January 2020 – the Romans

Our latest Ayrshire Young Archaeologist Club (Ayrshire YAC) session focussed on the Romans in Scotland. We learned about what the Romans left behind and were impressed by how many things today were originally used by the Romans. Some of these things include straight roads, central heating and baths.

Our young archaeologists took part in a few craft activities including making their own mosaics and trying their hand at making and using Roman ink. We practiced writing with our homemade ink in Roman characters and using some Latin phrases.

We also had some fun with the tablets onto which we had downloaded the game developed by Historic Environment Scotland, ‘Go Roman’. The ‘Go Roman’ game allowed our young archaeologists to wander around a digitised version of the Bar Hill Roman Fort. They could also select if they wanted to explore as a slave or a soldier and had different tasks and quests to do based on their roles. More information about this app can be found here:

November 2019 – Field Trip

Our YAs are very enthusiastic and we are delighted at how well our first year as a YAC is going. As a special thank you, we arranged to take our YAs on a field trip to the University of Glasgow Archaeology Department.

With funding we received to start our YAC, we were able to take the YAs via public transport and got to experience the train and the subway (which was a fun and new experience for most of them).

We met Dr Kenny Brophy, Senior Archaeology Lecturer who led us on a fascinating tour around the department. We got to experience what it would be like being a student at UoG and even got to take part in a lecture! The lecture was fascinating and focussed on some gruesome facts and stories from prehistory.

We were also lucky enough to get a chance to handle some really great artefacts and do some finds washing (which is always a favourite for our YAs).

We really had an amazing time and cannot thank Kenny and Jan enough for their time, patience and effort! It is great to be able to give our YAs these experiences and would not be able to do it without the kindness and generosity of others.

Our YAs got the chance to tell us what their favourite part of the day was:

My favourite part of today was cleaning the stones. I found it really fun and seeing all of the archaeological things. And I also liked the train because I barely every go on one.”

“My favourite thing of the field trip was 1. the train ride, 2. the tour, 3. cleaning the stuff and I thought it was a really fun experience.”

“All of it because I did not know what I liked.”

“I enjoyed cleaning the rocks and glass because it was interesting. :)”

“My favourite part of the annual YAC trip was the part where Kenny was giving us the talk about the bodies. I found it very interesting and fun to learn about. Overall I really enjoyed the whole trip and hope to go on another one soon.”

“My favourite thing was the subway train and the Krispy Kreme donuts.”

“My favourite part of the trip was the finds cleaning because it was very interesting. The chairs were also comfy and cool and the train because it was a great experience.”

“The fast train [subway] because I have only been on a train 3 times before.”

Ayrshire YAC Young archaeologists 2019-20

October Session – Discovering the Bronze and Iron Ages

Our October session focussed on the Bronze and Iron Ages in Scotland. The Bronze Age is thought to have lasted from around 2300BC-800BC and the Iron Age from around 800BC-43BC. In most places there will be overlap and it is often very difficult to define exact dates for these periods.

Our YAs took part in a number of activities which explored these prehistoric periods. We measured out the footprint of the Iron Age roundhouses that used to be on Castle Hill, marking them out with pin flags. These houses were located under what is now the grassy area at the front of the castle, within the barmkin wall.

After marking out the locations of the houses, we investigated how they might have made their walls or floors. We learned to make hurdle panels using different types of branches. This was a great activity which all of our YAs thoroughly enjoyed. After practising our hurdling skills, we then made some prehistoric string from flax and nettles. These would have been common materials used in the process of making clothing and other fabrics. We finished off by learning all about plant dyes & weaving fabric with looms.

At lot of the time, Dundonald Castle’s prehistoric past is often forgotten about and it was great to be able to explore it with our YAs. We are hoping to introduce these types of activities to our visitors and enhance their experience too. It is often easy to forget about things we cannot see under our feet and focus on the fascinating upstanding castle instead.

September 2019

Our YA’s had a very busy session on Sunday! We were lucky enough to be able to take part in Historic Environment Scotland’s ‘Diggin Dundonald’ event where we got to speak to some re-enactors, do some jousting and saw musket fire!

We then got into the trenches for some good old archaeological digging in Trench 1 where the YA’s put their excavation skills to good use. This is the second time that our YA’s have had to chance to excavate in real trenches this year, and we are so excited to be able to offer these opportunities to young people.

During this session our YAs were able to experience a number of hands-on and practical activities where they were able to put their own skills to good use. This session also allowed them to see how a heritage event is put together, who is involved, what it entails and who it attracts. The YAs found this very interesting and a few had some good ideas for events in the future.

We are now half way through out first year as a YAC and have to say a huge thank you to everyone who has been involved so far! Our YAs have shown great commitment and enthusiasm from the start and continue to impress us with their skills and knowledge.

In our next session, at the end of October, we will be focusing on some more prehistory during the Bronze and Iron Ages in Scotland.

Finally, a big Thank you to our photographers on the day, you did a great job!

August Session – Ayrshire’s Prehistory

Our Young Archaeologists took a break in July and came back in August full of enthusiasm!

We were very lucky to be joined by Dr Kenny Brophy, Senior Lecturer in archaeology, at the University of Glasgow. Kenny came down to tell us all about the prehistory in our local area (and it was fascinating)!

We are very lucky in Dundonald to be surrounded by so much known (and still to be discovered) archaeology, spanning back many thousands of years.

The castle itself sits upon a known Iron Age hillfort which probably dates to somewhere around 1500BC at its earliest. However, castle hill is only one significant archaeological site in our quite undiscovered landscape. The well-known Shewalton Moor has thrown up a number of fascinating prehistoric finds, including arrowheads, stone tools and scrapers, pottery and more ( https://canmore.org.uk/search/site?SIMPLE_KEYWORD=shewalton ).

Other prehistoric sites in the local landscape include, Drybridge (standing stone and cursus monument), Dreghorn (Neolithic settlement), Kilmarnock (a number Neolithic settlements and farms), Barassie, Troon, Ayr (recent prehistoric settlement site discovered at Ayr Academy). These are only a few examples of the vast activity that was taking place in the early days of settlement in what we now call Ayrshire.

The YA’s were fascinated to be able to see the locations of some of these sites from standing on castle hill and they also learned some roles that they could have been placed in as a prehistoric person living here.

Another great activity we did during this session was the creation of ‘heritage plaques’, filled with fantastic facts about the history of Dundonald Castle, which we hope to be able to display around the castle itself.

Our prehistoric session was a great hit with the YA’s and next session we will get the chance to get digging in Dundonald Castle’s Excavations later in September.

If you would like more information about our Young Archaeology Club, or about the prehistory of our local area, please get in touch at archaeology@dundonaldcastle.org.uk.

June’s Session

Our YA’s had a fantastic session looking at some different types of recording after an excavation. As we had some excavation experience back in our May session, we thought it would be a good idea to look at how artefacts are then recorded.

We have some great examples of artefact drawing from all of the YA’s who chose to draw different artefacts including pot sherds, flint hand-axes, bones and teeth. Some of the drawings could even rival some professional artefact drawings!

We will be taking a summer break next month (July) and will return as usual for our session in August, where we will have a special guest joining us from the University of Glasgow to tell us all about prehistory in our local area.

Ayrshire YAC – May Session

What we got up to in May!

Our Young Archaeologists got their first experience of digging last month during the #DigDundonald2019 event which was organised by Historic Environment Scotland, CFA Archaeology and Friends of Dundonald Castle SCIO.

This was a fanastic 3-day event which focussed on digging a number of 1mx1m test pits around the village of Dundonald. This test pits were excavated in the local primary school, the church manse, local gardens and around Dundonald Castle.

This was a community event which saw many volunteers come and offer their support and turn their hands to digging, including our YAs!

Our YAs were lucky enough to get to dig in one of the local gardens where we managed to find a number of really interesting artefacts. Some finds included molten glass, marbles, pottery sherds and a few pipe bowls and stems.

Our YAs had an amazing time and will hopefully spend some time during their June session discussing skills and finds from the day.