This photo essay describes how a COVID-19 lockdown led to the creative investigation of an unlikely archaeological site: Royston Beach on the shoreline of north Edinburgh (Scotland).
Much of the Beach and the land behind it was reclaimed from the tidal estuary of the Firth of Forth between the 1950s and 1990s using vast quantities of demolition rubble produced by the reconstruction of the city. This material – most likely produced from ‘slum’ clearance and factory demolitions – comprises a heterotemporal jumble of hundreds-of-thousands of bricks, eighteenth and nineteenth century sandstone building fragments, mid-twentieth century concrete foundations, asbestos, plastic waste and much else besides. While some of the reclaimed land was built upon in the 1970s, a large part of this dumped material is now eroding into the sea as tides and storms grow more extreme.
Royston Beach became part of my research project (a three-year, cross-UK comparison of waste-modified terrain entitled, ‘Reimagining British Waste Landscapes’) as a result of travel-restrictions due to lockdowns. Though emerging from a period of restricted movement, my experiences investigating the Beach fundamentally shaped my approach to understanding the archaeology of waste landscapes and my methodological approach for this ongoing project.
Using a combination of traditional archaeological photography and creative research, in this paper I explore the site and follow the complex spatio-temporal ‘itineraries’ of waste materials.
Keywords: rubble, Edinburgh, waste-modified landscapes, bricks, photography, itineraries, COVID-19
How to Cite:
Gardner, J., (2024) “Rubble Archaeology on the North Edinburgh Shoreline: Creative Research in the Time of COVID-19”, Papers from the Institute of Archaeology 35(1), 24–57. doi: https://doi.org/10.14324/111.444.2041-9015.1650
- The Leverhulme Trust (grant ECF-2020-173)