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Archaeologists Uncover Aberdeenshire's Hidden History On Slopes of Bennachie

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« on: August 08, 2008, 07:19:28 am »

                                            Ancient palace found in dig on hill

                    Archaeologists uncover Aberdeenshire’s hidden history on slopes of Bennachie

By Alistair Beaton
Published: 02/08/2008

Archaeologists have uncovered ancient traces, from tiny bead ornaments to massive walls, of a forgotten prince’s palace on the slopes of Bennachie in Aberdeenshire.

Only yards from a busy car park used by walkers visiting the landmark hill, a 15-strong team rediscovered remains of Maiden Castle just below the surface of a wooded hillside mound.

A stone’s throw from the Rowantree car park, near Pitcaple, and also close to one of the most important Pictish carved monuments in the country, the two-week dig confirmed the importance of the 2,000-year-old fort area.

“The outline of the Pictish fort is now clearly defined by the circle of ancient trees here,” said Edinburgh-based archaeologist Murray Cook.

“They give the place a magical atmosphere, and it has been a very worthwhile few weeks’ work.”

Excavations at the site, which is surrounded by an ancient ditch, and across neighbouring forest land, have also confirmed settlement in the area from 7,000BC right up to mediaeval times.

They have revealed a rare Iron Age cobbled road, a stone pendant, and a 1,000-year-old sparkling glass bead.

Special permission has to be obtained to work on the castle site.

Its national significance has been safeguarded by the site being scheduled as an ancient monument.

Now shrouded in trees, the hillside fort stands on a rocky outcrop.

It would have provided early inhabitants with a panoramic view of the Garioch, the neighbouring ancient hilltop forts on Mither Tap and Dunnydeer, and the Glens of Foudland, gateway to the Highlands.

A few hundreds yards away stands the Maiden Stone, erected by the Picts in the 8th century as an important religious site.

“The fort here was a very high-status residence, probably home to an ancient prince or king,” said Mr Cook.

“This was home to the elite. There are only three or four sites like this in Aberdeenshire.

The north-east is an area where you merely need to scratch the surface to come on archaeology and none are known outside Aberdeenshire.”

A large selection of pottery was also collected by the student and volunteer team at Bennachie.

The lost palace has now disappeared again as the team filled in their excavations to preserve the site.

Mr Cook also led a brief dig last week at Dunnydeer where there is an ancient stone circle.

The existing 13th-century castle ruin on the Insch hill stands on the site of a prehistoric fort, and samples of charcoal from the burning of the original rampart were collected for carbon dating.
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