Foundation Dig Finds Evidence of Medieval Scotland in Inverness
During excavations in advance of new development, archaeologists in Scotland have uncovered medieval ruins, and they are revealing secrets about the industrial past in Inverness, the capital of the Scottish Highlands. Emerging into the post-Covid19 world, Inverness is seeing some major urban developments, including a modern four-storey housing and retail complex at the site in question.
Ark Estates, on behalf of the Highland Council, tore down the former premises of the New Start Highland charity shop at 99 Church Street in what is a well overdue city center overhaul. While excavating remains underneath the charity shop, AOC Archaeology penetrated Inverness’ medieval layer underneath the 19th century structures.
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While working to uncover these remnants of medieval Scotland, the team of archaeologists came across two burnt-down structures. An article in The Press and Journal says the archaeologists have since discovered a “range of antiquities including medieval coins and iron tools.” The new housing and retail complex is due for completion in November.
The team uncovered the remains of two burnt structures at 99 Church Street dating back to medieval Scotland. (AOC Archaeology)
Unearthing Medieval Scotland and Dark Age Inverness
Inverness is located on Scotland’s northeast coast where the River Ness meets the Moray Firth. The Old Town features the stunning 19th-century Inverness Cathedral and the 18th-century Old High Church. However, below this surface layer is a fusion of 1,400 years of semi-mythological history beginning in 6th century AD when, after Saint Columba enchanted the Pictish King Brude at his fortress outside Inverness, he established a Christian colony. Then, in 1040 AD, it is said that King Macbeth murdered King Duncan at his castle which stood on the site of Auld Castlehill in Inverness.
According to an article on Local Histories, King David I of Scotland made Inverness a royal burgh in the early 12th century and he built a new castle. In the late 12th century King William the Lion gave Inverness 4 charters, and from 1180 AD a ditch and a wooden stockade surrounded the Highland Capital. Medieval Inverness flourished with fishermen, farmers, shipbuilders and wool, fur, and hide traders. So busy was the port that by the middle of the 13th century a large stone bridge was constructed over the River Ness.
In this lesser-known context of medieval Scotland, these two burnt-down buildings existed and functioned. If you look back over the trades mentioned above, you will see Inverness has always had a high demand for iron tools and goods.
Excavations have so far unearthed several artifacts dating back to medieval times. (AOC Archaeology)
Inverness: The Remote City with Royal Rights
AOC archaeologist Lindsey Stirling, who supervised excavations at the site of the former New Start Highland charity shop on Church Street, told the BBC that the site lies in the heart of the medieval town on a road formally referred to as “Kirkgate” which followed the route between the church and the castle brae.
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Stirling added that the excavation was “an amazing and rare chance to experience first hand these moments in time preserved after activities had ceased and buildings had been abandoned, and to see the overlapping of successive occupation.”
The two well-preserved burnt-down buildings are revealing to archaeologist the skills behind medieval “wattle and daub” architecture. Furthermore, the buildings were equipped with “stone footings, later stone-built structures and realignments of buildings with internal walls, wooden floor joists and cobbled surfaces,” highlighted Lindsay Stirling from AOC in The Press and Journal.
The artifacts even included a beautifully carved bone pin, another clue for piecing together the story of medieval Scotland. (AOC Archaeology)
While the two medieval structures unearthed in Scotland have not yet been dated it is known that industrial buildings and houses were built along this street from the late 12th century. At this time King William the Lion gave Inverness 4 charters granting the townspeople certain special, or royal, rights.
The dig site is a fusion of many well-preserved layers which bear witness to the history of medieval Scotland in that they span “multiple periods of activity and construction,” explains Michelle Henderson in The Press and Journal. The artifacts unearthed at the site include “beautiful carved bone pins, medieval coins, iron tools and fittings, bronze ornamental objects and broken ceramic vessels.”
Top image: Archaeologists in Inverness have discovered the remains of medieval Scotland. Source: AOC Archaeology
By Ashley Cowie