NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Digs funded at 'lost kingdoms' sites in Scotland and Ireland

The Craw Stone at Rhynie Image copyright Aberdeen University
Image caption The Craw Stone at Rhynie in Aberdeenshire

University of Aberdeen archaeologists have been awarded almost £1m to search for clues on what life was like in northern Europe after the Roman Empire.

The cash will allow further digs at sites like Rhynie in Aberdeenshire.

There will also be digs as Burghead in Moray and sites in Ireland - Cashel in County Tipperary and Dunseverick near the Giant's Causeway in County Antrim.

The university said the project would be an investigation of the "lost kingdoms of Northwest Europe".

Image copyright Aberdeen University
Image caption Robert Laing, a member of the Rhynie dig team, with an artefact found at the site

The five-year project is being funded by the Leverhulme Trust and will be led by archaeologist Dr Gordon Noble, from the University of Aberdeen's School of Geosciences.

He said: "In contrast to the study of the Roman Empire and its successors, first-millennium AD northern Europe is almost exclusively studied at a local and regional level.

"There has been very little detailed inter and intra-regional research, despite an upsurge in archaeological data.

"We will be able to investigate in detail the differences and similarities between Pictland in northern Scotland, Dál Riata - a Gaelic-speaking polity spanning County Antrim in Northern Ireland and Argyll and the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, and Gaelic kingdoms in Munster, Ireland."

Image copyright Aberdeen University

Dr Noble said the project would bring together experts in archaeology, history, place name studies and paleoecology "to build a much fuller picture of these kingdoms".

"The project involves scholars from a range of fields which should give us an unprecedented opportunity to understand how these early kingdoms were created, developed and were ultimately transformed," he said.

"The areas outside the bounds of the Roman Empire have for too long played relatively minor and peripheral roles in the grand narratives of European history.

"We hope that this grant will enable us to begin to challenge that and to present a very different view of how society changed in the post-Roman period in these kingdoms at the 'periphery' of Europe."

Dr Noble and his team had already carried out excavations in Scotland at sites such as Rhynie in Aberdeenshire and found evidence which points to it being a sophisticated Pictish power centre which had trade contacts with Anglo-Saxon England, Frankia and the Byzantine world.

Image copyright Aberdeen University

He added: "Our work at Rhynie shows how even modest programmes of archaeological investigation can illuminate the seats of power of these early kingdoms," Dr Noble said.

"This grant will allow us to conduct more extensive field investigations of sites like Rhynie and to compare them to other early medieval seats of power in Scotland, Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland."

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