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Uncovering Aden's lost history

Aden DigA new Archaeological dig is to begin at Aden Country Park in the hope of discovering more about the past at Aden.

The Book of Deer Project has for several years been carrying out archaeological work to help understand the early development of the village of Old Deer in Aberdeenshire.

The project is named after the Book of Deer which is one of Scotland’s oldest and most important manuscripts now housed in Cambridge University Library.

The book was apparently in the possession of an early Pictish monastery at Old Deer circa 1100 AD and it is thought to have been made there too. This monastery has otherwise left no trace of its existence.

However during the search for the monastery several other sites have been found and this year’s dig hopes to uncover more information about these sites, and maybe, just maybe uncover the monastery itself!

During a 2015 dig archaeologists uncovered a T-shaped building 23.5m long and circa 7m wide with an extension 6.5m wide.  The wall foundations are constructed of large stones and some small stones, substantial enough for a large 2-storey building.

In places the large foundation stones have remained above ground.  These large stones may have formed the seating for an Episcopalian meeting house.

25m to the west of the first building is a rectangular building with similar construction methods as the T-shaped structure, and it has a stone floor surviving in the east room, with at least one room partition dividing the building into two rooms.  The room with the stone floor may possibly be for animal use.

Aden DigIt is hoped this year’s excavation will date the building, and help answer the question of who built it and when, and what it was used for.

Alison Cameron, Archaeologist directing the project, said “We don't have any direct dating for these buildings but a Charles I/II bawbee came out of soil inside the T-shaped building, but there were also finds from prehistory to the 1970s!

Bruce Mann, Archaeologist for Aberdeenshire Council, said “There is a reference to a ‘lost tower house of the Keiths’ who once owned all of the Aden estate and surrounding land. If this is a late medieval building, possibly the lost House, then that would not rule out the stones being reused over the site as a mid-late 18th-century meeting house. It’s certainly a great chance for the local community to help solve a mystery.”

Students from Aberdeen and Edinburgh Universities, local volunteers, and members of the Book of Deer Project will work with professional archaeologists during the two weeks on site.

Aden Dig240 primary school pupils will be taking part on the 7th-10th and 13th June, the Enhanced Learning Unit from Mintlaw Academy on the 14th June, and other pupils from the Academy between the 14th -17th June. The pupils will be helping to uncover the rectangular building which has not been seen in full for several hundred years. They will learn archaeological techniques and handle and identify any finds.

Aberdeenshire Museums Service from Mintlaw will attend the dig on 13th June and bring a selection of local finds for the children to handle.

This year’s project is funded by Aberdeenshire Council Archaeology Service and hosted by The Book of Deer Project.

Visitors are welcome to the site which will be signposted from Aden Country Park car park and café. The excavations will run from 6th -19th June 2016. Volunteers are welcome and full training will be given.