Archaeologist returns for summer season

Penny Dransart
Penny Dransart

After 16 years of excavation at the Bishops’ Palace at Fetternear, Dr Penny Dransart is back for the first post excavation season.

Dr Dransart aims to produce a final series of volumes to reveal the story of Fetternear. She said archaeologists have a “duty” to publish the finds, but it will take many years to unravel what she called “a complex, multi-dimensional jigsaw with many missing pieces.”

All the finds need to be catalogued and are given a unique number. Details relating to size, weight, location, layer, who found it and when are all recorded, followed by other details, once analysed by a specialist.

Dr Dransart said: “Post excavation includes going into archives at different libraries all over the UK and the work is changing in character. In the past we dedicated July and early August to the dig but now we’ll be also studying the landscape, which is best done in spring.”

A stumbling block that is slowing progress of post excavation is funding. Penny explained: “When we started out in 1995 we didn’t know there would be a huge economic recession which makes it difficult to fundraise to pay for specialists’ work. At the moment we are lacking a pottery expert because of lack of funds. Specialists have looked at bottle glass and clay pipes but we need someone to take on the pottery analysis – it is a big job, probably months of work.

We’ve had money from obvious sources who have been very generous. A lot of bodies only give money once and some only for new projects which means we are at a disadvantage.”

At present funding is being sought to facilitate scientific analysis on glass finds which Penny says contain potash and which is very fragile: “The glass specialist said this site has produced the largest number of glass finds anywhere in Scotland.”

“The Fetternear site is of great archaeological importance: “It is a rural site and we are getting evidence about what was a rather splendid palace – it had a lovely chapel, glazed windows at a time when local people wouldn’t have had window glass. It provided very luxurious accommodation in a very agricultural area.”

The finds will be declared treasure troves which will be allocated to various museums by a panel in Edinburgh. Museums will have to put in a bid and show that they can maintain the finds in their present condition as some finds are “more sensitive” than others.