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Society’s Dig It! Project Celebrates Successful Summer Campaign

22nd September 2023 | Categories: Uncategorised

Scotland Digs 2023: Free Days Out campaign showcased the country’s world-class archaeology and more than 20 free events from Shetland to Dumfries & Galloway

Two people crouching near an archaeological trench in a mountainous setting with one person (a student) smiling at the other

Members of the public were invited to watch archaeology in action at the National Trust for Scotland’s Mar Lodge Estate in the Cairngorms during Dig It!’s Scotland Digs 2023: Free Days Out campaign (© Shahbaz Majeed 2023)

From 21 June to 22 September, Scotland Digs 2023: Free Days Out compiled fieldwork updates and events for the public through social media and an online hub on the Dig It! website.  

The national campaign – now in its fifth iteration – was coordinated by the Society’s Dig It! project to help deliver Scotland’s Archaeology Strategy 

Over the summer, over 15,000 people volunteered at archaeological excavations and other fieldwork events, visited sites, and attended free tours and open days advertised as part of the campaign in both rural and urban areas. Opportunities were coordinated by a range of organisations, such as community groups, charities and universities. 

Discoveries made during the summer ranged from Scotland’s Mesolithic to Modern time periods, with Fellows involved in many of the projects.

Evidence of stone tool manufacturing left by prehistoric hunter-gatherers over 6,000 years ago (4,000 BC), for example, was found at the National Trust for Scotland’s Mar Lodge Estate in the Cairngorms by a team from University College Dublin (including Professor Graeme Warren FSAScot), University of Stavanger and Ghent University, a project supported by a Society grant. Throughout the dig, the public were invited to visit them on site and learn more.  

In Stirling, an 18th-century dye house floor that had been raised four times – possibly as a method of flood prevention – was unearthed by Dr Murray Cook FSAScot of Rampart Scotland and volunteers at a Bannockburn site which has been labelled “the birthplace of the modern tartan industry”. 

Two people surrounded by archaeological tools , such as shovels and buckets , digging in a trench beside a river with an old stone bridge in the background

Volunteers helped investigate “the birthplace of the modern tartan industry” and several other sites across the country during Dig It!’s Scotland Digs 2023: Free Days Out campaign (Credit: Dr Murray Cook FSAScot)

Dr Jeff Sanders FSAScot, Dig It! Project Manager at the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, said: 

“At a time when value for money is particularly important, archaeology was able to offer thousands of people free ways to be physically active, connect with others, get outdoors and try something new this summer. But if you couldn’t take part in Scotland Digs 2023: Free Days Out, don’t worry! You can get involved in the discovery of Scotland’s stories all year round by exploring a range of budget-friendly archaeology events on the Dig It! website.” 

Dr Susan O’Connor, Head of Grants at Historic Environment Scotland (HES), said: 

“Dig It!’s annual Scotland Digs campaigns offer a fantastic opportunity for everyone and anyone to get hands-on experience and learn more about archaeology in Scotland. The Dig It! project remains one of the UK’s most accessible ways for diverse audiences to get their hands in the dirt and enjoy our oldest stories. There have been some remarkable discoveries this summer, and it’s been great to see lots of activities to follow online too. We’re pleased to have supported another successful Dig It! campaign and to see new communities and groups engage with our shared heritage.” 

The Dig It! project is coordinated by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and primarily funded by Historic Environment Scotland. 

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