The Trust has its own team of archaeologists, and with 11,000 archaeological sites on Trust properties it’s all hands on deck to uncover Scotland's past and share it with the masses.

Archaeology is a vital part of our research and conservation work, and good conservation work is based on a sound understanding of what it is we’re protecting. So to learn more about our places, our ancestors and the way people once lived, we study the artefacts they left behind.

We count all kinds of things as artefacts, from pieces of flint used for tools to broken pottery from the 19th century, and the various structures that people have built through the centuries. Archaeology not only helps us uncover the past, but it also affects how we protect important sites. Plus, we get to share new discoveries with our members and get people excited about our history.

The facts

See the scale of the Trust’s archaeological work with these illuminating facts and figures.

  • Across the National Trust for Scotland’s land there are a whopping 11,000 archaeological sites and features, covering every time period from the Mesolithic (8500BC–4000BC) to the modern day.
  • Among our properties, you’ll find 271 listed buildings. The village of Culross in Fife, which is Scotland’s most complete example of a burgh from the 17th and 18th centuries, is home to 26 different listed buildings.
  • We care for 101 Scheduled Monuments, ranging from prehistoric standing stones and burial mounds to medieval castles and the ruins of 18th- and 19th-century farmsteads and villages.
  • We help to manage parts of 8 different historic battlefields, including iconic sites like Culloden and Bannockburn. Read more on bloody Scottish battles in our history section.
  • A series of pits unearthed at Warren Field in Crathes date to around 10,000 years old. Some people think that the 12 pits, dug by ancient hunter-gatherers, correlate with the phases of the moon, which would make this the oldest luni-solar time reckoner (a very basic calendar) yet found.
  • Although the Trust has a number of large country houses and castles, we actually care for many more smaller houses than grand mansions. There are over 500 ruined house sites on our land that date to the 18th and 19th centuries, and the artefacts buried in and around these houses tell stories about everyday domestic activities – cooking, eating and craft skills – as well as wider economic trade.

Did you know?

Soil builds up in layers over time, a process known as 'stratification'. When archaeologists discover something below the ground, they use the soil layers to determine the artefact's age. We call this method 'stratigraphy'.


3 major discoveries

Find out more about some of our favourite recent project discoveries.

Trust at work

A behind-the-scenes look at the work of the Trust’s Archaeology Team.