Uncovering a veritable treasure

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At THE October meeting of Forfar and District Historical Society, members were privileged to welcome Derek Hall, an archaeologist, writer and an expert in medieval ceramics.

He described his varied career of more than 30 years, but whose passion for research into the day to day lives of the residents of our oldest Scottish burghs clearly remains undiminished. Although there is much documentary evidence of the past, it tends to be in the form of monastic reports and Acts of the Kings, with little reference to the more mundane aspects of trades and commerce. It is his belief there is a wealth of evidence buried beneath our towns as we know them today, and he cited the example of major surveys carried out in Perth prior to the development of the city centre, when it was found that the nature of the terrain was such that many artefacts were uncovered in a surprisingly good state of preservation.

Materials such as silks, leather goods, wattle fences and parts of the original buildings had survived over the centuries, and the opportunity was taken to gather remains and to record as much data as possible before the ground was covered once more. Derek is confident similar excavations in Scotland’s oldest burghs, including Forfar, could uncover a veritable treasure of historic information, but sadly, finance for such operations is simply not available, and we are now reliant on what he calls “rescue archaeology”, when developers are obliged in certain circumstances to bear the costs of archaeological surveys prior to their schemes being carried out.

The Society continues its 2012-13 session of meetings in the East and Old Parish Church Hall, Chapel Street, Forfar, at 7.30 p.m. on Thursday, November 1, when Dr James Bruhn of Historic Scotland will give a presentation entitled ‘The Antonine Wall and the Roman North’. New members of the society will be most welcome.