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ARCHIVE UPDATE: Five new SAIR papers

13th November 2017 | Categories: Publications

The Society is pleased to announce the publication of five new Scottish Archaeological Internet Reports, available now at the Archaeology Data Service.

SAIR was established in 2000 to publish freely accessible, fully peer-reviewed archaeological information. The latest collection of papers present research on a community excavation on the Isle of Mull, three significant excavations in and around Edinburgh, and the excavation of several roundhouses in Aberdeenshire. To read the abstracts and access the papers, please see the details below.

SAIR 68 Monks, Priests and Farmers: A Community Research Excavation at Baliscate, Isle of Mull

A community research excavation centred on Baliscate on the Isle of Mull took place in autumn 2012. The excavation has revealed the existence of a thriving sixth-century agricultural settlement which was either adopted or replaced by a seventh-century Christian community which appears to have been a monastic establishment. The continued ecclesiastical nature of the settlement into the ninth and tenth centuries is attested by the presence of a later enclosure/vallum and a rectangular structure interpreted as a leacht. In the late 11th or early 12th century, a stone and turf bow-ended structure was built which probably functioned as a longhouse or hall. This structure was later used in the 12th century to house a large corn-drying kiln. Although no 11th- or 12th-century structures were identified adjacent to the leacht, occupation deposits were identified. Then, in the late 13th or early 14th century, a wattle and turf structure was built over these deposits and the remains of a seventh- to eighth-century cemetery. This structure burnt down and was rapidly replaced by a new stone and turf structure enclosed by a rectangular stone and turf enclosure. This is tentatively interpreted as an enclosed chapel, but the evidence is contradictory and it may have simply been an enclosed farmstead. Occupation around the site continued in one form or another until the 16th century and thereafter the site was used intermittently. The excavation has highlighted how little we know about the so-called enclosed chapel sites of Argyll and the absence of evidence for the early Christian church.

SAIR 69 Discovering the King’s Wall: Excavations at 144-166 Cowgate, Edinburgh

This report details the discovery of a late medieval building and the remains of extensive walls running along the north side of Cowgate, excavated in advance of a housing development. The wall remains were dated to the late 14th century and are believed to have been part of Edinburgh’s early town defences. Edinburgh’s medieval town wall is referred to as the ‘King’s wall’ and is linked to a James II charter of 1450. However, there are references to the King’s wall in property documents as early as 1427, indicating that a town wall had been built prior to the charter of 1450. The remains uncovered at Cowgate are likely to be part of this early town wall. Previously the line of the King’s wall was thought to have been located approximately halfway up the slope between Cowgate and the High Street. In view of the new discoveries a revised line is proposed that runs further south along the north side of Cowgate. The clay-bonded stone building was constructed up against the north side of the wall, probably in the late 15th century. It may have been an animal shed, possibly a stable that was the only medieval stone building erected in this area along Cowgate, leaving most of the site as open wasteland as described in late medieval documents. It was replaced by more substantial mortared buildings at the beginning of the 17th century.

SAIR 70 Excavation of Prehistoric Roundhouses and Post-Medieval Kilns at Drumyocher and Hospital Shields, Aberdeenshire

A programme of archaeological watching brief and excavation was carried out by CFA Archaeology Ltd along the route of the Aberdeen to Lochside Natural Gas Pipeline during its construction in 2004. The remains of four truncated Middle Bronze Age roundhouses, one Iron Age post-built roundhouse with a souterrain entered from the house, and two medieval or post-medieval corn-drying kilns were excavated at Drumyocher Farm, near Arbuthnott, Aberdeenshire. An assemblage of decorated pottery was recovered, unusually for this period. The remains of three truncated probable ring-ditch roundhouses were excavated to the north-east of Hospital Shields Farm, near St Cyrus, Aberdeenshire; these features have been radiocarbon dated to the Late Bronze Age.

SAIR 71 The Development of Candlemaker Row, Edinburgh, from the 11th to the 20th Centuries

Archaeological excavations and historic-building recording at the site of Greyfriars Kirkhouse, Candlemaker Row, Edinburgh, provided a rare opportunity to investigate the history of an area within Edinburgh’s Old Town. Evidence was found for unexpectedly early activity on the site from the 11th or 12th century onwards. The nature of early activity is enigmatic but the area appears to have been largely rural, at the confluence of two major cattle-droving routes into the town. Urban development came in the late 15th century, with the division of the land into burgage-plots and construction of a tenement, at which point the area seems to have been occupied by merchants and burgesses. The late 18th and early 19th centuries saw the redevelopment of the site and evidence for the use of the area as a brass foundry.

The latest papers to be added to our Open Access collection of significant excavation reports and large-scale surveys present research from the site of a medieval farmstead discovered in Ayrshire; an area in the Highlands which saw settlement from the Middle Bronze Age to the early medieval period; and the excavation of an early modern tenement at Advocate’s Close in the centre of Edinburgh. To read the abstracts and access the papers, please see the details below.

SAIR 72 Excavations to the West of Gogar Mains, Edinburgh

This report records the results of the excavation of a multi-period site that was discovered within the construction corridor of the Edinburgh tram line. The site is located to the west of Gogar Mains and to the east of the Park and Ride car park by Edinburgh Airport. It was discovered during an archaeological evaluation in 2006 along the proposed tram route (Sneddon and Will 2006). Following this, an open area excavation uncovered a range of features and structures that date from the Neolithic and Bronze Age through to the late Iron Age and early medieval period. These features include a palisaded enclosure, two possible corn-drying kilns and a dense concentration of post-holes and pits (James 2008). The excavation was carried out by Glasgow University Archaeological Research Division (GUARD), while the postexcavation phase was undertaken by GUARD Archaeology Ltd on behalf of Edinburgh Tram Project for The City of Edinburgh Council. During the course of the tram construction programme a military pillbox next to the airport was recorded in advance of demolition (see Appendix).


We hope you enjoy the latest collection of SAIR papers. Remember, all SAIR papers are published Open Access and are freely available to read at ADS! You can see the full list of previous publications here.

If you would like to submit a paper to SAIR please view our guidelines for authors, or contact the Managing Editor.

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