Excavations at Birnie, Moray, 2001. - NMS Research Repository
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Excavations at Birnie, Moray, 2001.



A further season of excavations in 2001 continued the examination of the unenclosed Iron Age site at Birnie, Moray. Work so far has shown this was an important settlement, inhabited by people of some status who were in contact with the Roman world. In 2000 the bulk of a disturbed late 2nd century Roman silver coin hoard was found, an extremely rare and exciting discovery; this was probably a gift or bribe, part of a wider policy to keep the Roman frontier secure. Fieldwork in 2001 had four aims: to test the presence of a palisade east of the site; examine two further sets of cropmarks; explore the setting of the hoard; and continue the metal-detecting survey. The palisade had been suggested from aerial photographs, but extensive trial-trenching found no trace of it. This allowed the eastern boundary of the settlement to be established, giving it a sizeable area of some 150 x 110 m. Two trenches examining cropmark traces revealed the remains of three Iron Age roundhouses. These had unusually well-preserved occupation deposits. Dating these will be important in clarifying the date range and nature of the site. Examining a large area to the west of the 2000 coin hoard showed that it lay in an area of dense occupation, close to a substantial roundhouse. Owing to the complexity of the remains they were only partly disentangled. Completely unexpected was the discovery of a second Roman silver coin hoard, only 10 m away from the first. This is unparalleled in Scotland, and raises all kinds of questions about how long-lived the contact with Rome was, and why the hoards were buried here. Further work is planned to tackle some of these issues. Metal-detecting produced a range of finds which expand our picture of the site. Most notable was an intact and unusual Roman brooch, the third from the site, which shows that there was contact with Rome over some time. Finds from the Medieval settlement overlying the Iron Age one were also recovered, including a silver coin and lead spindle whorls. Excavation recovered an important representative range of everyday Iron Age tools and implements.


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11 Mar 2020
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