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.
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 Northern Picts and our prominence in the North East of this island, which is now called Scotland.
Lovely to see one of the many stones of Tillytarmont out in the (semi) open again
what a beautiful horn decoration, we were very skilled craftspeople using iron and silver when we could get it
I love this wee guy, a whetstone used for sharpening a sword or blade
amazing silver chain which is part of the Gaulcross hoard near Portsoy only 29 miles from Rhynie
The silverwork looks good enough to wear today
Rhynie uncovered some beautiful artefacts in the past, like this pin, hopefully this year uncovers some more
The reconstructed axe created by SSW
The amazing talents of Rhynie Woman and their network of friends and supporters, great work in such a small community
looks familiar? a visual reconstruction of an encampment in Rhynie with me welcoming everyone in
I know it’s not archaeology, but the archaeologists approve of the food Rhynie Woman create,
ingredients are gathered throughout the year to share with the community and archaeologists at events and pop up cafes
i have to admit that i’ve got a very sweet tooth, love the flavours of shards and buns Rhynie Woman come up with
radio carbon date squares, what more could you ask for
those Romans, what did they ever do for us? well the minted coin cakes are one thing I’ll allow
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!
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.
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!
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.
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, to evidence of a long history of human habitation ranging back to the Neolithic Period (4000 – 2500BC). 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.
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. 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.
Around the time of Culloden, 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. 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, music and literature to the heart of academia and missionaries and engineers to the ‘developing’ world.
Since the 1980s and the closure of a few major employers in the area AB54 is in a transition period; 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.
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. 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.
 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.
 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
 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.
 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