Reporting: Summary

Exercise 13

In a short paragraph of not more than 100 words, sum up the present situation of Scottish rescue archaeology and the action that has been suggested.

Rescue archaeology in Scotland

Scottish history is being lost irretrievably and at a critical rate beneath the earthmovers and cement beds of redevelopment. That fact has emerged from meetings at Perth and St Andrews during the past few days called by Rescue, the Trust for British Archaeology.
More than seventy historic Scottish towns are thought by archaeologists to be threatened with Perth and St Andrews principal among them. In the countryside thousands of sites, from the earliest prehistoric middens to the remains of the last century, lie unexplored.
Before the seventeenth century, they explained, documentary evidence about Scottish communities was sparse. The country did not have the same conscientious habit as medieval England of recording its history.
Dr Nicholas Brooks, of St Andrews University, declared: ‘The first five centuries of Scottish town history relies almost entirely on archaeological work to show the pattern of trade, defences, the type of housing and churches, the social habits and the health of the people living there. It is archaeology that tells us how they lived, what they ate and how they died.’
Last year only five towns of 77 needing investigation had rescue work carried out on them and a mere £25,000 of the £1m British budget for rescue archaeology was spent in Scotland. In relation to size and population the country has a far higher proportion of ancient monuments under state guardianship than England but the trained archaeological officers able to organize rescue operations ahead of the bulldozer number barely a handful.
The council of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland has recommended that 20 such officers should work on the new regional authorities to assess sites and provide the liaison between developers and local authorities. That would also provide better career prospects for trained archaeologists in Scotland.
Rescue regards that as an excellent first step. It has proposed an immediate survey at Perth, where redevelopment is to take place on a plot overlapping the site of the original Scottish Parliament.
In St Andrews, where little has changed during the past 300 years, archaeologists detect sinister signs. ‘The town centre is a conservation area and St Andrews has its own planning authority, but it is calculated that in the past decade one tenth of the medieval borough has been destroyed by piecemeal development. All hope of recovering information has been lost’, Dr Brooks says.
The difficulty lies in the ruthless strength of modern machines used to plough up or clear the ground, to drive in the supporting piles or peel back an opencast coalmine. The Society of Antiquaries complains that much has already gone.
Road metal is being quarried from one of the largest and most important native hill forts in Britain at Traprain Law, East Lothian. One of the best-preserved Roman marching camps in Scotland was recently ploughed up.
Scotland has about 75,000 known field monuments. About three quarters of them are unprotected. ‘As long as change was fairly leisurely, Scotland’s archaeology was reasonably secure. That is no longer so and an alarm must be sounded.’

(Report in The Times)

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