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Jet necklaces and bracelet discovered during the A75 Dunragit Bypass roadwork excavations in Scotland.

Scottish Roadwork Treasure Trove Now Revealed!


A treasure trove of artifacts was unearthed in Scotland during the building of the A75 Dunragit bypass, a new road in Wigtownshire, Scotland, back in 2014. According to The Scotsman, the discovery included a Mesolithic hunting camp dating back to 7,000 BC, an Iron Age village, and numerous relics spanning thousands of years. Now these fantastic archaeological discoveries, made during the excavations by GUARD Archaeology, have been published online, providing what Transport Scotland has termed a “fascinating glimpse” into ancient history, which would have been impossible had the roadwork not taken place.

Archaeological site uncovered during road works in Wigtownshire

Archaeological site uncovered during road works in Wigtownshire, Scotland. (BBC)

Excavations During Construction of the A75 Dunragit Bypass

The finding was made during the building of the £17 million (US$ 23.5 million) A75 Dunragit Bypass in Dumfries and Gallway in southwestern Scotland. The surrounding area is known to be loaded with archaeological remains, so the excavations in the area were particularly important. After only a few weeks excavating, the team had begun to come across more complex archaeology.

“We realized we had several nationally significant sites from various periods from the Mesolithic to the Neolithic, bronze age through to iron age,” explained Warren Bailie, the Operations Director at GUARD Archaeology on the Transport Scotland website.

In 2014 the Transport Minister Keith Brown unveiled full details of the discoveries made during the planning and construction of the bypass. "The concentration of artifacts from the Mesolithic to post-medieval periods was highly unexpected, but gives an invaluable insight into the land use and settlement of south west Scotland over the past 9,000 years," explained Brown at the time.

The houses uncovered during the project are the earliest known Mesolithic dwellings in south west Scotland, and are believed to have been part of a small temporary hunting camp. Researchers also uncovered more than 13,500 Mesolithic flints. The Mesolithic period (9,000 – 4,500 BC) dates from the end of the last Ice Age and saw human groups spread throughout mainland and island Scotland. The people were hunter-gatherers, but they were also beginning to domesticate animals such as cattle and sheep.

Discoveries Shining a Light on Scotland’s Ancient Past

The most sensational find from the dig was that of a 130-piece jet bead necklace dating back 4,000 years. Archaeologists were even able to trace its origin in Whitby, North Yorkshire, around 155 miles (249 km) from where it was found. "The necklaces are of particular interest because they are the first such necklaces to be uncovered in the south west of Scotland," explained Brown, who added that they are “truly remarkable” and helped "shine a light on Scotland's ancient past."

Image showing one of the Dunragit jet necklaces upon discovery and then again once cleaned and conserved. (Alison Sheridan / GUARD Archaeology)

The discoveries also included artifacts from different eras, including the Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze, and Iron Ages. There was also the finding of an Iron Age Village, a Bronze Age cemetery, stone-lined cist burials, cremation urns, a Romano-British brooch, over 13,5000 Mesolithic flints and flint tools from the early Neolithic period (4,500 – 2,000 BC). Last, but not least, they uncovered the remains of six roundhouses and pottery from the Iron Age (800 BC – 500 AD). The discovery sheds new light on land use and settlement in the area over the past 9,000 years.

The excavations of the West Challoch Mesolithic site used a half meter grid framework. (GUARD Archaeology)

Exploring the Past Online

Now, GUARD Archaeology has made the results of the exhaustive excavations available to the public by publishing them online, with both a Dunragit Monograph and a Dunragit Booklet available to be downloaded for free.

The artifacts which are virtually on display provide a unique insight into ancient history throughout 7000 years of continuous activity in Dumfries and Galloway in southwestern Scotland. "I am delighted that members of the public will have the opportunity to learn more about the lives of past generations who lived in the area,” highlighted Bailie to the BBC.

Some of the items uncovered during road works in Scotland

Some of the items uncovered during road works in Scotland. (BBC)

Top image: Jet necklaces and bracelet discovered during the A75 Dunragit Bypass excavations in Scotland. Source: GUARD Archaeology

By Joanna Gillan

Updated on March 31, 2021.



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Joanna Gillan is a Co-Owner, Editor and Writer of Ancient Origins. 

Joanna completed a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) degree in Australia and published research in the field of Educational Psychology. She has a rich and varied career, ranging from teaching... Read More

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