ARCHAEOLOGISTS claim to have discovered the first physical evidence of the Battle of Bannockburn.
A pair of horse stirrups, found earlier this year on a flood plain believed by most historians to be the site of the decisive second day of the battle, have been dated to the 14th century.
They were unearthed by Tony Pollard and Neil Oliver, two archaeologists working on the final day of excavations for the forthcoming BBC2 series Two Men in a Trench.
The badly-corroded iron stirrups are thought to have belonged to an English knight, probably one of the 10,000 English invaders killed in the battle.
Laboratory tests carried out at Glasgow University reveal the items, which are not a matching pair, were once coated in shiny metal, suggesting they belonged to a wealthy English knight of the heavy cavalry. They are believed to have been torn off in the heat of battle.
Mr Pollard, 38, said: "The stirrups are the first archaeological finds to be retrieved from the site in 700 years.
"We can only assume that the ground was very muddy at the time.
"Thousands of men would have churned up the land and bucket loads of things would have been dropped.
"The English were routed, and those who survived would have left the field in panic, leaving things like weaponry and armour behind.
"After medieval battles it was common for scavenging to take place. Iron weaponry may also have eroded to nothing in the damp, carse soil, and we are left to discover the little which remains."
The stirrups were discovered after several days scouring fields around the Carse, near Stirling, with metal detectors.
It was only on later examination that their importance became evident. Mr Pollard said: "We didn’t know what they were at first, because they just looked like unusual lumps of iron.
"It was only when we got back to the lab, cleaned them up and had a good close look at them that we saw what they were."
Stirling Council’s regional archaeologist, Lorna Main, who has investigated possible Battle of Bannockburn sites, said:
"They are the first physical evidence ever found from the battle, and they help to substantiate the theory of fighting on the Carse."