Trust at work

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

It isn’t too surprising, considering we’ve got 11,000 archaeological sites on our land, that we have our own in-house Archaeology Team. They handle all sorts of different projects, from military plane crash sites to listed buildings, and ancient burial grounds to unearthed antiquities.

We do all kinds of things for different properties and archaeological sites. At Trust properties we walk staff through local archaeological history. We survey and map everything from landscapes to Scheduled Monuments. We help to maintain archaeological records for properties and advise on repairs for conservation. We also arrange for teams to come in and excavate when there’s some digging to do.

We work with other people and organisations – our neighbours, universities and government agencies like Historic Environment Scotland – to make sure that our country’s historical landscapes are being looked after, and to understand what impact people had on these landscapes in the past.

Mechanical diggers assist with the excavation of a hidden garden at Culzean Castle
Mechanical diggers assist with the excavation of a hidden garden at Culzean Castle

What we do

Conservation

When changes are happening at our properties, advice from the Archaeology Team helps to prevent any damage to significant sites and make the most of the results of any research. The Trust’s archaeological work has informed best practices for conservation around the country. Showing people the value of studying the past helps us to take better care of our properties now, and in the future.

Research

The Trust encourages research programmes on its properties, and some of the findings made on our land have changed the approach of archaeologists in Scotland. All our investigative work can be counted as research, but we also often work with universities to answer more specific questions. Our recent work at Mar Lodge Estate, with help from the universities of Aberdeen, Dublin and Stirling, has revealed evidence of hunter-gatherer activity at the source of the River Dee.

New discoveries

One of the most exciting things about archaeology is the discovery of new artefacts that change our understanding of the past and the way people used to live. We’ve found a 16th-century coin at Castle Fraser, a hidden prison in Alloa Tower, an open-air church at Torridon and human skeletons at the House of the Binns.

Studying gardens

Gardens are constantly changing and the Trust has led the way in studying and surveying the designed landscapes on our properties. We’ve undertaken drawings and excavations of ice houses, walled gardens, fountains and glasshouses, and thanks to our work we now know more about the people who created and tended our gardens in the past. We’ve learned that the glasshouses at Culzean were used for growing oranges, peaches and grapes, while the fruit grown at the Pineapple is pretty obvious!

Public interest

Getting people excited about Scotland and its history is a huge part of why the Trust exists. Archaeology is often very physical and volunteers can make a significant contribution. We provide opportunities for people to take part in fieldwork through our Thistle Camps and public archaeology events, such as digging test pits at Bannockburn. With excavation open days, information sheets, guided walks and appearances on TV and radio, we’ve managed to share new discoveries and the importance of archaeology with millions of people.

Archaeology Big Dig 2016 at Bannockburn with Neil Oliver and Tony Pollard
Archaeology Big Dig 2016 at Bannockburn with Neil Oliver and Tony Pollard
The challenges of identifying the location of the Battle of Bannockburn (2016)