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!

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

  1. The Silver Voice March 14, 2012 at 1:50 pm #

    Ah! Beautiful Stirling! Sounds like a great project – do we have such projects in Ireland? Well done,Rubicon!

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