History Files


Medieval Britain

Unearthing Medieval Scone

The Courier, 21 July 2007

Archaeologists working in the grounds of Scone Palace have been amazed by the results from the first such investigations ever to take place there.

As they processed their survey data an extraordinarily clear outline of parts of the medieval abbey church appeared on their computer screen.

They have been trying to discover more about the lost abbey of Scone and about Moot Hill, where Robert Bruce was crowned King of Scots in 1306.

Scone in ancient times was an important centre of royal and ecclesiastical power. Even before the time of the Scots, Pictish kings had been inaugurated on the Moot Hill.

By 1120 a royal abbey was built as befitted this great ceremonial centre of the kingdom, which served to house the Stone of Destiny.

No part of the abbey now stands above ground.

The investigation is based on geophysical remote sensing, a sophisticated scientific technique that allows archaeologists to look beneath the ground for buried structures.

"We have been really surprised by the high quality of the survey results so far, revealing a very clear outline of the great west end of the abbey church, complete with at least one bell tower," said Oliver O'Grady, one of the project leaders.

"The tremendous importance of Scone - where kings were made and where parliaments met - is only matched by how little we know about the reality of the place.

"Now we can locate the essential outline of the church and hints of where the cloister and other buildings stood—and all this without putting a spade in the ground!"

The Moot Hill is also giving up its secrets, with the clear indication of a massive ditch which originally encircled it, and evidence of how the hill was artificially created.

Suzanne Urquhart, chief executive of Mansfield Estates, which include Scone Palace, said, "We are delighted to be supporting these investigations to reveal more about Scone's remarkable past.

"Staff and visitors have enjoyed talking to the archaeologists about the strange-looking apparatus which they have been using to scan the ground.

"To see the plan of what was a beautiful Gothic church emerge from the ground after being lost for 400 years is very exciting.

"Some major gaps are being filled in our understanding of Scone's amazing history, and we are now talking to the archaeologists about how the project might develop."

The project, led by Mr O'Grady from the department of archaeology at Glasgow University, along with Peter Yeoman, who is a specialist in the archaeology of the medieval church in Scotland, has just finished.

The rest of the team from Glasgow University were supported by volunteers from Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust.



Images and text copyright © The Courier. Material courtesy and © DC Thomson & Co Ltd. Reproduced with permission.