Issue: Artefactual, environmental and archaeological evidence from the Holyrood Parliament Site excavations

Publication Type
Abstract A summary of these specialist reports (Parts 1 and 2) was published in 2008 in the monograph on the Holyrood Parliament Site Project: Scotland's Parliament Site and the Canongate: Archaeology and History by the Holyrood Archaeology Project Team, Chapter 3.9 & 3.10 (HAPT 2008). Except for sections 3.9 and 3.10, Chapter 3 in that monograph has been repeated here as Part 3, in order to provide the archaeological context for the artefactual and environmental evidence alongside the specialist reports.
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Author Gordon J Barclay
Anna Ritchie
Editor Gordon J Barclay
Anna Ritchie
Publisher Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
Year of Publication 2010
Volume 40
ISBN 0 903903 66 0
Source DigitalBorn
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Abstract
Gordon J Barclay
Anna Ritchie
1 - 145
A summary of these specialist reports (Parts 1 and 2) was published in 2008 in the monograph on the Holyrood Parliament Site Project: Scotland's Parliament Site and the Canongate: Archaeology and History by the Holyrood Archaeology Project Team, Chapter 3.9 & 3.10 (HAPT 2008). Except for sections 3.9 and 3.10, Chapter 3 in that monograph has been repeated here as Part 3, in order to provide the archaeological context for the artefactual and environmental evidence alongside the specialist reports.
1 - 2
Adrian Cox
3 - 6
Adrian Cox
Derek W Hall
3 - 6
The material from the main excavation encompasses a broad date range, mainly reflecting the site's occupation from the medieval period until recent times, although a lithic assemblage of prehistoric date was also present. The finds from the Queensberry House excavation provide additional insights, particularly into the later periods of activity on the site. The artefacts and ceramic evidence are summarised by period from the 12th to the 20th century.
Derek W Hall
6 - 16
Derek W Hall
6 - 16
A total of 4,873 pottery sherds were produced raning in date from the 12th-19th century. Thin-sectioning and ICPS analysis were undertaken on selected sherds of Scottish White Gritty Ware. Perhaps the most striking feature of the assemblage is the importance of the information provided by the later medieval and post-medieval wares. Such assemblages are rare discoveries in Scottish burghs simply because deposits of that date have rarely survived the development boom of the 19th century when digging of cellars removed earlier deposits. The quality of the medieval and post-medieval assemblages is very high and is presumably an indication of the status of the inhabitants of the buildings on the Canongate frontage and Queensberry House.
Adrian Cox
16 - 24
Adrian Cox
16 - 24
A range of activities is represented by the copper-alloy objects which include costume fittings such as buckles, lace tags and mounts, textile equipment such as needles, thimbles and pins. There are lead alloy window cames and a waste sheet. The iron artefacts are poorly preserved though horse equipment, structural ironwork and tools have been identified.
Effie Photos-Jones
24 - 37
Effie Photos-Jones
24 - 37
A detailed scientific analysis was carried out on metallurgical waste ranging in date from the 12th to the 19th century. Main aims were to determine the nature of the relationship of the abbey and the burgh in the medieval period, the nature of the urban precinct that developed around the palace of Holyrood in the post-medieval period and the nature of the activities at the Canongate in the early modern period.
K R Murdoch
37 - 42
R Murdoch
37 - 42
Glass, until the beginning of the 18th century, was expensive and little used compared with pottery, and only sites of the very highest status are liable to yield glass dating to before around 1500. The range of types of glass from Holyrood is fairly typical for an urban site and consists of window glass, wine bottles, drinking vessels, medicine bottles and a few miscellaneous items. Most of the shards are small and occur singly. Very few items are represented by more than one shard. This is not unusual and may be related to the fact that much broken glass was re-used in historic times. In fact, this practice may be giving a falsely low impression of just how much glass was in general use.
Adrian Cox
42 - 43
Adrian Cox
42 - 43
Small ceramic artefacts recovered from the excavation include a number associated with leisure pursuits (a carpet bowl and a counter fragment). This also applies to the small earthenware or stoneware alleys which would originally functioned as parts of closure mechanisms in glass bottle during the 19th century. Once the bottles were emptied the alleys were often claimed by children for using in games of marbles. A wig curler was also recovered.
Julie Franklin
43 - 46
Julie Franklin
43 - 46
A wide variety of building materials was recovered from Holyrood: roof tiles, roof slates, brick, and various floor and wall tiles. These only represent a tiny fractions of what would originally have been used on the site. Building materials were, and are, wherever possible, reused, and what was recovered from the site are the items dumped or which found their way into the garden soils. For most of the site's history, building would have been almost entirely in wood, wattle, and thatch. none of which survive.
Adrian Cox
46 - 47
Torben B Ballin
47 - 50
Torben Bjarke Ballin
47 - 49
The assemblage was mainly flint with some quartz and chert. All 44 pieces were redeposited.
Adrian Cox
47 - 48
The assemblage comprised four discs, two spindle whorls and a possible hone or whetstone fragment.
Adrian Cox
50 - 51
Adrian Cox
50 - 51
Items included a bead or toggle, two dice, two possible furniture handles and a circular mount.
Adrian Cox
Clare Thomas
51 - 52
Adrian Cox
Clare Thomas
51 - 52
A leather covered ball was constructed in a method similar to that of early golf balls. A 19th- or 20th-century shoe was of riveted construction.
Nicholas M McQ Holmes
52 - 53
Nicholas M McQ Holmes
52 - 53
Sixteen coins and jetons of late 15th- to 20th century date were recovered. All fall into the category of 'small change'. The largest concentration is of 17th-century copper coins which represent a fair cross-section of the low value coins circulating in Scotland at that time.
Dennis B Gallagher
53 - 59
Dennis B Gallagher
53 - 58
A total of 908 fragments were recovered, mostly manufactured between c 1630 and 1680. Identifiable makers were William Banks, John and Thomas Banks, William Young, Robert Smith, Patrick Crawford and David Banks. The pipes are mostly Edinburgh products although there are some Dutch imports.
Derek W Hall
Adrian Cox
Effie Photos-Jones
Dennis B Gallagher
Jo Dawson
59 - 67
Reports on the pottery, iron objects, industrial waste, glass, leather, stone and ceramic building material, clay tobacco pipes, and House of Refuge finds. PP-B
Derek W Hall
Adrian Cox
Dennis B Gallagher
Jo Dawson
59 - 67
Queensberry House was a House of Refuge from 1834-1949. A diverse assemblage was recovered during excavation of three rooms in the basement. There are specialist reports on pottery, iron objects, leather, glass, stone, ceramic building material and industrial waste.
69
The environmental evidence comprised carbonised plant remains, animal and fish bone, and soils and sediments. The data were collected during the initial evaluation, various set-piece excavations and watching briefs. During the main excavation, data collected by hand were supplemented by an intensive programme of soil sieving. In particular, the extensive spreads of 'garden soil' were targeted. The reports on the carbonised plant remains and the faunal remains deal with the assemblages from the main excavation and Queensberry House separately, but each considers the results in a final discussion.
Stephen P Carter
70
Analysis of the soils and sediments focussed on the relationship between the natural topography of the site and how this has influenced settlement patterns, the soil processes which have shaped this part of the Canongate to the present day and how these processes have enabled us to interpret the history of past settlement here.
Timothy G Holden
Mhairi Hastie
71 - 75
Plant remains were characterised by an extremely low diversity rarely comprising more than five taxa per sample. Barley, oats and wheat occurred in most samples. Other economic species were only rarely present. Concentrations of wood charcoal across all phases of the site were extremely low as opposed to the huge concentration of coal.
Timothy G Holden
Mhairi Hastie
71 - 76
Stephen P Carter
71
Catherine Smith
75 - 105
Perhaps the most notable aspect of the Parliament faunal assemblage is the dominance of sheep/goats over cattle. This is at first sight unusual in a medieval urban context, since at most of the sites which have been excavated to date, cattle have been the predominant species. It is though that bulk sieving did not bias the retrieval of bones in favour of sheep/goats, and the reason for their prevalence may have more to do with factors of site economy than with taphonomy. Sheep bones were also in the majority at Queensberry House.
Catherine Smith
76 - 105
105 - 108
The fish remains have allowed for an interesting insight into the development of the fishing industry of Scotland, particularly in terms of the social, economic and religious aspects of life in the medieval and post-medieval periods in Edinburgh and the surrounding areas. With increasing populations strong markets quickly developed and Edinburgh with its developing importance must have provided a strong demand. Fish have played a considerable part in the development of the Scottish nation and their remains recovered from sites such as Holyrood are an important source of evidence to support the early historical records. The fish remains further demonstrate the important role of fish in Scotland's history, contributing invaluable nutrition to the diet of its population, while providing the country with a valuable export industry.
Ruby Céron-Carrasco
105 - 108
Stephen P Carter
108 - 115
Analysis of the composition of the Period 3 and 4 soils indicates that coal ash was the dominant material responsible for the accumulation of these soils. It is assumed that the coal ash was initially cleared out into a midden and was subsequently spread on cultivated plots as a component of the manure. The process of soil accumulation through deposition of ash appears to have ended before the 17th/18th centuries. This may reflect a decline in the importance of cropping in the backlands as the status of the area rose and formal gardens became the norm. The relative absence of coal ash from Period 2 soils indicates a period of sediment accumulation when little ash was being deposited. Turf, used initially for construction and then for manure, may have been the source of sediment at this time.
Stephen P Carter
108 - 115
Simon Stronach
Adrian Cox
Derek W Hall
Stephen P Carter
117 - 140
This chapter described the main archaeological features encountered during the excavation, and the artefactual and environmental evidence where appropriate. The results are prefaced by a summary of the main archaeological findings. At the end of the chapter is a brief discussion of how the archaeological results shed light on the main research questions posed at the beginning of the project.
Simon Stronach
117 - 140
141 - 145