Category Archives: SCOTLAND

‘Very angry badger’ invades Scotland’s 16th-century Craignethan Castle

A 16th-century fortified Scottish castle was invaded and ransacked by a tiny masked marauder—a badger

Never mind armored knights, mounted troops, heavy artillery, or massive cannons. A 16th-century castle in Scotland was recently invaded, ransacked, and held hostage by that most fearsome of modern foes—a “very angry badger.”

The tiny masked marauder entered a cellar tunnel at Craignethan Castle in South Lanarkshire, Scotland, in early April. Staff tried to lure it out with cat food, honey, peanuts, and bananas. They posited that the badger had become confused and lost in the castle’s network of tunnels, trying to seek a way out.

Craignethan Castle was a strong tower castle built in the 1500s to sustain heavy military bombardment, if not nibbles from the weasel family.

The Keep of Craignethan Castle in Lanarkshire, Scotland. Built in 1531 and, according to tradition, the inspiration for Tillietudlem Castle in Sir Walter Scott’s novel Old Mortality.

The land on which the castle was built was originally a property of the Black Douglases, but was granted to the Hamilton family in 1530. Sir James Hamilton of Finnart, a trained architect and the King’s Superintendent of Palaces, designed the castle on a knoll above a bend in the River Nethan to show off his talent for military architecture.

The last great private stronghold constructed in Scotland, it has steep downward slopes on three sides, but on one side it is overlooked by higher ground, a vulnerable flaw in design. The castle and ramparts sit on a traditional large rectangular keep.

In 1536, Hamilton of Finnart hosted King James V for his daughter’s wedding celebrations at the castle. Alas, this did not keep him in royal favor for long. Hamilton was beheaded in 1540 for treason, though his son still managed eventually to inherit the land.

The hall Hamilton of Finnart built for himself at Craignethan Castle.

Mary, Queen of Scots is said to have spent a night at Craignethan after her abdication and before she was forced to flee to England. Folk legend has it that her headless ghost haunts the hallways.

By 1579, the main towers of Craignethan were destroyed by royal decree to render it defenseless. The Hays bought the castle in 1665, and constructed a two-story house in the southwest corner, which still stands today.

Craignethan Castle was given over to state care in 1949, and turned into a tourist attraction. The surrounding ancient woodlands are home to kestrels and sparrowhawks, according to Castles of Scotland website.

Not to mention very angry badgers!“We’ve had to temporarily close Craignethan Castle’s cellar tunnel due to an unexpected guest,” a spokesman for Historic Environment Scotland told the Guardian. “The tunnel was closed around midday on 12 April.

The castle is surrounded by woodland and we believe the badger may have become lost. Staff have been in contact with local wildlife authorities.”

Craignethan Castle

Staff first noticed the tiny masked marauder’s path of destruction. It had dug through loose soil in the stonework, causing a mess.

They later saw the culprit. By the weekend, the badger had found its way out of the castle. But it had left enough damage to the stone masonry to cause concerned castle minders to keep the tunnel closed to public.

Historic Scotland reported on Twitter: “While our furry friend left the building over the weekend, we can confirm the CraignethanCastle cellar tunnel remains closed this week. Our work team on-site need to repair some of the stone masonry the badger damaged. The rest of the castle is open for visitors.”One of Craignethan’s large rectangular main towers still stands, as does the squat base of another alongside a gatehouse. Inner and outer courtyards are mostly surrounded by massive ramparts.

A ditch in front of the west wall—over which a drawbridge once lay—protected the original castle. In 1962, excavators discovered there a caponier—or a roofless below-ground fortification with firing steps and rifle portals that was connected to the castle via tunnels.

A badger

When you consider the badger’s natural proclivities, however, it is actually not all that surprising that one found its way to the castle tunnel.“Badgers have strong limbs and sharp claws that help them dig burrows and find food underground,” according to Live Science.

“They make their homes by digging tunnels and caves and use grass and leaves for bedding. A badger’s home is called a sett.”Badgers typically consume earthworms and spider larvae, which presumably a nearly 500-year-old castle tunnel would hoard in abundance. We might ask, what took the badger so long to call the castle its home?

Source: abc

Here’s What Scotland’s Dogs Looked Like 4,500 Years Ago

Here’s What Scotland’s Dogs Looked Like 4,500 Years Ago

We’re pretty sure dogs aren’t obsessed with ancestry, despite the proliferation of canine DNA testing services. That seems to be more of a human thing.

However, with very little digging, nearly every dog on earth could claim to be descended from a handsome specimen such as the one above.

This news must be gratifying to all those lapdogs who fancy themselves to be something more wolfish than their exteriors suggest.

This beast is no 21st-century pet, but rather, a reconstruction, forensic science’s best guess as to what the owner of a Neolithic skull discovered during a 1901 excavation of the 5,000-year-old Cuween Hill chambered cairnon Orkney, Scotland would have looked like in life.

About the size of a large collie, the “Cuween dog” has the face of a European grey wolf and the reasonable gaze of a family pet. (Kudos to the project’s organizers for resisting the urge to bestow a nickname on their creation, or if they have, to resist sharing it publicly.)Whether or not this good boy or girl had a name, it would’ve earned its keep, guarding a farm in the tomb’s vicinity.

Steve Farrar, Interpretation Manager at Historic Environment Scotland, the conservation organization that commissioned the reconstruction, believes that the farmers’ esteem for their dogs went beyond mere utilitarian appreciation: Maybe dogs were their symbol or totem, perhaps they thought of themselves as the ‘dog people’.

Radiocarbon dating of this dog’s skull and 23 others found on the site point to ritual burial—the animals were placed within more than 500 years after the passage to the tomb was built.

Historic Environment Scotland posits that the canine remains’ placement next to those of humans attest to the community’s belief in an afterlife for both species.

The model is presumably more relatable than the naked skull, which was scanned by Edinburgh University’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, enabling Historic Environment Scotland to make the 3D print that forensic artist Amy Thornton fleshed out with muscle, skin, and hair.

What a human genealogist wouldn’t give to trace their lineage back to 2000 BC, let alone have such a fetching picture.

The Cuween Hill chambered cairn. (A cairn is a stone mound that serves as a memorial or landmark.)
The Cuween Hill chambered cairn. (A cairn is a stone mound that serves as a memorial or landmark.)

Long Lost Monastery of Dark Age Anglo-Saxon Princess Discovered in Scotland

Long Lost Monastery of Dark Age Anglo-Saxon Princess Discovered in Scotland

The long-lost remains of a Dark Age Anglo Saxon princess-built home were discovered. Calibbe was a 7th-century woman known to have founded a monastery somewhere near Coldingham village in south-eastern Scotland.

Recent excavations have found new evidence of the existence of Princess Æbbe some 1,400 years ago. Researchers know that her religious house existed, but not where exactly. The monastery was destroyed in a Viking raid in the year 870 and historians have been unable to find it ever since. Æbbe was born a pagan but became an abbess and was instrumental in spreading Christianity along the Scottish coast during the seventh century.

Coldingham

According to Yahoo, excavators have now located a narrow, circular ditch, which is likely the “vallum,” or the boundary that surrounded Aebbe’s religious settlement, says DigVentures, a U.K.-based group led by archaeologists and supported by crowdfunding.

“Citizen scientists” help carry out DigVentures’ projects.“This is pretty much exactly when Æbbe’s monastery was in existence,” Manda Forster, the program manager at DigVentures, said in a statement.

“Originally built around A.D. 640, it is said to have burned down shortly after her death but was then rebuilt and thrived until it was destroyed once again by Viking raiders 200 years later.”

Remains of Coldingham Priory.

Researchers had been digging for the monastery in a different place: a cliff-top location in Coldingham, overlooking the sea.

But the evidence was lacking an extensive, wealthy Anglo-Saxon monastery.“Vallums were not necessarily deep, intimidating defensive structures but more like a symbolic marker to show that you were entering a venerated or spiritual place,” Maiya Pina-Dacier, the head of community at DigVentures, told Live Science.

Coldingham Priory.

Outside the monastery boundary, the excavation team made another discovery: a giant pile of butchered animal bones, including those from cattle, horses, pigs, sheep, goats, domestic fowl, and red deer. These were radiocarbon dated to 664 to 864, right around the time the monastery would have thrived.

Related Video: Exploring the ruins of the beautiful Corfe Castle in Dorset, UKThe site found is inland and not far from Coldingham Priory, a house for Benedictine monks. DigVentures excavated there because of outlines of several possible archaeological structures.

“In addition, several artifacts — including fragments of an Anglo-Saxon belt fitting, fragments of sculpture and possible early Christian burials — had been found there. ” Benedictines and other monastic orders sometimes built on the sites of Anglo-Saxon religious ruins.

Coldingham Parish Church, built using stones taken from the ruined medieval priory. Remains of the monastic buildings can be seen in the foreground. 

“It is brilliant to finally be able to announce that we’ve found Æbbe’s monastery, and to confirm that part of it is probably underneath Coldingham Priory,” Forster told the BBC. “Æbbe is an extraordinary figure–an example of a powerful Anglo Saxon woman who played a big part in establishing Christianity in the region during the 7th Century.

Now that we’ve got evidence to pinpoint exactly where her monastery was, we can help bring her story back to life.”Æbbe was the daughter of King Aethelfrith of Bernicia, a Dark Ages warlord who was an important ruler in the history of Northumbria.

There is a story that she originally dedicated her life to Christianity to avoid the attention of a prince she disliked. After she became an abbess, she was a respected member of the royal family who was instrumental in settling various feuds. Most of all, she dedicated herself to spreading the Christian faith throughout the area.

Another story exists that while her own piety was unquestioned, she had difficulty enforcing the strict rules of religious life on others who lived at the same monastery. Her brother Oswald was also respected in his lifetime for his spirituality. He founded the famous monastery at Lindisfarne, which was later raided and burned by Vikings as well.

Teenager’s Bones Recovered from Scottish Cave

Archaeologists find teenager’s bones in ‘Massacre Cave’ where up to 400 members of Scottish MacDonald clan were wiped out in 16th Century feud with rival MacLeods

Around 400 members of the MacDonald clan were believed to have been suffocated in the cave (pictured) in 1577 after the MacLeods lit a fire outside the small entrance, filling the cave with smoke
Around 400 members of the MacDonald clan were believed to have been suffocated in the cave (pictured) in 1577 after the MacLeods lit a fire outside the small entrance, filling the cave with smoke

Archaeologists have confirmed that bones found at Massacre Cave on Eigg are those of a teenager.

Tourists discovered in the cave about 50 bones, the scene of last year’s mass killing of Macdonald clan members in the late 16th century. The bones dated between 1430 and 1620 were suggested by initial tests, potentially placing them at the time of the massacre that wiped out almost the entire population of the island.

Dr. Kirsty Owen, senior archaeology manager at Historic Environment Scotland, said further analysis has now confirmed the bones belonged to a single skeleton of an adolescent aged under 16.

It has not been possible to determine their sex or stature, Dr. Owen added.

Further tests are to be carried out at Bradford University to shed more light on the diet and lifestyle of the person whose remains have been found.

Results of a post-excavation analysis carried out at the cave are now being finalized with further radio-carbon dates from materials due soon.HES plans to return the remains to Eigg once all investigations have been completed.

Dr. Owen added: “When the post-excavation analysis has been completed we will discuss what happens next with the community on Eigg. The decision will be made jointly with them.”

Police were called to the cave, also known as Francis Cave, last October following the discovery of the remains.No proactive searches have been made for further remain given the cave is now treated as a war grave.

The massacre on the island occurred around 1577, Up to 400 Macdonalds is said to have been killed by their Macleod rivals in one of Scotland’s most chilling episodes of clan warfare.

The feud between the two clans is thought to have wiped out almost the entire population of the island. Pictured above, a drawing of feuding clans in the 1600s.

According to accounts, the murders were carried out after 3 young Macleod men were expelled from Eigg and tied up on their boats after seemingly harassing a number of local girls.

After the men returned to the Macleod seat of power at Dunvegan on Skye, retaliation was planned with the clan organising a trip to EiggThe Macdonalds, aware of the approaching Macleods, hid in a large cave, now known as Massacre Cave, in the south of the island for some time.

The Macleods then lit a large fire of turf and ferns at the entrance of the cave with the smoke suffocating those insides. Only one family managed to escape, it is said.

Archaeologists at Bradford University now hope to find out more about the diet and lifestyle of occupants of the island at the time of the massacre before the bones are returned

Oldest Pictish Fort Uncovered in Scotland

Oldest Pictish Fort Uncovered in Scotland

Archaeologists working at the site of Scotland’s largest Pictish fort have made an “incredible” discovery after unearthing part of the power center’s defensive wall.

The discovery has been made at Burghead in Moray, the largest known fort of its kind in northern Britain which is believed to have been occupied by the elite of Pictish society more than 1,000 years ago.

The stretch of defensive wall discovered by archaeologists at the site in Burghead
The stretch of defensive wall discovered by archaeologists at the site in Burghead

Around 10 feet of rampart wall has been unearthed with preserved pieces of timber lacing, which strengthens the structure, also found. It is now known that the wall dates to the 8th Century – putting it right at the heart of the Pictish period.

Dr. Gordon Noble, head of archaeology at Aberdeen University, who is leading the work at Burghead said it was an “incredible” find. He added: “What a sight to see the rampart revealed for the first time in over 1000 years.“It’s very impressive.

Probably one of the best-preserved ramparts of this type.“It really reinforces the huge investment in resources that was undertaken to construct the fort at Burghead.

The timber lacing is one of the best preserved in Europe.“Unfortunately, it is also under huge threat from coastal erosion with meters lost to the sea in the last few decades.

The Wallface now stands around a meter from an active erosion face.“Historic Environment Scotland is providing funding to help record as much as we can before the erosion gets worse.”

It is believed the site at Burghead may been one of the most important elite settlements of the Kingdom of Fortriu which was the Pictish overkingship from the 7th century onwards.

Dr. Noble, who has led excavations at Burghead since 2015, said the picture of life at the fort and village was “getting clearer” but that a lot of work still needed to be done.“We now know a little about the architecture of the buildings inside, but not how many there were and need to know more about the phasing of the site,” he added.

The stretch of the wall now unearthed at Burghead contains several beam slots that supported the wooden structure of the fort.Dr. Noble said “abundant charcoal” had been recovered during the excavation indicating that the fort was destroyed by fire.

It has long been thought the fort was razed to the ground around the time Vikings were launching raids along the Moray coast. However, the act of destruction has actually preserved some of the wooden remains with charcoal deposits helping to date the structure more accurately.

Important finds made at the site include the Burghead Bull carvings and an underground well, both which were found in the 1800sIt was thought that much of the site was destroyed when a new town was built on the site of the fort in the 19th Century but Dr. Noble and colleagues have since found remains of a Pictish longhouse, coins, and pottery.