South Scotland

Home of 7th Century princess unearthed in Coldingham

Coldingham Priory Image copyright DigVentures/Aerial-Cam
Image caption The dig concentrated on ground around Coldingham Priory in the Borders

Archaeologists believe they have found remains of the long-lost home of a 7th Century princess in the Borders.

A monastery was founded near the village of Coldingham by Princess Æbbe nearly 1,400 years ago.

It was destroyed by Viking raiders in the 9th Century and previous attempts to pinpoint its location have failed.

However, excavations led by DigVentures have found traces of a large, narrow ditch which they believe was the boundary of the religious settlement.

Image copyright DigVentures/Aerial-Cam
Image caption The team uncovered bones which have been dated back to the 7th to 9th Centuries

The team also uncovered a pile of butchered animal bones nearby which radiocarbon dating has just confirmed came from between AD660 and AD860.

"The section of boundary ditch we found links up with two other ditch sections, and together they seem to encircle Coldingham Priory, meaning that the heart of Æbbe's monastery is somewhere underneath it," said Manda Forster from DigVentures.

She said the dates put to the bones linked the site to the right time frame.

"This is pretty much exactly when Æbbe's monastery was in existence.

"Originally built around AD640 it is said to have burned down shortly after her death, but was then rebuilt and thrived until it was destroyed once again by Viking raiders 200 years later," she added.

Image copyright DigVentures/Aerial-Cam
Image caption A ditch has revealed what is thought to be the boundary to the settlement

Previous attempts to find the monastery had looked at sites nearer the coast but this time archaeologists looked further inland, to where Coldingham Priory is now located.

"It is brilliant to finally be able to announce that we've found Æbbe's monastery, and to confirm that part of it is probably underneath Coldingham Priory," said Ms Forster.

"Æbbe is an extraordinary figure - an example of a powerful Anglo Saxon woman who played a big part in establishing Christianity in the region during the 7th Century.

"Now that we've got evidence to pinpoint exactly where her monastery was, we can help bring her story back to life," she added.

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