Issue: Excavations at the Bishop's Palace, Old Rayne, Aberdeenshire in 1990 and 2008

Publication Type
Abstract This report on the excavations at the Bishop of Aberdeen's manor at Old Rayne, Aberdeenshire, undertaken in 1990 and 2008, examines the morphology of the site and details the evidence for high-status buildings and an intricate water-system there in the late 13th/early 14th century. The environmental analyses give a glimpse into the economy of the manor and there is some discussion of the extent to which this episcopal site compares to the small number of secular manors excavated to date in north-east Scotland.
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Author Hillary K Murray
Charles J Murray
Issue Editor Helen Bleck
Publisher Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
Historic Scotland
Archaeology Data Service
Year of Publication 2012
Volume 52
Number of Pages: 39
Source DigitalBorn
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Evaluation and excavation took place in advance of a housing development as the site incorporated part of the enclosure of the Old Rayne Manor of the bishops of Aberdeen. The report also includes the results of an excavation in 1990 of a small area of the interior of the mound and a section of the ditch.
3 - 4
A description of the site location.
The lands of Rayne were granted to the bishops of Aberdeen in 1137. The evidence from the 2008 excavation suggests that there were high-status buildings on the site at least by the early 14th century.
6 - 17
Detailed archaeological description of the results including the excavation of parts of the ditch and possible palisade around the manor. Six phases of activity have been identified. Phase 1 is probable limited prehistoric activity represented by a small number of artefacts and ardmarks although these could be related to medieval clearance of the site. In phase 2 a slot and a number of truncated post-pits preceded the stone buildings and cistern in phase 3. In phase 4 a concentration of four hearths or ovens were built inside one of the buildings. One of the buildings was used as a midden in phase 5 and this was followed by demolition and decay in phase 6.
Torben Bjarke Ballin
Five undiagnostic pottery sherds were found in residual contexts. Six lithics were also residual with the exception of one piece that came from the original subsoil and was close to possible ardmarks.
19 - 24
The small quantity and quality of the finds is surprising in the context of an episcopal manor but may indicate that the site was kept very clean. There is a complete lack of personal items such as knives, buckles and brooches. Artefacts included copper alloy scraps, a lead window came, part of a stone basin or bowl and roofing slates. Part of an extremely rare imported exotic Scarborough ware ridge tile or finial bearing an equestrian figure was found. Pottery was mainly Scottish redware, locally made and dating to the 13th and 14th centuries.
Catherine Smith
Scott Timpany
D Masson
25 - 28
Cattle predominated the animal bone assemblage followed by sheep/goat and pig. Poultry and fish including cod and haddock. Charred cereal grain included oat, club/bread wheat, rye and barley.
29 - 31
Only a small part of the site has been excavated and the conclusions are tentative. However, the evidence suggests considerable similarity between this episcopal manor and its secular counterparts while emphasising the very small number of manorial sites yet excavated in northern Scotland.
33 - 34