Annual Report 2003-2004
The society organizes and hosts a varied programme of lectures each year between September and April. As usual our Annual Report provides an opportunity to recall the varied topics that have been covered by our guest speakers.
Until relatively recently, thinking about Scotland's Bronze Age has tended to be heavily influenced by the results of work carried out in the south of England. In his talk, Reconstructing the Bronze Age Landscape, Strat Halliday (RCAHMS) argued that recent work has shown that Scotland had its own story to tell.
Strat went on to explain that there is increasing evidence that permanent sedentary settlement may only have become widespread about 1000 BC. Prior to that, occupation of buildings appears to have been relatively spasmodic, perhaps lasting no more than from five to fifteen years, with no attempt at repair. The earlier farmers had a mobile existence, moving round the landscape in a cyclical process that has left sequences of building, farming and re-building traceable in the excavation record.
In October we were pleased to welcome Richard Welander (Historic Scotland), who gave an informative and entertaining talk about the chequered career of The Stone of Destiny—one of the most powerful symbols of Scottish nationhood.
Removed to London from its traditional home at Scone Abbey by Edward I of England in 1296, it was restored to Scotland in 1996. Today, the Stone of Destiny is now proudly displayed with the nation's other principal symbols of sovereignty, the ancient Honours of Scotland, in the mighty royal fortress of Edinburgh Castle.
In November, our guest speaker was well-known Egyptologist, Bill Manley, of Glasgow University and the National Museums of Scotland. Dr Manley gave an enthralling talk on the life and times of Tutankhamun, the Forgotten Pharaoh.
Although his death mask and name are known the world over, not much is known about him factually, and much has to be inferred. The new Kingdom Period of Egypt, which comprised the I8th-20th dynasties, ran from c1539-1069 BC. Tutankhamun was the last male member of the 18th dynasty. At this time, Egypt was the largest, richest, and most powerful nation in its known world, with its wealth based primarily on Nubian gold.
Tutankhamun was the son of a king, thought to be Akhenaten. We have no idea how old he was when he came to the throne, but he reigned for 10 years. During his reign Egypt was at war in Lebanon - though there are no texts to say if he was involved. We do not know how he died, but his age at death is estimated at 17-38. However, we do much about his burial.
Howard Carter's discovery of the truly magnificent tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings in 1928 was one of archaeology's defining moments. This was the only intact king's tomb of the New Kingdom Period ever to have been discovered, and it was full of priceless artifacts. The inner gold coffin is the largest piece of solid gold in the world.
In December, it was our turn to be guests at what has become our annual joint meeting with the Tweeddale Society. The occasion coincides with the Halkett Hendrie Memorial Lecture, and this year, the speaker was George Dalgleish, of the National Museums of Scotland, who gave an excellent presentation on Scottish silver under the intriguing title Silver and Silversmiths, from Castles to Camels.
In January, first speaker of the New Year was landscape historian John Harrison who spoke on Landscapes: the new local history in Scotland.
John introduced the audience to various aspects of documentary research, making showing how it is indispensable as a means of exploring and understanding the development of the landscape. As case studies, John drew on his own work in Central Scotland, including Grangemouth, Flanders Moss and the Ochils, before closing with an interim report on the initial results of archival research for our own Eddleston Parish Project
Our guest speaker in February was Rory McDonald, Heritage Officer in Economic Development and Environmental Planning department within Scottish Borders Council. Rory gave an excellent presentation entitled Archaeology and Planning. Working within the framework of the Archaeology & Countryside section, Rory is responsible for archaeology in die Borders, which has some known 12,000 sites, with 2300 of them in Peeblesshire. The sites cover some 10,000 years of history and he showed illustrations of the main types likely to be found during the different periods.
Rory then gave an insight into his role in die planning process, ranging from planning control to interpretation - and in this respect, the last few years have of course seen the publication of no less than five books in the popular series of on the history and archaeology of the Borders.
In March Richard Darrah gave us a fascinating talk on Reconstructing Bronze Age Boats. Richard has the distinction of being the Society's most far-travelled speaker so far, having come up to Peebles from Shropshire!
Nationally known as a specialist in wood technology, Richard principally talked about two similar but different craft, die Dover and North Ferriby boats, their backgrounds and the various methods used to build them and then to replicate them in modern times.
In 1992 when the Dover by-pass was being built, construction work revealed the perfectly preserved remains of a wooden boat in the mud six metres below ground surface. The boat was flat bottomed, made of oak, of sewn plank construction, the timbers being joined together with yew withies. Dated to c.1550 BC, it is one of the most important prehistoric boats ever discovered in Europe; it has been conserved and re-assembled to form die centrepiece of award-winning displays at Dover Museum.
The North Ferriby boat was found in the 1930s in Humberside and would have been used on the Humber - quite possibly as a ferry. It too was dated to cI5OO BC, also made of sewn oak planks, though differing in a number of the details of its construction.
Richard went on to describe how replicas of the boats were built and how this shed light on many aspects of the construction of the original boats. He explained how it was relatively easy to split massive oak trees with a diameter of over a metre simply with wooden tools and wedges. He and colleagues had replica bronze tools made and found when building the replica boats they found that these were the best tools for the job.
All in all, Richard's talk gave us all an insight into the technological skills of prehistoric boatbuilders of 3500 years ago. The Society is especially grateful to Jock Hooper for making this lecture possible.
Bob Knox & Trevor Cowie