Rubicon Geophysics on the Hunt for Scotland’s Early Church Sites

Rubicon are always keen to be involved in outreach projects, especially when it involves getting the local community involved. Our latest opportunity saw Rubicon Geophysics team up with Stirling County Council to explore two church sites in the city known as ‘Gateway to the Highlands.’ Rubicon’s Scott Harrison describes the work…

The beautiful site of Logie Old Kirk, Stirling, Scotland

The beautiful site of Logie Old Kirk, Stirling, Scotland- Scott is in the process of carrying out the survey

We were delighted to get the opportunity recently to work with Murray Cook of Stirling County Council as part of a research project looking at the sites of St. Ninian’s United Free Church in St. Ninians and Logie Old Kirk on the road to the Bridge of Allan. Not only did it give us an opportunity to showcase our unique geophysics carts, but it also allowed us to share these new techniques with the local community.

We were at the churches to see if there was any surviving evidence to suggest they rested on earlier religious sites, possibly stretching back to Roman times. Stirling actually spent a brief period as part of the Roman Empire, and for about 20 years in the 1st century AD was part of the northern frontier of the ‘civilized’ world. 

The pupils of St. Ninian's Primary School are shown how the Rubicon geophysics cart operates

The pupils of St. Ninian's Primary School are shown how the Rubicon geophysics cart operates

There is some circumstantial evidence to suggest that the sites may date to this period- both are associated with oval graveyards, often an indicator of an early site, and two Norse hogback stones are present at Logie, suggesting a date at least as far back as the 10th century. The placenames also provide a clue; St. Ninian’s was originally called ‘Eggles‘, a corruption of the Latin ‘Eccles’ or ‘Ecclesia’ meaning ‘Church’, while Logie may be a corruption of ‘Locus’, meaning ‘Place’ in Latin, and in this instance a possible holy place.

We were on the hunt for oval enclosing ditches that would provide evidence that these were indeed early sites. We were disappointed at St. Ninian’s, where modern interference prevented clear results. However, this gave us an opportunity to illustrate the techniques of archaeological geophysics to the pupils of St. Ninian’s Primary School, who demonstrated that they may make useful members of future archaeological survey teams!

The pupils of St. Ninian's Primary School show their enthusiasm as budding archaeological geophysicists!

The pupils of St. Ninian's Primary School show their enthusiasm as budding archaeological geophysicists!

Moving on to Logie Kirk we met up with the Logie Old Graveyard Group to examine the site. We came up with a strategy to traverse between the headstones within the graveyard to see could we locate any evidence for the enclosing ditch. The survey produced a number of anomalies that are of interest, and further work may revealed that one of them is the ditch we are hoping to find.

One of the Logie Old Kirk Society trying out the Rubicon Geophysics Cart

One of the Logie Old Graveyard Group trying out the Rubicon Geophysics Cart

As with the pupils at St. Ninian’s, the Logie Old Graveyard Group were eager to find out more about our equipment and how our geophysics cart works. They also helped with the work and had tried the cart out for themselves. One of the members was even kind enough to allow us to survey on her front lawn (as well as supplying a very welcome cup of tea and biscuits!).

Rubicon's initial survey data from Logie Old Church

Rubicon's initial survey data from Logie Old Church

We have carried out some initial processing of the work at Logie and have identified a possible circular arrangement of targets. We are hoping that in the future we can have a more detailed look at them to see if they will finally reveal the early origins of this impressive site. Many thanks to Murray Cook and everyone in Stirling for involving us in the project!

Posted in Archaeological Geophysics, Archaeology Scotland, Rubicon Heritage | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Recreating the Earliest Image of an Irish City: The Waterford Charter Roll

Rubicon Heritage Services were recently commissioned to examine the magnificent Waterford Charter Roll, housed in the Waterford Museum of Treasures. This faded document contains the earliest depiction of an Irish city, and it was the task of our graphics team to bring this image to life for the Cois tSiuire publication. This was the first time in 150 years that a detailed interpretation of the image had been attempted- Rubicon illustrator Sara Nylund describes the process for us. 

In the summer of 2010 Rubicon Heritage Services were asked by NRA Project Archaeologist James Eogan if our graphics team could attempt to create a reproduction of what the main scene from the Waterford Charter might have looked like in its heyday. This work was carried out for the  Cois tSiuire monograph, dealing with the archaeological excavations on the N25 Waterford bypass that were funded by the National Roads Authority and Waterford County Council.

The faded depiction of the City of Waterford on the Waterford Charter Roll, dated to c.1372. Photograph by Terry Murphy, Copyright Waterford Museum of Treasures.

The faded depiction of the City of Waterford on the Waterford Charter Roll, dated to c.1372. Photograph by Terry Murphy, Copyright Waterford Museum of Treasures.

The Waterford charter, or the Great Charter Roll, is dated to 1372 and is currently housed in the medieval gallery of Waterford Museum of Treasures. It was drawn up as a propaganda exercise by Waterford, most probably as a result of a long running dispute with New Ross over trade issues, in order to confirm charter status with then King Edward III.

On the image the King is depicted at the top of the roll receiving the key of the city from the sheriff and two bailiffs. Underneath this scene the medieval City of Waterford is painted, depicting features such as Churches, Reginald’s tower, whitewashed walls and brightly coloured roofs, all meant to highlight the city affluence. This roll is unique in Ireland and is the earliest depiction of an Irish city.

Our reproduction of the Great Roll image was based purely on a visual assessment of the charter, rather than any technological methods such as x-rays or infrared scanning. The process began with a comparison of the last major attempt to recreate this scene, a 19th century du Noyer drawing, with a modern photograph of the Charter. The two images were placed on top of each other in a digital format. Both versions were compared and the differences between the images were traced and recorded.

The 1860s Du Noyer Image digitally overlaid on the Charter

The 1860s Du Noyer Image digitally overlaid on the Charter

It quickly became apparent that our approach revealed previously unseen details of the medieval image. The Rubicon graphics team then examined the Charter ‘in the flesh’ to see if further information could be gleaned, and compared this data with our knowledge of how the medieval city appeared in the 14th century.

The initial sketching of the two images, undertaken by Rubicon's Jonathan Millar

The initial sketching of the two images, undertaken by Rubicon's Jonathan Millar

All the data collected from the field trip was brought back to the office and incorporated into the developing sketch. After a final layout was  agreed on and all features of the map had been sketched in, the image was worked up digitally in a style aimed to mimic, rather than replicate, the charter scene. The image was finally submitted for review and sent to print, and it now graces the pages of the Cois tSiuire monograph. It is hoped the finished reconstruction breathes new life into what is a truly remarkable medieval image; it was certainly a great privilege for the Rubicon team to work with such a significant and important object.

The final reproduction of the image of the City of Waterford, by Rubicon's Sara Nylund. Our work revealed important new detail including a previously unseen bridge, and additional wildlife.

The final reproduction of the image of the City of Waterford, by Rubicon's Sara Nylund. Our work revealed important new detail including a previously unseen bridge, and additional wildlife.

Posted in Medieval Archaeology, Rubicon Heritage | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Book Launch: Cois tSiúire and Rubicon’s Work on the Waterford Bypass

Monday night saw the official launch of Cois tSiúire: 9000 years of human settlement in the Lower Suir Valley, the 8thScheme Monograph to be published by the National Roads Authority (NRA). Rubicon were one of the archaeological contractors on the scheme, excavating a number of important sites in this part of Co. Waterford. This is the first in a series of scheme monographs in which we have had an opportunity to publish our work. We were also heavily involved in the visual aspect of the publication, and we were very pleased that the NRA selected Rubicon to format and standardize all the archaeological graphics for the book.

Rubicon MD Colm Moloney, Mayor of Waterford Pat Hayes and Rubicon Director Damian Shiels at the launch of 'Cois tSuire'

The launch took place in the Large Room of Waterford City Hall, and was hosted by the Chairman and Board of the Waterford Museum of Treasures and the NRA. The evening was opened by James Eogan, NRA Project Archaeologist for the N25 Waterford Bypass Scheme. Subsequent speakers included the Lord Mayor of Waterford, Pat Hayes and the CEO of the National Roads Authority, Fred Barry. The book was officially launched by Dr. Maurice Hurley, one of the leading archaeologists in Ireland.

Dr. Maurice Hurley, Rubicon MD Colm Moloney, CEO of the NRA  and Rubicon Director Damian Shiels at the launch of 'Cois tSuire'

Dr. Maurice Hurley, Rubicon MD Colm Moloney, CEO of the NRA Fred Barry and Rubicon Director Damian Shiels at the launch of 'Cois tSuire'

Further entertainment was then provided by Soprano Anna-Marie Doyle, accompanied by Maeve O’Callaghan on piano, performing a touching rendition of Cailín ó chois tSiúire mé (I am a girl from the Suir-side) –a very suitable Irish folk song given the occasion.

Simon Stronach, NRA Project Archaeologist James Eogan and Rubicon Graphics Manager Jonathan Millar at the launch of 'Cois tSuire'

Simon Stronach, NRA Project Archaeologist James Eogan and Rubicon Graphics Manager Jonathan Millar at the launch of 'Cois tSuire'

Cois tSiúire: 9000 years of human settlement in the Lower Suir Valley is an excellent book, presenting the results of the N25 Waterford Bypass Scheme in a popular and accessible format for public consumption. The monograph contains 148 colour  illustrations and maps and tells the story of the archaeological landscape around Waterford in a refreshing and straightforward style. Rubicon Heritage are proud to have been involved with it, the first of many collaborations in print between the company and the National Roads Authority.

Rubicon Operations Manager Brian MacDomhnaill with Colm 'I'm not going to touch the red wine' Moloney, MD of Rubicon at the launch of 'Cois tSuire'

Rubicon Operations Manager Brian MacDomhnaill with Colm 'I'm not going to touch the red wine' Moloney, MD of Rubicon at the launch of 'Cois tSuire'

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Story of Ireland Nominated For IFTA Award

The joint BBC/RTE production Story of Ireland presented by Fergal Keane has been nominated for an Irish Film and Television Academy award in the ‘Factual Programme’ Category. The awards ceremony takes place on 11th February. The programme charted the history of the island from earliest times through to the present day.

Rubicon’s Damian Shiels was involved in the segment of the programme that dealt with the 1601 Siege and Battle of Kinsale, Co. Cork. The company would like to wish the Story of Ireland team and Fergal the best of luck in the award ceremony!

The Story of Ireland team and Fergal Keane filming with Damian in Charles Fort, Kinsale

The Story of Ireland team and Fergal Keane filming with Damian in Charles Fort, Kinsale

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A Day in the Life of Caherduggan Castle, 15th April 1644

As the excavation at Caherduggan Castle winds down we are now concentrating on post-excavation works and trying to find out more about the people who occupied the site. With that in mind we have begun to explore the history of the Castle in the 1640s, when Ireland was engulfed in a conflict known as the Eleven Years War. Some of our finds, and possibly some of our structures, may date from this period.

The wars that erupted in 1641 continued into the 1650s, and would be characterized by an extreme level of religiously motivated violence between Catholics and Protestants. The final stages of the conflict would see the Parliamentarian Army of Oliver Cromwell come to Ireland and eventually crush all opposition. Caherduggan Castle was not immune to the events of this turbulent time; the war would come all to close in the early months of 1644.

During this period a series of witness testimonies were recorded that described events regarding the alleged activities of Irish insurgents. They survive to this day, and form an amazing body of documents known as the 1641 Depositions. These accounts give us a remarkable insight into what was taking place at Caherduggan on one day during the Eleven Years War.

There are a number of depositions which mention Caherduggan, but perhaps the most dramatic are those of Patrick Morrell and Elizabeth White; both lived there when, on the 15th April 1644, the Irish attacked. 36-year-old Morrell stated that he was present when the Irish party, led by Redmond Roche, seized the castle by surprise with 7 or 8 men. During the fight one of the occupants, ‘Dermot O’Brother’, was shot dead. Roche kept possession of the the castle and also kept a number of the occupants as hostages. Morrell recognized some of the assailants who accompanied Roche as ‘Redmond Danuane of Dannanstowne’, ‘John Roche of Ballynamoney’ and John’s son ‘Morris’.

The remains of Caherduggan Castle, where Patrick Morrell, Elizabeth White and Dermot O'Brother lived in April 1644

The remains of Caherduggan Castle, where Patrick Morrell, Elizabeth White and Dermot O'Brother lived in April 1644

Elizabeth White was 40 years old at the time of the attack, and also remembered ‘Dermot O’Brother’ a Protestant, being shot and killed on the bridge beside the Castle. She was able to identify the man who fired the shot, as ‘one Phelim’. She corroborates Morrell’s account of those Irish present, stating that about an hour after Caherduggan was taken she saw Redmond Roche in the presence of ‘John Roch of Ballynamony’, John’s son ‘Moroice Roch’ and ‘Redmond Dannan’. However she claims that ‘some of the Garvans’ and ‘some of Garrett Nagle’s sonns’ were also involved. Worse was to come for Elizabeth and her family following Caherduggan’s capture, as her husband John Brice was taken before Redmond Roche and ordered to hand over all his money, which she says was £30.

The testimonies of Patrick Morrell and Elizabeth White bring to life a dramatic day in the life of Caherduggan Castle, when Irish Confederates attacked on the 15th April 1644. It also highlights the personalized and local nature of this bloody conflict, where many of the individuals on opposing sides knew each other. We have only begun to scratch the surface of historical research on Caherduggan; further work will reveal details that we will combine with the results of our excavations to provide us with a unique glimpse into the story of this fascinating North Cork site.

References & Further Reading

1641 Depositions

Posted in Cork County Council, Post Medieval Archaeology, Rubicon Heritage | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Biting the Bullet: The Archaeology of ‘Musketballs’

The ‘musketball’ was for many decades one of the most neglected of archaeological finds. They often went virtually unanalysed, tucked away at the back of a finds report and warranting only a fleeting mention. However, the growth of battlefield and conflict archaeology has led to a wave of new research that is rapidly changing our view of these little objects, and what they can tell us about momentous events in the past.

A Hoard of 2,701 lead bullets from Ballymore, Co. Westmeath. Concealed by Jacobites prior to their surrender here in 1691. Now on display in the National Museum of Ireland 'Soldiers & Chiefs' Exhibition

A hoard of 2,701 lead bullets illegally metal detected at Ballymore, Co. Westmeath. Probably concealed by Jacobites prior to their surrender to Williamite forces here in 1691. Now on display in the National Museum of Ireland 'Soldiers & Chiefs' Exhibition

Many ‘musketballs’ are not actually from muskets at all. The musket was in fact just one of a range of guns that fired a lead bullet. Different firearms used bullets of different sizes and weight, and often different types of gun were carried by different troop types. For example, in the late 17th century infantry usually carried heavy muskets, while mounted infantry called dragoons wielded carbines, which fired a slightly smaller ball. Cavalry and officers often employed the much smaller pistol as their firearm. It is often the case that analysis of bullet types can tell us about the range of different soldiers present at a particular site.

One of the most important aspects of lead bullet analysis is knowing where the ball has come from. If the exact findspot of each bullet is not carefully recorded archaeologically, a valuable piece of information is destroyed. The location of bullets on a battlefield provides us with a unique plan of how a fight progressed; it can reveal who fought where, what type of soldiers they were, and where the fighting was hardest. Often this information can completely re-write previous interpretations which were based solely on historical accounts. If the lead bullets are removed from their context without proper recording all this information is lost.

Lead Shot recovered from the Battlefield of Aughrim, Co. Galway

Lead shot recovered from the Battlefield of Aughrim, Co. Galway, and representing an attack on fleeing Jacobite soldiers

Above are some lead bullets we analysed for the National Roads Authority on behalf of Galway County Council. They were fired during the Battle of Aughrim, Co. Galway, in 1691, the bloodiest battle in Irish history. The size and weight of the bullets suggest that a mix of infantry and dragoons/cavalry fought here. Because we knew the exact findspot of each bullet we could see a pattern emerge, suggesting that this was evidence for a rout that we knew took place. When the Jacobite army broke, they attempted to flee to a nearby bog to escape rampaging Williamite cavalry. This small assemblage is surviving evidence of this desperate attempt to escape the slaughter.

The Siege and Battle of Kinsale, 1601. The Lord Deputy's Camp is in the centre left of the image.

The Siege and Battle of Kinsale, 1601. The Lord Deputy's Camp is in the centre left of the image (Pacata Hibernia, 1633)

We are also now getting better at recognising when lead bullets have been fired, and sometimes what they have hit. As well as this bullets can provide us with information about how and when they were made. The Kinsale Battlefield Project carried out a series of surveys on the site of the English camps in Kinsale, Co. Cork, where the siege and battle of Kinsale was fought in 1601 between the English and the Spanish/Gaelic Irish. The photo below is of lead shot we found at the Lord Deputy’s main Siege Camp. The terrible conditions during the siege that winter made the camps a sea of mud, an environment in which soldiers succumbed to cold and disease at a frightening rate ‘dying by dozens on a heap’ as one contemporary chronicler related. Analysis indicated that these bullets were made on site by these men. The bullets had not been fired, and some of them showed defects in the manufacturing process, possibly a result of the weather. This suggested to us that the soldiers were making bullets themselves around their campfires, and that these bullets were dropped in the mud and never recovered. Their presence indicates that a significant archaeological siege landscape survives in this part of Kinsale.

Lead Shot from the 1601 English Siege Camp at Kinsale, Co. Cork. The bullets have not formed properly in the mould, possibly a result of adverse weather conditions

Lead shot from the 1601 English Lord Deputy's Siege Camp at Kinsale, Co. Cork. The bullets have not formed properly in the mould, possibly a result of adverse weather conditions during manufacture

Another site Rubicon excavated was at Castledonovan Castle, in West Cork. This work was carried out on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government. In 1650 this castle was attacked by Parliamentarian troops. The historical details of the assault are sketchy, but an assemblage of 28 lead shot from a destruction layer excavated within the castle provides us with some clues as to events. It is clear that a small number of the bullets were fired, indicating that there may have been some minor skirmishing. Many of the unfired bullets were from the same type of gun, in this case a musket. It is probable that some of the bullets were made in the same mould. The location of these bullets in a burnt layer together with the sparse evidence for fired shot suggests the castle capitulated quickly before it’s destruction. The defenders ammunition was left in place after the garrison had either fled or surrendered.

Castledonovan, Co. Cork

Castledonovan Castle, Co. Cork, attacked by Parliamentarian forces in 1650

Sites such as these illustrate the value of lead bullet analysis. These little objects reveal information about moments in time that were extremely violent and traumatic for those involved. They were often deposited over just a few minutes or hours, in many cases as part of a famous historic event that we remain aware of today. There remains something distinctly personal about these objects. Each was designed to kill or maim, and many that we recover did just that. Many were last held by an individual who was in all probability experiencing extreme stress as they participated in deadly conflict. These bullets are objects that deserve our respect; their analysis can unlock details of our violent past that bring us closer to understanding the experience of our ancestors, and allows us to reveal events which were often the defining moment of their lives.

Lead Shot assemblage from the 1650 attack on Castledonovan Castle, Co. Cork

Lead shot assemblage from the 1650 attack on Castledonovan Castle, Co. Cork

Posted in Post Medieval Archaeology, Rubicon Heritage | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Cork Archaeology Firm Crosses its Rubicon

Shareholders of Rubicon Heritage Services Ltd (l-r) Colm Moloney, Louise Baker, Ross MacLeod & Damian Shiels

Shareholders of Rubicon Heritage Services Ltd (l-r) Colm Moloney, Louise Baker, Ross MacLeod & Damian Shiels

Headland Archaeology (Ireland) Ltd, Ireland’s premier archaeological consultancy is delighted to announce a fresh start as it is now under new ownership. The company management has agreed terms with Headland Group Ltd for the purchase of the subsidiary. This will be rebranded as Rubicon Heritage Services over the next three months.

The new owners, all based in the company’s HQ in Little Island near Cork, are confident about the future, with plans to break the UK market, valued at approximately £60m per annum. The company will retain all of its permanent staff and has just recruited an additional fifteen temporary archaeologists to cope with a significant increase in new contracts in Ireland.

The company has extensive experience in providing archaeological services and advice to the construction and development industry and has the full suite of archaeological services – the only ‘one-stop-shop’ for archaeology on the island of Ireland.

Director of Rubicon, Colm Moloney said “These are very exciting times. We are beginning to see real growth again in Ireland in our industry, with a significant increase in demand for archaeological services in the domestic market over the last few months. Our new independent status allows us to move into the UK market for the first time in our trading history, so we are determined to grab this opportunity and really grow again!”  

“Due to our previous involvement in the UK within the Headland Group, forging strong relationships over a decade, we are well positioned to break into the UK market and we are committed to making this happen within the next twelve months. This will mean big things for us, big things for archaeology in this country.” he continued.

Headland Archaeology, soon to be Rubicon Heritage Services, is currently running field projects in counties Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary, Sligo, Galway, Dublin and Louth and are in the final stages of production of eight books on projects undertaken over the last few years.

The new shareholders are Colm Moloney, Damian Shiels, Ross Macleod and Louise Baker.

Posted in Press Release, Rubicon Heritage | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments