A wide choice of topics covered from the dawn of history right up to present days . Many of these have a wider relevance than purely within the context of Strathearn . The author's viewpoint often is at variance with the accepted opinions espoused elsewhere eg The Jacobite Uprisings and The Reformation .
Tuesday, 18 June 2013
The History of the Broich Cursus Gradually Unravels !
Dr Brophy points out the extent of the Broich Cursus
Crieff High School pupils lay out the plan of the Pittentian Round house
The growing importance of
Strathearn as an area of significance ina Neolithic Scotlandwas further
emphasised last week with thevisit to
the Campussiteby Dr KennethBrophy of GlasgowUniversity and his archaeologist colleague Ally Becket of Northlight
Heritage . The visitationwaspart of the Perth and Kinross Archaeology Month organisedby the Perth and Kinross Heritage trust . Apartfrom thesignificance of the Cursus datingback to 3000 BC a number of recent findsthroughout the Strath have nowfirmly established this part of Perthshire as something uniquein the long path to Scottish nationhood .
Ally Becket discussed in
some detail thePittentian roundhouselocatedduring thepre construction work on the Beaulyto Denny overhead power line . It was
graphically illustratedto an
appreciative audience thesize andtype of constructioninvolved .Thanksto thecooperationof the pupils of
Crieff High School , a layout wasconstructed usinga numberoflarge potsto illustrate the positioning of the post
holes . The captivatedaudiencethen climbedtheadjoining embankment to the
school rugby pitchandwere ableto look down on the layout and appreciatejust how large it was actually .
Earlierthe audience listenedattentively to Ken Brophyashe outlinedwhat wasnow known about the Broich Cursus . Dr Brophyis
part of the SERF (Strathearn Environs and Royal Forteviot ) teamwho havecarriedout aconsiderable amount ofexcavationandstudyof the areasince 2006 and is a renownedauthority on the Cursus that haveso far been discovered in Scotland
Between 2006 and 2010 Alder and SUAT Ltd had investigated
what is nowknown as the Broich Cursus
monument. Broadly speaking Cursus monuments are long Neolithic enclosures
bounded by ditches, banks or pits usually built on gravelly river terraces. The
are many interpretations for these structures from ceremonial processional ways
to strips of land where people were prohibited to walk, but the truth is that
the function of these monuments is poorly understood.
The Broich Cursus was
originally identified from aerial photographs showing a 400m long crop mark in
a field south of Broich
Crieff. The monument comprised two ditches (135-105m apart) which diverged
slightly as the monument extended north. North of the Broich Road the monument could not be traced on aerial photos,
the western ditch crossing a grassy field and the eastern seeming to follow Pittenzie Road.
the land north of Broich Road became the focus for the development
of the new community campus, an archaeological investigation took place to try
to locate traces of the Cursus. In the first phase of work (2006) trial
trenching successfully located the western ditch, but unfortunately the eastern
ditch was not found which suggested that it presumably ran along land now
occupied by Pittenzie Road. In 2007 the turf and topsoil covering
the western ditch was stripped right back, exposing a 147m length. No
associated bank had survived, a sign that the field may have been ploughed over
after the monument went out of use. The ditch varied in depth from between
0.56m deep to just 4cm deep, and was 1.5-2.5m wide and had gently sloping,
roughly symmetrical sides and a flat to concave base. It was most shallow in
the northern-most excavated portion.
2008, the ditch was again revealed and excavated during the construction of the
new campus north of the old railway line. The ditch here was deeper than
expected (up to 0.42m) but most importantly, contained hazel charcoal, giving
dates showing that it had started to infill by the middle of the 4th millenium
school is located to the north It was demolished about 2009
focus of the 2009 investigations was to find out how far the western ditch had
survived under the playing fields towards CrieffHigh School (the 1960s school, now demolished).
Surprisingly the ditch was found to have survived right up to the school walls
under a tarmac playground. The dimensions of the ditch were roughly as they had
been in the 2008 phase (2.2m wide and up to 0.4m deep). One interesting
discovery from this phase was that the ditch bent eastwards here, suggesting
that the ditch in this area was approaching the northern terminal of the
Cursus. Terminals of cursus monuments are generally considered important as
they seem to be the focus for ritual activity . Unfortunately when trial trenches were placed across the demolished school in 2010 it was found that the construction of the old school
had destroyed any evidence of the monument's terminal.
Brophy pointed out that the northern end of the Cursuswouldhave provided aspectacularview of the rising hills above Crieff and
that theoverall size was such that
itcould well have taken some
decadesto construct .
of the Broich Cursus across the River Earnis another cursus at Bennybeg on the road to Muthill. Once again one of the keypointsis that it adjoinsa spectacular
item of scenic grandeur , namelytherock face which nowadaysattractsyoung trainee climbersfrom all
isstill to be learnedfrom these monumentsfrom the pastwhich have largely lain undisturbed sincepre history . They have addedyetmore to the fascination of Strathearn’s ancient past .