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Excavation

Date 1990

Event ID 882879

Category Recording

Type Excavation

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/event/882879

The three elements of the investigation in 1990 comprised: a watching brief duting cable-laying along the length of the nave and within the choir of the abbey church; trenching within the seventh bay of the nave, to establish whether there had been a temporary western gable during the building's early years; and excavation within the presbytery to determine whether the church had been extended eastwards at some stage. The cable trench yielded little of archaeological interest. Similarly, within a 5m by 2.2m trench in the nave, there were no structural remains, merely disturbed burials and recent artefacts within modern debris at least 0.7m deep. However, substantial masonry structures as well as several burials, some of them relatively undisturbed, were uncovered within an L-shaped trench in the presbytery.

A plinth of mortar-bonded masonry measuring 4.4m by 2.3m and separated from the presbytery walls by gaps of 1.4m and 0.7m, has been interpreted as the probable base of a high altar. E of the plinth, but distinct from it, were the 1.2m wide rubble foundations of a wall: although only partially exposed and damaged by a modern drain, this appears to be the primary E gable of the church. The wall was straight and not, as had been thought likely, apsidal. It is not clear, however, whether this gable wall was contemporary with or earlier than the adjacent plinth.

In the SW corner of the trench was a coffin comprising a lead box surrounded by timber planking. Attached to its exterior were some textile and thin beaten copper, the latter fashioned into shell-like patterns. Inside was a well-preserved, articulated skeleton with some hair still attached to the skull. Although its lid was missing, the coffin's construction and the skeleton's state of preservation suggest the burial to be of late 18th or 19th century date.

Immediately below this grave was a stone sarcophagus similar to many of those discovered during the excavation of the chapter house in 1984. This earlier coffin had been damaged and its skeleton disturbed, probably when the overlying grave was dug.

There were more graves, some disturbed and some in situ to the E of these burials. None has been excavated.

Sponsor: HBM

J Lewis 1990a.

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References