Mice O’ Mote O’ Mark

One year of heritagelandscapecreativity has just passed, so this post has a celebratory tone to it.

On a recent visit to Mote of Mark, an important 5th – 7th century AD fort at Rockcliffe, Dumfries and Galloway,

Mote of Markwe spotted a mouse.


there on the stair, …

Mouse on the StairRather than being startled and scurrying away, it sat in the path with half shut eyes.

A few steps further up, we then encountered another sleepy mouse content to loll about in the sun before us.

Bleary Eyed MouseUpon descending from the fort, we spotted a further cluster of mice at the side of the path, and scratched our heads at what appeared to be a strange lack of timidness amongst the (brave ?) Mice O’ Mote O’ Mark.

Cluster O' MiceMy son then discovered, a mouse hole, within which a clue to this strange behaviour was revealed.

SourceCrab Apple TreeThe rodent population had been feasting on windfall crab apples, a simple act of fermentation had intoxicated them, and they enjoyed the rest of the day.

Ah the tipsy Mice O’ Mote O’ Mark, continue the ancient tradition of feasting and drinking, which this site had almost certainly witnessed before…

…long may their celebration of heritage and landscape continue.


Many thanks to all of those who have followed, commented, liked, tweeted, blogged, in relation to heritagelandscapecreativity over the past year.  Your interest, enthusiasm and encouragement has been greatly appreciated.


The End of Prehistory

Three times I have been to this place, I should have been more…

The first time was in 1994 to take part in excavations on the site before the Archaeolink Prehistory Park was built.  The second time, a few years later, was during a research visit to study the recumbent stone circles of Aberdeenshire.

Stone Circle

I could barely walk and had to go to casualty in Insch to get my leg seen to: a trapped nerve from sleeping on the hard ground without a camping mat….!  So I hobbled amongst the structures…strong pain killers and looking at too many stone circles leave my memories hazy…but it was clearly a vibrant place, where reconstructions of prehistoric structures were used to bring pasts alive.

The third time I visited was a few weeks ago.  I had heard that the centre had closed over a year ago but was surprised by what I encountered.

Archaeo-landAt the heart of the Archaeolink Prehistory Park was the award winning visitors centre by Edward Cullinan Architects.  The clean lines of the green mound evoked prehistoric mounds and barrows (but has a subsequent Teletubbi-esque cultural reference):  now a thatch of gorse, elder and willow, begins to reclaim it for the woods.

Claimed by the WoodsTime CapsuleLike many heritage centers, it had been designed to take you on a journey through space and time !  From the reconstructions of structures which may have been occupied by the earliest settlers in Aberdeenshire.

Early SettlementThrough examples of Neolithic and Bronze Age ceremonial structures which are found across the north east of Scotland.

Ceremonial LandscapeThrough an Iron Age shrine and settlement.

Watcher The empty eyes of a wooden Ballachulish style figurine, adjacent to a clootie well.

Clootie ShrineWho still stands sentinel over the abandoned round house.

Watching Figure

Helpless, the house now slowly decays, doors open to the elements.

Open DoorUntil recently, this reconstruction of an Iron Age round house, was a place for people to learn, and celebrate the rich heritage of north east Scotland.  The ash of the last fire, the faint echo of voices, is slowly disappearing.

Smoke and EchoesFragments of material culture, broken reconstructions of pots, clay loom weights, wooden artefacts, are slowly becoming archaeology within the interior: this time we can witness the end of a prehistory.

Hole in my...I encountered the slightly surreal patchwork of abandonment fragments of a recreated past.  Tinged with a melancholy for the end of the hopes of a future to be informed and sustained through reference to fundamentally important elements of the archaeology, history and heritage of north east Scotland.  I hope this is not The End of Prehistory.

The End of Prehistory

It is clear that the site has a latent energy and verdant potency from established woodlands, matured landscaping, and the invasive weeds following (temporary ?) abandonment.

No Trees SurvivedPerhaps, we will be left with a modern ruin, to add to a contemporary archaeology of heritage centers and museums.  Or perhaps there is an opportunity, to learn from the recent past, and to reinvent and revitalise.

Resuscitating Pict

Perhaps, there has never been The End of Prehistory.