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4 March 2021

Scotland’s Archaeology Strategy publishes 5-year review of ground-breaking work

Scottish archaeology marked a significant milestone this week as the Five-Year Review of Scotland’s Archaeology Strategy was published.

A woman in a hard hat and high vis vest at an Archaeological dig at Castle Douglas where finds, thought to possibly belong to a Viking hoard, were unearthed

Scottish archaeology marked a significant milestone this week as the Five-Year Review of Scotland’s Archaeology Strategy was published.

The Strategy – which was the first national Archaeology Strategy in Europe when it launched in 2015 – aims to make archaeology matter for everyone in Scotland. Key areas are delivering archaeology, enhancing understanding, caring and protecting, encouraging greater engagement and championing innovation and skills.

Scotland’s Strategic Archaeology Committee (SSAC), which is made up from professionals and interested people from across the heritage sector to lead the strategy, is celebrating five years of world-leading archaeology from Scotland. The main leads for the Strategy are HES, the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, the Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers, the National Museums Scotland, Archaeology Scotland and the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists.

Five highlights which show the values of the strategy well are:

  • Significant discoveries of national and international importance, such as the rediscovery of a lost medieval bridge at Ancrum which would have been crossed by Mary Queen of Scots and James V, and the unearthing of Scotland’s largest ever collection of medieval burials in Leith, Edinburgh
  • The reconstruction using ancient DNA of a Neolithic dog from a skull discovered at Cuween Hill Chambered Cairn in Orkney – the first such attempt of its kind
  • Increased community participation in archaeology as part of the strategy’s commitment to encourage and enable people of all backgrounds and ages to engage with Scotland’s past - on average 100,000 people have participated in over 400 events annually across Scotland as part of Scottish Archaeology Month
  • Archaeology contributing to addressing long-term issues such as climate change, with the Climate Change Vulnerability Index assessment for the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site. This pioneering technique for understanding the impact of climate change on historic sites is now being rolled out in World Heritage Sites across the globe
  • Responding to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, from finding new ways of working safely to help support the construction industry deliver projects, to responding to the needs of parents and teachers by making over one hundred free learning resources available online.

Dr Andy Heald, Chair of the SSAC and Managing Director of AOC Archaeology said:

It has been fantastic to be involved in this sector-wide partnership, with representatives from the commercial, public and third sectors. We are half-way through this journey now and there will be lots more exciting work happening in the coming five years.”

To view Scotland’s Archaeology Strategy Five Year Review and find out more, visit Scotland’s Archaeology Strategy website.

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said:

"This review highlights some of the inspiring activities that have happened as a result of the Strategy in the past five years - activities that are already delivering dividends on our vision to make archaeology for everyone.

There have been seismic changes over the past five years, particularly in 2020, and the Strategy has been evolving at pace to reflect the impacts from these current events.

"I am proud to see how we are increasing the visibility of Scotland’s archaeology on the global stage and showcasing our unique history to international colleagues and friends. The fact that Scotland’s Archaeology Strategy has helped inspire other countries to adopt a similar strategic approach is testament to its strength.

"I look forward to seeing the further achievements we will reach together over the next five years in its continuing delivery."

As one of the delivery partners in the strategy, HES, has invested over £6 million in grant funding to archaeology projects over the five-year period.

Dr Rebecca Jones, Head of Archaeology & World Heritage at HES, said:

“This five-year review is a great opportunity to reflect on the pioneering and world-class archaeology that has been achieved since the launch of Scotland’s Archaeology Strategy.

HES has been proud to play our part in supporting and enabling the different groups and organisations that make up Scotland’s diverse archaeology sector, whether through our programme of grant funding or through staff expertise and resource.

“Collaboration has been essential to delivering the strategy, and we look forward to continuing to develop new partnerships to empower local communities to get involved and take ownership of their heritage.”

About Year of Coasts and Waters 2021

The Year of Coasts and Waters (#YCW2021), led by VisitScotland, will be showcased throughout 2021. Activities and ideas will shine a spotlight on the impact our waters have had on Scotland, from the formation of beautiful natural features to the creation of our national drink - whisky.

About Historic Environment Scotland (HES) 

  • We are the lead public body charged with caring for, protecting and promoting the historic environment. We will lead on delivering Scotland’s first strategy for the historic environment, Our Place in Time.
  • Historic Scotland, Scran, Canmore, The National Collection of Aerial Photography (NCAP), The Engine Shed, Stirling Castle and Edinburgh Castle are sub-brands of HES.
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