Excavations at Birnie, Moray, 2004. - NMS Research Repository
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Excavations at Birnie, Moray, 2004.



Trial excavations from 1998-2003 showed that Birnie (near Elgin) was the site of an important, long-lived later prehistoric settlement complex and subsequently a medieval village. The later prehistoric site was a local power centre in contact with the Roman world far to the south - as seen most spectacularly in two hoards of Roman silver coins, and a range of other Roman finds. Funding has now been secured for a four-year larger-scale excavation, from 2004-2007. The aim each year is to tackle a roundhouse, a medieval building, and one or two other areas. In 2004 the probable medieval building in area P was fully excavated. It was a two-phase structure with very insubstantial foundations, a worn sub-rectangular floor hollow, and a central cooking pit later replaced by an external one. To the north lay an iron-working areas, as yet of unknown date. One roundhouse (area M) was of ring-groove construction, 11.5 m in diameter, with an internal structural post ring. The wall was probably of wattle panels, with a more solid post-built structure flanking the east-facing double door. It had a central cooking pit surrounded by various other features, with a series of radial chambers or small rooms around the edges. The deposits within the building come mostly from its demolition; at this point cattle skulls were placed in it as votive offerings. Notable finds included a clay ingot mould (from the house), a fine Roman brooch and a harness ring of southern Scottish type. Continuing excavation in the area N ring-ditch house clarified its history. The ring ditch contained a series of layers which probably resulted from the trampling of stalled animals and subsequent attempts to repair this. There were few finds. To the south-west an unsuspected large charcoal-rich spread was uncovered, perhaps another house, but time did not allow further investigation. Erosion in an old sand quarry on the terrace edge exposed an corn-drying kiln of medieval or post-medieval date, while aerial photography revealed an (undated) field system on the nearby flood plain. Both help to place the site in its wider setting.


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