northern Picts facebook group and the Northern Picts Project website.  They are currently trying to raise funds to do some more digging at Dunnicaer:  on the sea stack, in the middle of the sea, with a big drop down off all sides, in the cold north wind where they need harnesses so they don’t blow away.  I’m off to calm down, I can’t cope with heights either; where’s one of Daisy’s Tap of Noth buns when you need one!

Throwback Thursday – Crafting Kingdoms The rise of the Northern Picts

Throwback Thursday : Valentines News

senior school cards and poetry

I introduced Anne to Bruce Mann, Aberdeenshire Council’s Archaeologist for Moray, Aberdeenshire, Aberdeen City and Angus.  Bruce and his small but perfectly formed team are responsible for making sure I’m well looked after.  They are based at Woodhill House but their jobs take them all over the four Local Authorities.  They are involved in a lot of different things, from planning applications to working out how best to care for buildings, sites and monuments under their care.  As I mentioned before, they are the ones to contact if you have found anything that falls into the category of Treasure Trove.

Bruce and his team received my valentines on my behalf, I think Bruce was a little taken a back, and possibly a little envious that I received more valentines than he did this year.

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The cards were then arranged and carefully curated by Claire and Bruce into an exhibition for the employees, volunteers and visitors to Woodhill House to visit on their way to the canteen.

card exhibition

An introduction to the exhibit was placed beside it as well.aberdeenshire-council-exhibition-information-001I’d like to thank Claire and Bruce for taking such good care of the children’s cards and for sharing them with everyone in the building, it means a lot to me to hear from my friends in Rhynie and that they still think of me fondly.  If you want to see more information and lots of lovely photos of their travels around the north east then follow their twitter feeds (sometimes I feature in their tweets as well) at @chh_bck and @diggermann17

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I couldn’t let the children think I hadn’t got the cards so I (ok, with a  little help from Bruce) sent them through something for them to work on. Can you work it out?

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Throwback Thursday : Valentines News

Lasers and learning about new technology

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As you are probably aware, us Picts were great with technology!  admittedly, it was mainly Iron working but we loved making things and Rhynie would have been filled with the ringing of the anvil and whoosh of the bellows.  The 21st Century is a little bit quieter, but equally as productive.  And as you can see above they love their symbols as well.

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It always amazes me how Archaeologists work with the two extremes of technology, on one hand they use field walking and digging and on the other they are working with the latest LIDAR surveys and Geophysical Scanning.  Today I was looking at things they use called computers, which in some ways reminded me of Ogham, with their 1 and 0s.  The latest technology available to use at @MAKEAberdeen included wonderful contraptions like laser scanners, 3D printers, digital embroidery machines and digital etching contraptions.  Back in the 600s we did similar things with metal, but used our own approaches – mould making, casting and etching with tools or possibly acid.

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The photo above is of an item found in the Norrie’s Law Hoard – an item made of silver with intricate etching. It looks as if it was made yesterday and could have been tooled or etched with acid.  The Pictish Stones site describes the Hoard as follows:

A hoard of silver found at Norrie’s Law, Fife in 1819 included two leaf-shaped metal plaques, engraved and enamelled with Pictish symbols, as well as decorated pins and other items. A fine silver chain, a serpent-like bracelet and more pins were discovered at Gaulcross, Banffshire in 1840.

Wooden Etches 6 symbolsThe amount of skill, work and eyesight that went into the silverwork is astonishing.  These discs of wood are etched using a powerful laser and took a few minutes to etch and cut, the silverwork above would have taken a really long time to make, not to mention the cost of the silver.  They must have been made for a very rich and special person in Pictland.

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As ever, how could I leave myself out!  This is a very special illustration of me for the very lovely Rhynie Woman, Daisy.  She is an exquisite baker and I’m looking forward to seeing myself on her lovely cookies.  Rhynie Man biscuits

Needless to say, I’ve got loads more ideas of gifts to make for Rhynie Woman and the people of Rhynie, tune in later this week for the second installment.  But in the meantime, here’s a teaser for future plans.

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Lasers and learning about new technology