Excavations at Birnie, Moray, 2000. - NMS Research Repository
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Excavations at Birnie, Moray, 2000.



In 2000 a further season of excavations was carried out on the Iron Age settlement at Birnie, Moray. The site is known from aerial photographs, and metal detecting has recovered part of a Roman silver coin hoard. Results so far suggest this was an important site during the Iron Age, with substantial houses and a rich finds assemblage. There was also a sizeable Medieval settlement in the field, perhaps due to its proximity to Birnie Kirk. Fieldwork in 2000 had three aims - to examine another area of the settlement; to continue the metal-detecting survey; and to try to locate the remainder of the Roman hoard. Stripping of an area some 26 x 27 m revealed the remains of at least four Iron Age roundhouses and a probable workshop. There was also a Medieval building and yard overlying further Iron Age remains. In places the deposits are well-preserved and have not suffered badly from ploughing. Dating those features should be a big help in understanding the development of the site during the Iron Age. Metal-detecting revealed a range of finds including part of an Iron Age bridle bit,an unusual discovery whcih points again to the importance of the site. Excavation of trial trenches at the findspots of the two Roman brooches found in 1999 drew a blank, and these seem to be isolated finds. Plotting the findspots of coins found in previous years showed a concentration in one area of the field. A trench was excavated here and the remains of the hoard were found, still in the pot it was buried in. The hoard contained over 300 denarii, ending with coins of Septimus Severus of AD 196-7. Careful excavation recovered organic remains associated with the hoard - a lining of bracken, and fragments of leather and string possibly from a lid or pouch. The hoard is one of a number known from Scotland north of the Antonine Wall, and is best seen as part of a Roman policy of giving gifts or bribes to powerful chiefs in return for their loyalty. Many questions remain, in particular why the hoard was buried there, and further work in 2001 will try to tackle this problem. Trial excavations beside Birnie kirkyard wall found no sign of an earlier enclosure.


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