Wemyss Caves focus of Pictish lecture

East Wemyss ;'FFP Fife in Focus feature on Save the Wemyss Caves campaign ; Court Cave drawings'Photo ; WALTER NEILSON
East Wemyss ;'FFP Fife in Focus feature on Save the Wemyss Caves campaign ; Court Cave drawings'Photo ; WALTER NEILSON

The Pictish Arts Society will hold its second lecture of the 2015/16 season on Friday, October 16, in the upstairs gallery of Brechin Town House Museum

The lecture, which is in association with Angus Council Museums, will be by Joanna Hambly and is entitled ‘From Rubbings to Lasers: 150 years of documentation and research into the Wemyss Caves carvings’.

Of all the Pictish carvings that survive today, none are more enigmatic than those found in caves. Such places seem to have had special, perhaps ritual significance to the Picts and early Christians.

Almost exactly 150 years ago, Sir James Young Simpson first recognised and documented Pictish carvings in the Wemyss Caves, Fife. These carvings subsequently attracted the attention of numerous antiquarians throughout the late 19th century and of archaeologists in modern times.

With around 80 geometric, abstract and animal symbols, Wemyss Caves are thought to contain the highest concentration of Pictish carvings anywhere in Scotland. However, roof collapse, natural erosion and vandalism have resulted in the loss of around 30 carvings since their discovery. Sadly, vandalism, surface erosion of the rock and coastal erosion still pose a threat and the carvings are still considered to be at a high risk of further damage or loss.

In the summer of 2004, Wemyss Caves were the subject of an excavation and subsequent TV programme by Channel 4’s Time Team. More recently in 2013, they have been the focus of attention of Wemyss Caves 4D, a collaborative project between the Save the Wemyss Ancient Caves Society and Scottish Coastal Archaeology and the Problems of Erosion (SCAPE). Enlisting high-tech specialist services, Wemyss Caves 4D carried out a survey of the caves using such modern techniques as laser scanning, structured light scanning and reflectance transformation imaging.

In the light of this new digital documentation and visualisation project, this lecture will consider the wider significance of the site and highlight the contribution of those antiquarians and archaeologists who studied and recorded the carvings in the Wemyss Caves in the pre-digital age.

Joanna, an archaeologist by training and profession, is a Research Fellow in the School of History, University of St Andrews. She is an officer with SCAPE and manages the award winning Scotland’s Coastal Heritage at Risk Project, which encourages public involvement in the research, investigation and stewardship of Scotland’s coastal archaeology.

Doors open at 7pm for a 7.30 start. Talks are free to members and £2.50 to non-members.