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Encountering archaeology in advance of quarry development

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

archir pic

Archaeology can be a significant issue for quarry developments, impacting upon carefully planned schedules and budgets. Specialist guidance on the legal and technical procedures surrounding archaeology, however, can offer a swift resolution to any difficulties.

Guard’s archaeologists have extensive experience and a proven track record working in advance of quarries, from undertaking archaeological assessments prior to planning applications to providing a rapid response to the accidental discovery of archaeological remains. A few examples will now follow.

Lothian Plain

A good example where Guard has undertaken work to meet planning conditions, following an assessment during the planning application process, was the archaeological investigation carried out over the winter of 2010-2011 on the summit of Soutra Hill in the Scottish Borders.

The work was in advance of extension to Skene Group’s existing Soutra Quarry and revealed an early Bronze Age burial cairn at the summit. This contained a cremation burial, which was discovered by Guard specialists to be an adult buried around 1750 BC. A total of 52 sherds of pottery from a decorated vessel were also recovered from the cairn. It was possible to piece almost all the sherds together to form one early Bronze Age beaker, a type of pot associated with beer drinking and often buried in graves of this period.

The cairn and the remains of nearby timber circle, similar to a stone circle but originally comprised large wooden posts, suggest that Soutra Hill was a significant place for rituals and burial overlooking the Lothian plain in the early Bronze Age landscape of south-east Scotland.

However, this wasn’t all the archaeology the team discovered. The foundations of a late medieval beacon truncated the cairn. This corroborates an Act of Scottish Parliament in 1455 that established a system of beacons, including Soutra Hill, to warn of English attack. Further evidence for later use of the hillside consisted of plough furrows, which may relate to agricultural activity of the nearby Soutra Medieval Hospital. Of course, all this archaeological evidence for Soutra Hill’s place within the prehistoric and medieval landscape would not have been discovered if Skene Group had not extended their quarry, thus requiring archaeological mitigation.

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