Issue: Excavations in the Canongate Backlands, Edinburgh

Publication Type
Abstract The following paper presents the results of two excavations undertaken in 1999 and 2000 within parts of the World Heritage Site of the Old Town of Edinburgh and the Canongate. Excavation at Plot N of the Holyrood North Re-Development Project, Holyrood Road, unearthed evidence of Medieval boundary works (including a possible 12th-century burgh ditch), a 17th-century well, a Medieval graindrying kiln, refuse pits, drainage features and Post-Medieval cultivation soils. Excavation alongside Calton Road revealed evidence of medieval/Post-medieval property divisions, cultivation soils and quarry pits. Both sites yielded significant artefact assemblages.
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Author John Gooder
Issue Editor Helen Bleck
Publisher Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
Historic Scotland
Archaeology Data Service
Year of Publication 2013
Volume 56
Source DigitalBorn
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Abstract
1
The paper presents the results of two excavations undertaken in 1999 and 2000 within parts of the World Heritage Site of the Old Town of Edinburgh and the Canongate. Excavation at Plot N of the Holyrood North Re-Development Project, Holyrood Road, unearthed evidence of Medieval boundary works (including a possible 12th-century burgh ditch), a 17th-century well, a Medieval graindrying kiln, refuse pits, drainage features and Post-Medieval cultivation soils. Excavation alongside Calton Road revealed evidence of medieval/Post-medieval property divisions, cultivation soils and quarry pits. Both sites yielded significant artefact assemblages.
2
Lying between Arthur's Seat and Calton Hill, the Canongate is situated on the lower part of the crag and tail feature created by the glacial obstruction of the Castle Rock. Both excavations were located in peripheral zones of medieval and post-medieval backland activity.
3
The medieval burgh of Canongate has its origins in the 12th century. It was incorporated with Edinburgh in 1636.
4 - 11
A summary of earlier work in 1991 is followed by an archaeological description of the recent investigation. Five phases of activity have been identified, the earliest of which is represented by residual pottery sherds of 12th-century date. A large boundary ditch in phase 2 was cut in the 12th century and backfilled in the 13th. Phase 3 features included a grain-drying kiln, a wall and a number of pits. Phase 4 comprised 17th-century cultivation soils, a well and a possible cess pit. Phase 5 comprised 18th-and 19th-century cultivation soils and a cess pit.
12 - 14
A brief account of the cartographic evidence is followed by a summary of earlier work. During this investigation five broad phases of activity within two burgage plots were identified as follows: phase 1, 14th-15th century, a garden soil and two pits; phase 2, 15th-16th century, a small ditch and a stony path; phase 3, 17th century, garden soil, a robbed out wall trench and a ditch; phase 4, 18th century, a garden soil and 13 timber stakes; phase 5, 19th-20th century, building rubble including several thousand stoneware bottle sherds from the Caledonian Pottery in Glasgow.
George R Haggarty
Nicholas M McQ Holmes
Dennis B Gallagher
David Henderson
Clare Ellis
Andrew Heald
Stuart D Campbell
Patrice Vandorpe
Jill Turnbull
15 - 34
Detailed specialist reports are held in the archive at the RCAHMS. Pottery was mainly Scottish post-medieval oxidised ware and its reduced version. Most of the medieval pottery was Scottish white gritty ware while the most common import was Dutch post-medieval glazed red earthenware. The assemblage of clay tobacco pipes is a substantial addition to the corpus of 17th-century pipes from Edinburgh. Other brief reports include those on animal bone, metal and slag, plant remains, window and vessel glass and a billon penny of Robert III.
35 - 36
Key among the discoveries are the boundary features of the burgh, including an early ditch. The identified sequence of boundaries at Holyrood Road saw the Canongate Ditch superceded by a 13th-14th century palisade and then in turn by an early 16th century wall.
37
The primary records and the specialist reports have been deposited with the National Monuments Record of Scotland while the artefacts have been submitted for allocation through the Finds Disposal Panel.
38
39 - 42