Discovery of ancient site stuns experts (in East Lothian)
from the Scotsman, 2nd August 2003
Discovery of ancient site stuns experts
by MICHAEL HOWIE
PREHISTORIC remains hailed by experts as one of Scotland's most significant archaeological finds in 50 years have been unearthed in the path of a major road development.
Scores of pots, tools and ceremonial items dating back 7000 years have been unearthed where work is being carried out to create a dual-carriageway between Haddington and Dunbar.
Ancient burial sites and neolithic settlements have also been uncovered.
The discovery has stunned experts who say it is one of the biggest and most important finds in recent years.
Archaeologists have yet to analyse the many items uncovered along the 11-mile stretch but are already predicting it will tell them much about early civilisation in the Lothians region.
They say the sheer volume of material confirms the existence of thriving communities which survived on the fertile farmland of East Lothian for thousands of years.
A major conference will be held next month to discuss the results. The £500,000 dig has been funded by Historic Scotland, which says it is "surprised and delighted" at the results of the excavations, carried out by a team of archaeologists from Glasgow University.
Team leader John Atkinson said: "In a rich farming area like East Lothian we expected to find quite a lot, but we were taken aback by the sheer volume of what we discovered. It is absolutely priceless."
Twelve individual sites were uncovered by the team of 30 archaeological staff, who worked up to five months ahead of the army of bulldozers which cleared the way for extra lanes on the A1.
Among the most stunning finds was a burial cairn at Ewford, near Dunbar. A copper alloy pike, used for ceremonial occasions was also found together with funeral urns thought to be 3500 years old. Elsewhere, remains of a prehistoric burial ground were found on Pencraig Hill, overlooking Traprain Law.
But the most exciting and unexpected find was evidence of a previously unknown settlement at Phantassie, near East Linton. The remains of around a dozen buildings and linking pathways constructed entirely of rock were discovered along with hundreds of small pieces of pottery.
Mr Atkinson said they found evidence of both burial and cremation. He said it was also possible their discoveries suggested excarnation - where the bodies of the dead are left for animals to eat and their skeleton later buried - had taken place.
He said dating of the recovered items would tell whether the ancient fort on Traprain Law was built before, or after, the surrounding settlements.
The discoveries also supported the theory that a clear class system existed in prehistoric times.
"We found large ceremonial cairns which had grave goods with them, suggesting they were for people with a reasonably high status in society. In other sites, like Phantassie, you see signs of every day, subsistence life, in the Iron Age."
Mr Atkinson added: "As a group it certainly qualifies as one of the most important finds in Scotland in the last 50 years."
Dr Gavin MacGregor, who directed the Ewfort dig, added: "It's a very important piece of work for us. Nationally important sites have been discovered and it's a great success for the all the parties concerned."
A spokeswoman for Historic Scotland said: "We are surprised and delighted by the quality of the archaeology.
"It is going to enhance our knowledge of early people in the Lothians very significantly. And that is a huge benefit to understanding of the rest of early Scotland too."
In 2000, the Scottish Executive pledged £50 million for upgrading the A1 to dual carriageway status, following years of campaigning by road-safety organisations and MPs.
The Haddington-Dunbar stretch is due to be completed next year.
Posted by BigSweetie
3rd August 2003ce
Edited 10th September 2007ce