Bones discovered at Fife hill with a history of violence

Some of the dig team at the site.
Some of the dig team at the site.

What is believed to be a bronze age burial site has been discovered at a Cupar hill with a history of conflict resolution.

On the final day of a community archaeological dig at East Moat Hill, a pit was discovered which held a deposit of cremated bones – and after the bones were sent for radiocarbon dating, it was revealed that they were from the early to middle bronze age.

The community dig, which was funded by four agencies, including Fife Council, was led by ARCHAS Cultural Heritage and AKD Archaeology, who worked with around 20 volunteers on the site.

The project focused on East Moat Hill because sites such as like it across Scotland used to be used as an area of assembly during the medieval times, where councils were held, and justice was dispensed.

During their time on the site, the group discovered a number of items from the last 300 years. On the final day of digging, the group decided to dig a trench at the summit of the hill. It was then that they came across the “exciting” discovery.

“It’s very exciting,” said Alastair Rees, archaeologist with ARCHAS, which provided equipment and expertise.

“It’s not something we expected to find.

“The dig was speculative to see if anything would turn up.

“Cremation was a common method of burial – putting the body over a pyre, retrieving the ashes, and then on some occasions they would put them at the bottom of a pit.”

Alastair explained that East Moat Hill would have had some importance during pre-history, because it is an isolated hill and a significant landmark.

He also revealed that the use of the hill for conflict resolution was not just limited to history, with a gun flint from a duelling pistol also found at the site.

“Lots of people said they also had fights between the schools at the hill,” he added.

“It has a history of violence and conflict resolution, one way or another.”

The excavation was delivered as part of Fife Council’s Cupar Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS) and Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI).

The aim of the project was to allow locals to actively explore their heritage.

The council chose the site at East Moat Hill because it was hoped it would shed further light on the development of early Cupar.

The groups involved are hoping that excavations at the hill will restart later in the year.

Seminar on the discovery

You will be able to see the results of the East Moat Hill Community Excavation at a free seminar later this month.

Pete Klemen from AKD Archaeology, and Alastair Rees from ARCHAS Cultural Heritage, will be discussing the finds – ranging from 17th to 19th century artefacts to the bronze age deposits – and their significance.

This will be held at the County Buildings on January 31 – doors open at 7pm and the seminar starts at 7.30pm.

Email akd.archaeology@hotmail.com to book your place on the seminar.