Excavations at Birnie, Moray, 2006. - NMS Research Repository
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Excavations at Birnie, Moray, 2006.



In 2006 work at Birnie focussed on four main trenches. Good progress was made with the burnt-down roundhouse - the layers are complex, interleaved and varied, but they tell fascinating stories. Many of them derive from burnt turf, and it seems both walls and roof were turf-built, with collapsed wattle revetting from the inner wall face found at the base of the deposits. In place some possible floor deposits survived, but there is little sign of occupation debris. As a result, finds were sparse but choice - notably the terminal of a gold ribbon torc and an exotic amber bead, confirming the site's status. The late Bronze Age metalworking area located in 2005, was explored more thoroughly. There is no substantial workshop structure, and the activity was quite ephemeral. Two curved slots are probably temporary shelters or wind breaks. Along with mould fragments for pins, bangles and axes was debris from spearheads and perhaps swords. This will be a key assemblage for this period. To the north-east, a possible iron-working area first seen in 2004 was examined. This revealed a well-preserved iron-smelting furnace complex, with stone foundations and a clay superstructure. It had met a catastrophic end, with the clay walls collapsing. A shallow horseshoe-shaped erosion gully aligned on the furnace probably arises from associated activity. In the south-west of the trench, a four-post structure was found, probably a typically Iron Age grain storage building. Towards the north-west corner of the site, a large trench was opened over the remains of a possible medieval building exposed in 2000. This proved hard to trace, but a massive later prehistoric ring-ditch house was found. Within the house are a pair of clay iron-smelting furnaces, though they may not be contemporary with the building. There is also a rash of earlier activity, its nature still unclear. Important fidns included the moulds, the gold torc fragment and the amber bead noted above, which all confirm the inhabitants' status, while a fragmentary brooch-pin from metal-detecting is the first secure Pictish evidence from the site.


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11 Mar 2020
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