Digging up the past at Old Deer

DIGGING IN:  The volunteers at the Old Deer archaeological dig start work.
DIGGING IN: The volunteers at the Old Deer archaeological dig start work.
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VOLUNTEERS took part an archaeological dig at St. Drostan’s Church in Old Deer last week in a bid to find traces of a monastic settlement.

The six volunteers, under the auspices of Murray Archaeological Services, undertook the dig on behalf of the Book of Deer Project, following a series of digs in the village last year which revealed a number of artefacts from the 13th and 14th Century.

Charlie Murray, director of Murray Archaeological Services, told the Buchanie: “This is part of a sequence of trenches we are looking at around the village of Old Deer to see if we can define the possibility of a medieval settlement and uncovering any evidence of an even earlier monastic settlement.

“Last year we had a sequence of trenches around the village and one within the village itself and this year we are looking at this area in particular as it’s part of the grounds of the Episcopal Church and may not have been built on.

“We were particularly keen to get in here to see if we could find any evidence of an earlier settlement.

“It’s early days but we are hoping that when we get down to the required level we might find features that will give us evidence of where the monastic settlement is,” he said.

Mr Murray said the front of the church was an area they felt they had to look at as it was not built on and if any artefacts were to have survived they would be more likely to have survived in this area.

“Last year we had a small amount of medieval pottery from the 13th and 14 century and that was useful in that it showed a prominent village and settlement in the Norman period. We are now trying to push this back into the period associated with an original monastic settlement.

“We’re not really sure what we’re looking for in this particular dig. We don’t know the extent of stuff surviving. If buildings were wooden they there’s no chance there would still be remnants of them, but if there were stone walls etc, then it’s possible we could find something.

“Ideally we would like to find glass beads and other such materials, which are relatively easy to date,” he said.

The three-day dig culminated on Friday when 120 school children from various primary schools throughout the area took part in a field walk on the outskirts of the village.

“There’s a good chance of turning up stuff that has been spread around and a field walk is a great way to find them,” added Mr Murray.

Speaking to the Buchanie yesterday (Monday), local historian Derek Jennings, who was one of the volunteers on the project, said that they had uncovered a number of significant items during the three-day dig.

“During the dig at the church we uncovered a pend and foundations of two cottages either side.

“The pend was about 15 feet wide, heading for the middle of the chruch so it was obviously older than the church building.

“It was a significant find but we did not find anything relevant to the medieval said of the village and that in itself was important.

“Pitfour, New Pitsligo, Fetterangus, Longside and Stuartfield pupils had a fantastic time during the field walk and found pre-historic and medieval items on the field.

“All items found will now be evaluated by a professional archaeologist,” he added.