Category Archives: SCOTLAND

Pictish Hillfort Unearthed in Central Scotland

Ancient ‘power centre’ uncovered in Perthshire, Scotland

A hilltop fort near Dunkeld was an important Pictish power centre, say archaeologists who excavated the site. Evidence of metal and textile production were revealed at King’s Seat Hillfort, a legally protected site.

Finds such as glass beads and pottery suggested the Picts who occupied the site in the 7th to 9th centuries had trade links with continental Europe.

Other finds included pieces of Roman glass that were recycled and reused as gaming pieces.

In a new report on last year’s excavations, archaeologists said the wealth of finds suggested the site had been a stronghold of the elite in the local population, with “influence over the trade and production of high-status goods”.

Fragments of pottery – of the kind made in continental Europe – and Anglo-Saxon glass beads suggested the Picts were trading far afield. As well as evidence of metal-working, spindle whorls used in textile production were found.

Roman glass recycled and reused as a gaming piece was among the finds at the site

Archaeologists said the artefacts uncovered were in keeping with other high-status, royal sites of early historic Scotland, including the early Dalriadic capital of Dunadd in Argyll and the Pictish royal centre of Dundurn near St Fillan’s by Loch Earn.

Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust (PKHT) worked with Dunkeld and Birnam Historical Society, archaeological contractors AOC Archaeology Ltd on the digs.

Thirty community volunteers and Pitlochry High School students assisted with the excavations.

Last year’s work marked the third and final season of excavations as part of the King’s Seat Hillfort Community Archaeology Project. The site is a scheduled ancient monument and digs can only be done with prior permission.

A fragment of Anglo-Saxon drinking vessel

David Strachan, director of PKHT, said: “We have uncovered lots of evidence of how people were living and working, and the remains of a building with a large hearth on the summit, with fragments of glass drinking vessels, gaming pieces, animal bone and horn.

“They paint a vivid picture of high-status people gathering and feasting, decorated in the latest high-status jewellery and ornamentation.”

Cath MacIver, of AOC Archaeology, said crucibles, whetstones, stone and clay moulds found indicated that craft production took place at the hillfort.

“What’s particularly interesting is that evidence of this activity has been found in all of the trenches [excavated areas],” she said.

“There must have been a lot of iron and other metalworking going on here making the site an important centre for production – not just the home of a small group of people making items for their own use.”

Mysterious 5,000-Year-Old Rock-Cut Tomb On Dark Enchanted Island Of Hoy, Scotland

Mysterious 5,000-Year-Old Rock-Cut Tomb On Dark Enchanted Island Of Hoy, Scotland

 An ancient and huge piece of red sandstone which called “Dwarfie Stane”. This 5,000-year-old block is surrounded by mystery, which has not been solved until today. There is no record who, in what manner and for what purpose or purposes, made this great job.

The curious stone lies in a steep-sided and remote valley between Quoys and Rackwick on the island of Hoy, in Orkney, Scotland and is believed to be Britain’s only example of a rock-cut tomb.

Between the Neolithic and the Early Bronze Age, probably estimated 3,000 BC, it was thought to have been built. Similar tombs found in the Mediterranean region are the basis for this assessment.

What is so special with this gigantic slab? The “Dwarfie Stane” was once hollowed out by someone who had at his disposal rather simple tools, patience and enormous muscle power of his body.

The stone slab is about 8.5 meters (28 ft) long, by 4 meters (13 ft) wide and up to 2.5 meters (8.2 ft) high. An opening, a 1 meter (3.3 ft) square was cut out into the middle of the stone’s west face and leads into the inner chamber.

Inside the tomb is a passage 2.2 meters (7.2 ft) long and two rock-cut cells similar to bed-places and measuring 1.7 meters (5.6 ft) by 1 meter (3.3 ft). Both the passage and the side cells are 1 meter (3.3 ft) high.

Interestingly, both “bed-places”, which seem to be too short for anyone of normal stature, are responsible for diverse folk tales and legends about dwarfs and these old stories surround the site.

Both cells (bed-places) have curving walls, the southern one is somewhat larger and has a small ledge at the back end.

There was a time when visitors to the “Dwarfie Stane” used to leave offerings at the site. Why? Was the chamber built for a hermit, a monk perhaps, who lived there alone?

It is said that a large sandstone block lying outside the opening was initially used to seal the opening; the mysterious tomb was still sealed in the 16th century.

There is no record of any archaeological excavation being carried out on the mysterious stone slab, nor do we know what, if anything, was found inside.

However, there is a trace after a hole (later filled with concrete), probably an attempt to break into the stone ‘s interior via the roof.

According to an ancient Orcadian legend, the Dwarfie Stane was said to be the work of a giant and his wife. A third giant, who wanted to make himself the master of the island of Hoy, imprisoned the gargantuan couple inside the stone. But his evil plans failed because the imprisoned giant managed to find his way out through the roof of the chamber.

Medieval Padlock Discovered in Scotland

Medieval Padlock Hints at Prosperity of Scotland’s Pictish Farmers

In olden times, padlocks were sufficient to safeguard a person’s treasures—and even after more than a millennium underground, some of these handy artifacts still hold their fair share of secrets under lock and key.

Officials excavating the Lair archeological site in Glenshee, Scotland, have uncovered two medieval padlocks likely used by Pictish locals between the 6th and 11th centuries, reports Alison Campsie for the Scotsman.

In a recent Archaeopress monograph, the team is classified as “security equipment”, the locks probably had a benign purpose, protecting the contents of chests or valuables behind doors. Then again, maybe not: As the researchers write in the paper, “Use to secure animals or people is also possible.”

A reconstruction of the homestead in Glenshee

Nestled in Scotland’s uplands, Lair was once thought to house the remains of low-status Picts—a group of Celtic-speaking people who first appeared during the Late British Iron Age—struggling to make ends meet on the fringes of true civilization.

But the findings of the research team, led by Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust Director David Strachan, reveal that the long-gone community at Lair was actually a permanent prosperous settlement, bustling with successful farmers who thrived on livestock and grain crops for almost 500 years.

“What we have got here is a picture of every day, of the upland farmers and how they lived,” Strachan tells Campsie. “We are beginning to get a new picture of the Picts as a stratified society.”

At the very least, the community had enough wealth and class hierarchy to garner some of its member’s valuables—and instill a healthy suspicion of thievery, says Strachan. That explains the two partial barb-spring padlocks unearthed from the site.

When whole, the pair would have each consisted of three components: a case, a U-shaped bolt secured into the case with barbed springs, and a key that would have unlocked the bolt when inserted into the case, according to a statement.

The front of one of the barb-spring padlocks recovered from the Pictish settlement at Lair in Glenshee, Scotland
The back of one of the barb-spring padlocks recovered from the Pictish settlement at Lair in Glenshee, Scotland

Barb-spring padlocks first came into use in Britain during the Iron Age, sticking around for centuries before falling out of fashion sometime during the 16th century.

Despite their origins in the region, though, the locks themselves weren’t always ironclad: One of the two recovered from Lair survived only as a broken bolt.

What exactly the lock was protecting (or restraining) remains a mystery.

But several other artifacts collected from the site, including an engraved spinning whorl and a rare green glass bead, hint at the objects the Picts once cherished—and that still holds value for humans today.

The padlock and other finds were made during excavations at Lair

Eighteenth-Century Wooden Railway Unearthed in Scotland

Eighteenth-Century Wooden Railway Unearthed in Scotland

The first railway track in Scotland is expected to undergo extensive archeological exploration next year.

In June this year, in an excavation, wooden rails were discovered from 297-year-old Tranent Cockenzie Waggonway.

Part of a cobbled horse track for the ponies which pulled the wagons up to coal pits at Tranent in East Lothian was also discovered.

Next year, a community project hopes excavation might unearth some of the timbers used to lay the railway.

The findings of this year were among the top five archäological finds of 2019 by the 1722 Waggonway Heritage Group

Compiled by Scotland’s archaeology hub, Dig It!, other discoveries on the list include a Pictish skeleton found on the Black Isle in the Highlands and what is believed to be a Viking drinking hall in Orkney.

This June’s dig is set to be followed up by a more extensive excavation in 2020

The waggonway involved wooden rails, wagons, and wheels. Constructed in 1722, it was upgraded to an iron railway in 1815.

The community-run waggonway project is guided by a professional archaeologist. Dates have still be confirmed for next year’s more extensive excavation.

A spokesman said: “The hope is that we can excavate a longer stretch of the track, and we are working with East Lothian Council Archaeology Service to plan this for spring 2020.

“Given the level of preservation on the small section we uncovered in June, we are confident that the central cobbled horse-track survives in good condition, and we remain hopeful that some rail timbers will be intact enough to remove, although this is dependent on soil conditions.”

He added: “Archaeological investigations into early wagonways are relatively rare, and the information that this site can give us is incredibly valuable, with the potential to establish links in the technology used for early railways around the country in the 18th Century.”

The other two top discoveries on the Dig It! the list was one of a set of lost gravestones from the Middle Ages at Glasgow’s Govan Old Parish Church and a previously unrecorded Pictish stone near Dingwall.

Archaeologists hope to discover more about 18th Century waggonways

Scottish Farmer Discovers 5,000-Year-Old Lost City

Scottish Farmer Discovers 5,000-Year-Old Lost City

Scotland is full of vivid, complex history, as is the case for other European compatriots. And no, it’s not all the violent headlines that Braveheart sees — though there is a great deal of war in the country’s rearview mirror.

Nonetheless, not so long ago, a farmer discovered something amazing about ancient Scotland buried in the sand dunes of one of the northernmost islands of the country The kicker? He found this amazing discovery behind something unbelievably ordinary…

Around 1850 a Scottish farmer passed through the sand dunes of the western shore of the island of Orkney. There he pushed a rock aside and discovered something that had been hidden for thousands of years.

At first, he saw what looked like a simple hole, but when he peered inside, he couldn’t believe his eyes: it was a passageway that appeared to be a part of an entire labyrinth of rooms and corridors. An entire ancient city was hidden behind an ordinary slab of stone that whole time!

The settlement, it turned out, was the remains of Skara Brae, a neolithic city. Researchers believed that the ancient settlement might’ve been over 5,000 years old, making it more ancient than even the Egyptian pyramids.

Luckily, because the city had been covered by the sand dunes, it remained preserved for centuries until the farmer found it, untouched by other humans and hidden from the wear and tear of the passage of time.

Researchers believed that this was one of the oldest permanent settlements in Great Britain.

Each house had been sunk into middens, mounds of waste used to stabilize the structure and insulate those insides from Scotland’s brutal climate.

Though only eight houses now remain, it is believed the settlement was once much larger.

Researchers estimated this ancient lost city could have been home to between 50 and 100 people.

All of the houses were connected using a tunnel system, but those tunnels could be closed off and separated with large, sliding stone doors.

Early citizens would then be able to travel throughout the city, but close off their homes for privacy when they needed to.

Each hut contained multiple bedding areas; in most of the huts, researchers discovered, one of the bedding areas was typically larger than the others. These rooms were presumably reserved for the heads of the house—kind of like ancient master bedrooms.

The houses also contained a waterproof storage bin. Researchers believed this could’ve been an indication that these early people stored fresh fish in the huts. If that was the case, fish was likely their main source of food.

There are still questions to be answered about this hidden city and its people. Nevertheless, there is so much we can learn from ancient cities like this.

For many years, archaeologists thought that every important Egyptian discovery was already found. But that all changed recently.