A LOT of Scotland’s history is easy to stumble upon – castles, museums and heritage sites – but how much of our past remains under the soil?
The short answer: less and less of it. As Scots dig up artefacts and concealed ruins, our understanding of centuries-old customs and culture is enhanced.
Quantifying the “value”, monetary or otherwise, of an archaeological dig is difficult – sometimes, the only gauge available is the excitement of the person or persons who come across the discovery.
Instead, we round up ones that are, to us, the most interesting: either because of the items found, or the circumstances of their discovery.
Dr Rebecca Jones, head of archaeology strategy at Historic Environment Scotland, said:
VIKING-ERA POT AND JEWELLRY, GALLOWAY, 2014
A cache of 9th and 10th century treasures were found in September 2014 by retired businessman Derek McLennan. The site, on Church of Scotland-owned land in Galloway, yielded Irish and Anglo-Saxon silver brooches, Byzantium silk from Turkey, beads, a gold ingot and several gold and crystal objects wrapped in cloth.
The objects are thought to have been accumulated across Europe over several generations before being buried inside the pot, making them “the most important Viking discovery in Scotland for over 100 years.”
Unveiling the finds earlier this month, Richard Welander of Historic Environment Scotland said: “Before removing the objects we took the rather unusual measure of having the pot CT scanned, in order that we could get a rough idea of what was in there and best plan the delicate extraction process.”
JACOBITE-ERA HAND GRENADE, PERTH, 2004
More than 300 years had passed before archaeologists discovered a three-inch fragment of corroded iron near Pitlochry, once part of a hand grenade used at the Battle of Killiecrankie.
The find – believed to be the first-ever documented use of a hand grenade in Britain – was made at a site where a force of 2,500 Jacobites under John Graham of Cloverhouse annihilated over 4,000 Redcoats commanded by General Hugh MacKay.
Glasgow University archaelogist Dr Tony Pollard believes the position of the grenade provides evidence that after being thrown uphill, it may have rolled back towards the English troops and helped the Jacobites achieve their unlikely victory. Since the discovery, more fragments have been unearthed during roadworks on the A9.
IRON AGE GOLD, STIRLING, 2009
A lucky metal detectorist – using his new gadget for the first time – discovered four neck torcs or decorations in a Stirlingshire field in 2009.
Dating from 1 to 3 BC, the gold was worth approximately £1 million and was said to be in “excellent condition” despite having spent the best part of 2,000 years underground.
The torcs are now on show at the National Museum of Scotland. Amateur treasure hunter David Booth received £462,000 for his find.
VIKING LONGBOAT AND WARRIOR REMAINS, ARDNAMURCHAN, 2011
Scotland’s first intact Viking boat burial site was revealed at Ardnamurchan in the Highlands in 2011. The Viking warrior’s remains were found with an axe, sword, spear and a shield boss in the five-metre long grave.
The Viking was buried in a wooden ship which has long since rotted away, though over 200 rivets were found at the site. Though similar boat burials had been found in Orkney, this was the first successful mainland excavation which employed modern methods.
It is believed that the boat hails from the 10th century, with archaeologist Dr Hannah Cobb calling it one of the “most important” Norse findings made in Britain.
LOST MEDIEVAL VILLAGE OF CADZOW, SOUTH LANARKSHIRE, 2016
Roadworks carried out earlier this year to improve the M74 motorway near junction six yielded the unexpected find of medieval artifacts dating from more than 1,000 years ago.
The discoveries near Hamilton in South Lanarkshire include coins believed to date from the 10th or 11th century, and fragments of glazed medieval pottery and clay smoking pipes.
It came during work to widen that stretch of the M74 as part of the £500 million improvements to the motorway and nearby M73 and M8 by Transport Scotland. The Scottish Government agency said archaeologists believed this could finally identify the location of the lost village of Cadzow - now part of Hamilton.
James II gave permission for Cadzow to be renamed Hamilton in 1445, after the Dukes of Hamilton, who owned lands in the area. Archeologists believe the site may have lain undisturbed because it was where the Netherton Cross, which also dates from 10th or 11th century, once stood.