Scottish Enlightenment digs proposal is a smashing idea

A SERIES of archaeological digs are to take place in the Lothians to try to find products produced during the Scottish Enlightenment.

Locals will be invited to join in the digs at Portobello, Prestonpans and East Linton.

It is hoped that some of the wares produced by Scotland's ceramic industry during the 18th century will be found.

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Items dating back to the Scottish Enlightenment are extremely rare, but recent research has indicated that there is a likelihood that there may be items in the area.

If discovered, experts say they would be "exceptionally important" finds.

David Jack, acting director of corporate services at the city council, said: "The project's overall aim is to use the 18th century ceramic industry of the area to inspire local communities to participate in the discovery, management, enhancement and interrogation of their cultural heritage.

"If funding is secured, the project will be led by the curator of archaeology and will include several archaeological digs. Local communities will be invited to take part in the digs, and in follow-up work on the finds.

"By participating in the project, individuals and groups will enhance their knowledge of the local area and its history and gain valuable experience."

The Scottish ceramic industry of the 18th century focused on the export market, with goods being sent mainly to America, Canada and south-east Asia.

Many of the items were not marked so their Scottish origin remained largely unknown and unappreciated until recently.

The project - Pots, Pans and People - is dependent on securing funding and a bid for a 400,000 grant has been made to the Heritage Lottery Fund. A full proposal is expected to be submitted at the end of the year for consideration in March 2012.

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The sites have been chosen following recent research that identified The Whim, near East Linton, as being associated with the development of a mid-18th century porcelain.

The digs are to be carried out at Portobello Potteries, West Pans Potteries in Prestonpans and at the Whim.

A report by museums manager Frank Little said: "Recent research has identified the Whim as almost certainly associated with the development of a certain type of porcelain of the mid-18th century.

"Research at The Whim and at other pottery production sites in Edinburgh and East Lothian would test this finding.

"If verified, it would prove exceptionally important academically and would bring this body of knowledge into the public domain."