Divining Archaeology


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This book was written to demonstrate that the ancient art of ‘divining’ or ‘dowsing’ can produce sites from the prehistoric and Roman past which have remained undiscovered by the modern sciences of geophysics, air photography and metal detecting.
Walter Elliot is an amateur archaeologist and historian who made his living as a fencing contractor working in the fields and hills of the Borders.  During this, he used divining rods such as practical tools to detect field drains and find where fence posts had once been.  It was only while assisting in the excavation of the Roman Fort of Trimontium that he realised that a Roman defensive ditch was only an over-sized drain and that a pattern of former pestholes could indicate a circular Bronze house or a rectangular Early Historic Anglian Hall, all of which could be found by divining rods.  As many of the early buildings in the Borders were made of Wood, these show little or no trace on the ground surface but leave plenty of scope for investigation.
Testing and expanding his knowledge, he spent the next twenty years crossing and re-crossing the Borders while collecting and noting sites from all ages.
Some of the more important unrecorded sites of pre-historic times are contained within these pages.  Most are known only through flint scatters and field-walking finds but divining rods can pinpoint the post-structure of the huts and palisades of early settlements.
The Roman period left far more than the presently-known monuments.  Most important is the siting of 39 wooden-palisaded fortlets, each with its own latrine and a small bathhouse, along the line of Dere Street.  This confirms the long-suspected fortified frontier dividing the Roman-friendly Votadini from the aggressive Selgovae.
An equally good case is made for an important Roman camp complex at Hallyne in Peeblesshire.  Stores depots supplied by river transport, were found a Trimontium and Jedfoot which would provision loval garrisons and troop movements.  More difficult to prove but equally likely was the plantation of a Romanised civilian population on the eastern half of the Scottish Borders.
It is stated clearly that this is not the end of the story and that more remains to be found.

Walter Elliot