1,100-year-old coin found in royal Pic­tish power cen­tre

● Ar­chae­ol­o­gists say money shows its oc­cu­pants used trade net­works

The Scotsman - - Around Scotland - By ALI­SON CAMPSIE

A 1,100-year-old coin is amongst a se­ries of dis­cov­er­ies made at what ex­perts be­lieve was a royal power cen­tre of a northerly Pic­tish king­dom.

The coin was found along with the re­mains of a long­house at Burghead Fort near Lossiemouth, which was thought to have been largely de­stroyed by the devel­op­ment of a new town dur­ing the 19th cen­tury.

Now ar­chae­ol­o­gists from Aberdeen Uni­ver­sity hope fur­ther sig­nif­i­cant find­ings will be re­vealed at the site – a prob­a­ble seat of power of North­ern Pict­land be­tween 500AD and 1000AD, given the fresh dis­cov­er­ies.

Dr Gor­don Noble, se­nior lec­turer at the Uni­ver­sity of Aberdeen, said: “The as­sump­tion has al­ways been that there was noth­ing left at Burghead; that it was all trashed in the 19th cen­tury, but no­body’s re­ally looked at the in­te­rior to see if there’s any­thing that sur­vives in­side the fort.

“But be­neath the 19th cen­tury de­bris, we have started to find sig­nif­i­cant Pic­tish re­mains.”

The Al­fred the Great coin was found within the floor lay­ers of the build­ing. Dat­ing to the late ninth cen­tury, it is from the fi­nal era of the fort’s use and dates to a time when Vik­ing raiders and set­tlers were lead­ing to ma­jor changes within Pic­tish so­ci­ety.

0 The coin was found with the re­mains of a long­house at Burghead Fort

Dr Noble added: “The coin is also in­ter­est­ing as it shows that the fort oc­cu­pants were able to tap into long-dis­tance trade net­works.

“The coin is also pierced, per­haps for wear­ing; it shows that the oc­cu­pants of the fort in this non-mon­e­tary econ­omy lit­er­ally wore their wealth.”

Dr Noble said the dis­cov­ery of the Pic­tish long­house helped to fur­ther un­der­stand the na­ture of the set­tle­ments within Burghead. He added: “Very lit­tle is known about Pic­tish ar­chi­tec­ture so this find­ing could pro­vide vi­tal clues as to the char­ac­ter of Pic­tish do­mes­tic ar­chi­tec­ture and the na­ture of ac­tiv­ity at ma­jor forts such as Burghead.”

The Aberdeen Uni­ver­sity team has been work­ing at Burghead on and off since 2015.

“Over­all these find­ings sug­gest that there is still valu­able in­for­ma­tion that can be re­cov- ered from Burghead which would tell us more about this so­ci­ety at a sig­nif­i­cant time for north­ern Scot­land – just as Norse set­tlers were con­sol­i­dat­ing their power in Shet­land and Orkney and launch­ing at­tacks on main­land Scot­land.”

Bruce Mann, ar­chae­ol­o­gist for Aberdeen­shire Coun­cil Ar­chae­ol­ogy Ser­vice, which has sup­ported the dig along­side Burghead Head­land Trust, said: “The fact that we have sur­viv­ing build­ings and floor lev­els from this date is just in­cred­i­ble, and the uni­ver­si­ties’ work is shed­ding light on what is too of­ten mis­tak­enly called the ‘Dark Ages’.”

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