SCOTLAND has had its fair share of incredible archaeological discoveries over the past year with a number of groundbreaking finds.

From a possible Neolithic “hall” to an “elite” Iron Age hillfort, there’s been plenty work done across the country to unearth more about Scotland’s fascinating history.

Now, Dig It!, a hub for Scottish archaeology, has compiled its annual list of of some of the biggest discoveries of the year.

A possible Neolithic timber “hall” in Moray

Beginning with the oldest discovery on the list, this possible Neolithic timber “hall” was identified by AOC Archaeology in Portgordon.

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It was found in late 2022 during an evaluation and excavated between January and March 2023 in advance of proposed development works.

The National: A view of the site in Moray. Credit: AOC Archaeology 

Archaeologists believe it dates from between 4100BC to 3500BC as the layout resembles a number of other examples found in Scotland.

More than 240 pieces of prehistoric pottery were also recovered from the site, including fragments of Carinated and Unstan Bowl.

Bronze Age discovery at Shetland spaceport site

In June, the remains of what may have been an early Bronze Age ritual cremation cemetery were found at a rocket launch site in Unst.

Again, the discovery was made by AOC Archaeology who were carrying out a watching brief during groundworks at the SaxaVord Spaceport site.

This included careful observation of excavation works within a development site to ensure any remains that are revealed are identified and recorded.

The National: Work at the spaceport will not be impacted by the discovery. Credit: Stuart Munro 

Several features, including pits, boulders and cremations – surviving as deposits of burn bone – have been uncovered.

The remains are believed to date from around 2200BC to 1800BC.

‘Elite’ Iron Age Hillfort in Stirlingshire

One of Stirlingshire’s late Iron Age sites – which may have been built and occupied by local tribes before, during and after the Roman invasions of Scotland – was uncovered at Keir Hill of Dasher in Kippen.

With the help of volunteers, Rampart Scotland and Kippen Heritage have uncovered distinct phases of fortifications at the previously undated site over the last three years.

This site is thought to date from around AD 1 to 400.

The National: Volunteers were crucial in this particular dig. Credit: Dr Murray Cook

Evidence of Medieval German merchants in Orkney

In February, medieval pottery specialists from eight countries discovered traces of Orkney and Shetland’s contact with merchants from Hanse Towns (a group of German cities) who expanded into the North Atlantic in the 15th century.

It was identified in museum collections in both Orkney and Shetland as well as in recent assemblages unearthed by the University of the Highlands and Islands.

The National: The site revealed how Scottish islands were part of a wider European network. Credit: Bobby Friel

This includes sherds (pieces) from a late Medieval building uncovered in 2023 in Rousay, demonstrating how the island was part of a. wider European network.

Rare cliffside cableways in Aberdeenshire

In April and May, the Scape Trust surveyed and recorded rare – possibly unique – iron and steel cableways which were used to lift nets, gear and fish from coves to the top of steep cliffs in Aberdeenshire.

Introduced in the 19th century, the technology was borrowed for the fishing industry in Aberdeenshire when natural coves were developed into small salmon harbours.

The National: The site in Portlethen aims to help preserve modern fishing heritage: Credit: Scape

The fishing stations are now largely disused, but remaining elements such as these make the sites important for preserving modern fishing heritage.

Dr Jeff Sanders, project manager at the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland’s Dig It! project commented: “It’s been another incredible year of discovery which has underscored archaeology’s relevance to contemporary issues, whether it’s new chapters of Scotland’s story being unearthed by development-driven archaeology or local groups documenting the impact of climate change on coastal sites.

“And this is just a small selection. There were dozens of other exciting finds ranging from a Neolithic monument in Arran to a coin hoard that could be linked to the Glencoe Massacre.

“If you’re feeling inspired, why not make 2024 the year you get stuck into archaeology by visiting a site, volunteering at a fieldwork event, or digging into online resources?”