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Understanding our community's past

Urras Eaglais na h-Aoidhe will be using a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to carry out research this summerwhich will help us to understand more about the archaeology of Eaglais na h-Aoidhe and its Graveyard.  

'Understanding Our Community's Past' is one part of a wider project called 'Building a Future from the Past', which the Urras is developing. The aim of this initiative is to develop an iconic tourist amenity to attract more visitors to Point.  The development is based around Eaglais na h-Aoidhe (St Columba's Ui Church and Graveyard) which is a medieval Scheduled Ancient Monument and one of the most important archaeological sites on the Isle of Lewis.  The aim is to empower the community to make full use of the church and its environment.

The grant of £5,700 which HLF has awarded will specifically be used to enable research to be carried out in the Church and surrounding Graveyard.  The objective is to identify the existence of any buried grave slabs and other underground features and early structures which will lead to a greater understanding of the historical development of the whole area.  This will be done by Rose Geophysical Consultants LLP of Orkney who are specialist archaeological surveyors.  They will conduct a Geophysical Survey which involves using Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) and a Resistance Survey.  The Resistance Survey will only provide information to a depth of 0.75m - 1.00m.  However, GPR can give more detail about different layers and features to a depth of about 2.0m.

Dr Susan Ovendon, one of the archaeological consultants, explained that earth resistance surveys measure variations in the moisture content of the earth's surface by passing a small electrical current through the subsurface.  It is particularly suited to locating stone structures, walls and rubble spreads, pits, ditches, banks etc.  The Resistance Survey will be undertaken using a Geoscan Research RM85.  A standard twin probe configuration will be used with a mobile probe separation of 0.5m providing a depth of investigation of approximately 0.75m.  All the data will be processed with Geoscan research Geoplot 4, using a standard range of corrections and processing algorithms.  She also explained that a GPR survey is the best technique for providing information on the depth and stratigraphy of a site.  In GPR surveys pulses of electromagnetic energy are directed downwards into the earth.  The transmitted wave is affected by variations in the electrical properties in the subsurface, which are influenced by material type, moisture content and pore fluids.  Data will be processed with a GPRSlice software package to form a series of time slice maps - horizontal slices through the ground at different time/depth intervals - enabling a 3D interpretation of the survey area.  This type of data processing and visualisation allows more subtle features and relationships between features to be analysed more easily.

This exciting project will begin on Monday 21 August and should be completed within two weeks.  Pupils from Sgoil an Rubha will have the opportunity to visit while the survey is in progress and there will be an Open Day on Saturday 26 August, from 10am to 4pm.  Everyone is welcome to come along and see what is happening, gain hands-on experience of doing archaeological research and find out what can be learned from these research methods.

This important stage in the project will end with an Evening Lecture at 7.30pm on Friday 1 September in Ionad Stoodie.   The project archaeologists will talk about their research and present their preliminary findings - come along and be the first to find out what has been learnt and celebrate the results.

Once we have received the final report the Urras will produce a leaflet summarising the results.  This will be freely available to the local community and visitors to Bùth an Rubha and Eaglais na h-Aoidhe.  We will also share the full report with all interested parties and everyone will be able to read it on our website - www.uichurch.co.uk.

 

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