How a Community Digital Heritage Project Has Helped to Imagine the Circumstances of Pictish Symbols in the Wemyss Caves, Scotland
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Former sea caves in East Wemyss, Scotland, are special because of their historic carvings. These include 26 surviving Pictish symbols, a possible Pictish boat carving and numerous early Christian crosses. The caves have been well-documented by antiquarians, and archaeological investigations show activity on the site from the Early Iron Age to the Post-Medieval period. Since the mid-twentieth century, the effects of coal mining, coastal erosion, vandalism and antisocial behaviour have altered the setting, damaged the carvings and detracted from the research potential of the Wemyss Caves. The challenge of better long-term management of this threatened heritage and enabling the current generation to understand their significance and history inspired the Wemyss Caves digital documentation and visualisation project. Working collaboratively, the local community, archaeologists and digital heritage specialists applied a range of techniques to document and communicate the rich heritage of the Wemyss Caves. The management outcome of a sophisticated dataset against which to monitor change is further enhanced by the flexibility of the digital resource. This has allowed us to recreate lost Pictish spaces and closely examine the placement of the carvings within caves. Improved understanding of the catalogue of material has enabled us to explore connections between the Wemyss Caves and other Pictish carvings found in cave and rock outcrop contexts, and connections between the uses of the caves in all periods. This has helped us reach back in time to better imagine the sacred place of the Wemyss Caves in first millennium Scotland.
KeywordsCave Digital documentation Early Christian Laser scan Pictish symbols Photogrammetry Reflectance transformation imaging
We are indebted to SWACS who made this project happen. Members of SWACS and volunteers from the local community generously contributed their time, knowledge, memories, stories, photographs, RTI skills and acting talent. Many of the archives used in the research and website, and referred to in this paper, were tracked down by Pam Cranston. We are extremely grateful to Fife Council, Historic Environment Scotland and the Heritage Lottery Fund for their funding and support.
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