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‘Stunning’ Ancient Archaeological Finds on A75

15 May 2014

To mark the early opening of the new £17 million A75 Dunragit bypass in Wigtownshire, a stunning treasure trove of ancient artefacts found on the construction site, shedding light on land use and settlement in the area over the past 9000 years, was unveiled today.

Finds from across the Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages, include a rare and complete 130-piece jet bead necklace dating to around 2000 BC - the first of its kind ever discovered in south west Scotland, early Neolithic flint tools including a flint arrowhead, and over 13,500 Mesolithic flints.

Other fascinating finds include an Iron Age Village, a Romano-British brooch, a Bronze Age cemetery complex, cremation urns and pottery sherds.

Transport Minister Keith Brown marked the early completion of the bypass by viewing some of the archaeological finds described as ‘highly significant’ by the National Museum of Scotland and Historic Scotland.

Mr Brown said: “With the A75 Dunragit bypass already improving journey times and providing opportunities for business, leisure and tourism industries on this crucial route between Scotland, the rest of the UK and Europe - it is also helping shine a light on Scotland’s ancient past. The finds at Dunragit, which would have remained uncovered had the new bypass not been built, are truly remarkable and underline the importance of the value we place on meeting our environmental obligations as we plan and construct essential new infrastructure.

He added:

“These are really exciting discoveries and tell us so much about our history in south west Scotland. The concentration of artefacts from the Mesolithic to post-medieval periods was highly unexpected, but gives an invaluable insight into the land use and settlement of southwest Scotland over the past 9,000 years. The necklaces are of particular interest because they are the first such necklaces to be uncovered in the south west of Scotland.”

Rod McCullagh, Senior Archaeology Manager at Historic Scotland.

“Historic Scotland advised how best to carry out this project while addressing the disturbance of any unknown archaeological remains along the road line through archaeological  excavation and analysis. The new bypass has been constructed while successfully avoiding the known archaeology, and an unforeseen wealth of archaeological information has been recovered.

“The team of archaeologists working on the dig have uncovered the remains of dwellings and burials spanning over 7000 years of prehistory. In addition, numerous smaller sites have been discovered which seem to relate to the use and exploitation of the land both through hunting and farming.

“These are exciting discoveries which offer a much richer understanding of the settlement of southwest Scotland over the past 9,000 years.”

                                                                Transport Scotland logo

Notes to Editor:

  • Mesolithic – dating from the end of the last ice age, this period between approximately 9000 BC to 4500 BC saw human groups spread throughout mainland and island Scotland. They lived by gathering and hunting.

  • Neolithic – In Scotland, this period spans approximately 4500 BC to 2000 BC and is the period in which settled farming became common in every part of Scotland

  • Bronze Age – In Scotland, the period known as the Bronze age dates from about 2500 BC when metal-using and a ‘package’ of other Continental novelties appeared in Scotland (and elsewhere in Britain and Ireland) to around the 800 BC, when iron objects and iron-using probably appeared.

  • Iron Age – In Scotland, iron is in use by about 800 BC; the period known as the Iron Age therefore spans the period from about 800 BC to about 500 AD. The period between approximately 70 AD through to about 300 AD witnessed an extensive Roman military and civil presence, especially in southern Scotland

  • The findings are currently being conserved and will undergo further analysis.

  • Following a programme of analysis of the excavation data, including the various artefacts, and a programme of conservation for the long term safe storage,  a report by Historic Scotland will be produced to describe and explain what has been discovered along the roadline. Following on from the report and informed by it,  a decision will be made on where the various collections will be stored and/or put on display.

  • Dr Alison Sheridan from National Museums Scotland identified the necklaces. She has confirmed that the necklaces were made in Whitby in North Yorkshire some 250 kilometres from where they were discovered.

For further information

Alice Wyllie
Historic Scotland Media Office
Communications and Media
0131 668 8603 or 07920 768 096