ARCHAEOLOGISTS have unearthed evidence of what is believed to be the largest Anglo-Saxon building found in Scotland.
The foundations of the building, which may have been a monastery or even a royal home dating back to about 1,200 years ago, were discovered during excavations in Glebe Field, Aberlady.
Tests on an animal bone found at the scene have confirmed it dates back to between the 7th and 9th century.
Ian Malcolm, from Aberlady Conservation and History Society, described the first date evidence from the site as “very, very exciting”.
He said: “It is evidence that it was an important and a wealthy site.”
The result of radiocarbon-dating the bone confirms the foundations for the building, which would have measured 40 metres by 20 metres, is from Anglo-Saxon times.
The dig, which took place in April and May, was overseen by AOC Archaeology Group and the society with the help of the local community. It aimed to discover the remains of Anglo-Saxon timber halls, after the largest concentration of Anglo-Saxon metal objects to be found in Scotland were discovered in the field.
Aberlady was on a pilgrimage route between Iona and Holy Island and a fragment of an eighth-century cross was also discovered.
The dig unearthed evidence of a large structure, with the stone foundation of a wall along its short end.
Mr Malcolm said the structure would have to be significant because of the work that would have been undertaken to build it.
He said: “It may have been monastic, or a feast hall or a royal site. There have been other excavations but no evidence of a structure on this scale has been discovered.”
Also uncovered during the archaeological work was an area containing laid paving, with an open ‘pit’ area. It has been suggested it may have contained the foundation for the original eighth-century Northumbrian Cross, a reconstruction of which sits in Aberlady’s Memorial Garden. There also appear to have been workshops outside the main structure where the bone, a carved antler and metal finds were located. Details of the dig and finds can be found on the Aberlady Angles project website, aberladyangles.com
About 350 pupils from schools in East Lothian visited the site over the excavation period and more than 1,000 volunteer-hours were involved in the excavation, as well as a stream of visitors.
Mr Malcolm said the project hoped to investigate the site further later this year but would need to hold discussions with Historic Environment Scotland.
He said: “It is the site of an ancient scheduled monument, so discussions will need to take place before any further investigation on the site takes place.”