AIA-OC Society Lecture: Scotland’s Castle Craig
Nov 1, 2020 @ 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm PST
Castle Craig is the last of the three Urquhart castles on Black Isle that remains standing in its original 16th century form. Historic Environment Scotland (HES) has designated it as both a Scheduled Ancient Monument (SAM) and a protected Category A listed structure [defined as “buildings of national or international importance, either architectural or historic; or fine, little-altered examples of some particular period, style or building type” (about 7% of total listed buildings)], making it doubly protected under Scottish law.
Architecturally, Castle Craig retains the unusual features of three masonry-vaulted floors and roof still intact, and its linear plan is one of the most unusual layouts of 16th century Scottish tower houses. The castle has considerable archaeological potential since there is little evidence of the site being subjected to any disturbance or attempts at clearance, other than occasional stone robbing. It is therefore likely that the collapsed tumble deposits covering the site will contain masonry and architectural fragments useful for consolidation and stabilization during conservation.
Only the tower of the northwest block in what was clearly a much larger range of buildings is visible. The remains of the southwest block and curtain wall are currently buried under a combination of vegetation, tumble and field wash. The layout of the castle within the enclosure of the curtain wall remains largely unknown and it is likely that remains of additional buildings survive under the rubble deposits and vegetation. But before excavation within the area of the SAM can proceed, the tower needs to be stabilized.
Castle Craig’s strategic location on the Cromarty Firth, with a clear view of the entire firth out to the North Sea, makes it likely that archaeological evidence may survive relating to still earlier periods of occupation. In fact, two seasons of excavation in 2018 and 2019 have already revealed another enclosed area to the east of the SAM with a possible tower of earlier date beyond that. It seems likely that archaeological occupation deposits will survive across the site and potentially within the interiors of ground floor rooms and beneath the tumble.
Dr. Connie Rodriguez received her B.A. in Classical Studies from the University of Richmond (VA) and M.A. and Ph.D. from The Johns Hopkins University. She retired after 30 years on faculty at Loyola University New Orleans, where she taught Latin, Greek, ancient history, archaeology (Greek, Roman and Egyptian) and a variety of other Classical Studies courses. Recently she has turned to teaching at the secondary level and is teaching Honors and Advanced Placement Latin at Benjamin Franklin High School, one of the highest ranked public schools in Louisiana.
She has been a member of the Archaeological Institute of America since 1982 (Baltimore Society). She joined the New Orleans Society in 1988, first serving as secretary/treasurer until 2000 when she became President, a position that she still holds. She has helped host 3 national meetings in New Orleans (1992, 2003, 2015). She served on the Archaeology Magazine Committee (2003-06) and was a Society Lecturer (2010-2012). She received the AIA Foot Soldier Award (2014) and the Joukowsky Distinguished Service Award (2015). She has also served on the AIA Societies Committee (2016-2019), and the Joukowsky Distinguished Service Award, Society Awards and Society Outreach Grants Subcommittees (2015-19). She has served as a Society Trustee on the AIA’s General Board of Trustees.
Beyond the AIA, she served on the boards of the Louisiana Classical Association and Louisiana Landmarks Society (as president of LLS during the traumatic years following Hurricane Katrina). Currently, she is also on the boards of the New Orleans Caledonian Society and the Clan Urquhart Foundation. She holds memberships in the Louisiana Classical Association (recently elected vice president), Classical Association of the Middle West and South (recently appointed to the Program Committee), the American Classical League (appointed to the National Committee for Greek and Latin), Scottish Castles Association, National Trust for Scotland and Historic Environment Scotland. In November 2019, she was voted a Fellowship (membership) in the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.
Dr. Rodriguez spent four seasons on different excavations in Cyprus, working at Kourion, Sotira-Kamanoudia and Prastio-Mesosrotsos. In addition, she has a wide range of research interests: the poetic reception of Augustus’ monuments in Rome, dress parade footwear of Roman imperial loricati portraits (for which she has been a national lecturer of the AIA), the classical tradition found in the science fiction series Babylon 5, Bartholemy Lafon and early 19th century New Orleans topography. Most recently, she has shifted from the ancient world to medieval Scottish architecture and archaeology, and is currently Director of Excavations for the Castle Craig Project on Black Isle in Scotland (for which she is the George H. Forsyth, Jr. Memorial lecturer of the AIA for 2020-2021).