Local walkers may have noticed a lot of activity last week along the coast edge. We’ve had to keep the reason under wraps, but can now tell you about a very exciting discovery.
On the Friday morning our highly observant site warden Stuart noticed that the erosion from the recent storms had exposed what we thought was a single human skull and other bone fragments nearby.
We notified the police and, after confirmation that they were not recent, AOC Archaeology on behalf of Historic Environment Scotland began to excavate the area with the Fife Archaeological Unit and SWACS volunteers on hand. The excavation is now complete and the remains will undergo forensic analysis next year to tell us much more about them.
The skull was largely intact, but what appeared initially to just be a bit of leg bone sticking out of the soil turned out to be a complete separate burial! This burial was lying directly on top of the bedrock and had probably been covered by a layer of stones, some of which remained in position. Unusually, the body was in a crouched position.
At least five skeletons have previously been found along the coast, the most recent in 1988 and 1993. These were radiocarbon-dated to around the 11th century so it’s probable that the new finds are at least 1,000 years old and from a now-eroded early medieval cemetery. No grave goods (eg pottery or metalworking) have been found with any of the burials.
Why there might have been a cemetery here is unclear, but early Christian crosses found in several Fife caves, including our own Jonathan’s Cave and the collapsed West Doo Cave, tells us that they were important places for early Christianity and may have been places of pilgrimage.
We’ll let you know more once the results of the analysis are in next year.