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Excavations at Birnie, Moray, 2008

By Fraser Hunter

Abstract

The 2008 excavations at Birnie (Moray) produced a wide range of excitement, both structural and artefactual. The story of the burnt-down roundhouse (trench D) became increasingly clear, with the smaller underlying roundhouse (c. 12.5m in diameter) more fully exposed and the structure of the later ring-ditch house revealed. A key discovery was that part of the building had been reused prior to its destruction, with structural modifications and intense activity in the south-east of what was by then a fairly ramshackle building. After the fire, a cobbled surface was laid over the area; this may have been the focus for the Pictish activity on the site, as later scooped buildings seem to be ranged around this yard.\ud Trench AH examined a well-preserved ring-ditch house some 15.5 m in diameter. Unusual features included a monumental double-door entrance, one side of which was closed off or restricted, and a partition separating the entrance passage from the ring ditch. At the end of the house's life a series of pits was dug across the dooreay, with burnt material being deposited in them and in the ring ditch. this is probably a symbolic decommisioning of the structure. The trench also produced our best evidence yet for Pictish buildings. The vestigial remains are best interpreted as floor hollows from two buildings at right angles, with associated features suggesting a cruck roof and a central hearth. A range of striking finds in this trench included a painted pebble, a glass marble or pin head and a short dagger in its sheath.\ud A return to the area west of the coin hoards finally confirmed that a large ring ditch house lurked there too, wiht the 2000 hoard directly in front of its ?blocked doorway. Over this was a series of spreads, rich in charcoal and clay, which probably represent demolition debris from an unrelated later structure in the vicinity; the area was subsequently levelled by cobblilng. Elsewhere in the trench, a much smaller post-ring building some 5 m in diameter was found.\ud In a separate campaign, the medieval corn-drying kiln previously sampled in 2004 was more fully exposed and found to be well-preserved.\u

Topics: CC Archaeology
Publisher: National Museums Scotland
Year: 2009
OAI identifier: oai:repository.nms.ac.uk:10

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