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5 June 2004
3D laser scanning of the Wemyss caves

A major project to excavate and record the Wemyss caves (Fife, Scotland) and their ancient carvings, has just begun. The joint project between Fife Council and Channel 4’s Time Team lasted for five days and was aimed to preserve a wealth of information for future generations. Although there is evidence—now lost due to cave collapse—that some of the carvings dated from as early as the Bronze Age, the vast majority of the carvings visible today are Pictish, probably from the 6th-9th centuries CE. They are the the largest single grouping of carvings of this date to be found anywhere in Europe.
     The wider archaeological significance rests on the potential of the deposits within and immediately outwith the caves to shed further light on their use over the past 4000 years. For many years, these caves have been suffering from vandalism and erosion caused by both natural weathering and, more recently, as a result of a dramatic increase in coastal erosion. Many attempts have been made in the past to preserve them but these have only been partially successful and Fife Council decided to “preserve the caves by record.” When Channel 4’s Time Team heard about the proposal, they asked if they could become involved and a partnership project was developed. It consisted of major excavations both inside and outside the caves conducted by the Time Team in partnership with Fife Council archaeological unit and an intensive programme of high-definition 3D laser scanning of the caves. It is hoped the excavations will shed further light on the use and occupation of the caves, during the Pictish period when most of the carvings were produced. However, information about the caves during the bronze age, iron age and during the medieval period when they were occupied by Christian hermits should also be recovered. Using laser scanners, the project will also produce an extremely accurate 3D measured visual record of the caves and their carvings. This information will provide a lasting record of the caves and will be used for multi-media presentations and interpretation work in Lower Methil Heritage Centre and at other Fife Council museums. It is hoped that the scanning might also discover new carvings and add increased definition to the ones already visible.

Source: The Courier (3 June 2004)

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