Archaeological dig planned at Hutton and Paxton

A TIME Team is about to start work in the Paxton area and is hoping to uncover human remains as well as ancient jewellery, pottery and tools.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 29th September 2010, 2:51 pm
Updated Wednesday, 29th September 2010, 2:51 pm

Funding of 58,000 has been granted for the project which will centre on the Hutton/Paxton area but which will also involve schools from both Berwick and Berwickshire.

Experts heading the team say they are extremely excited about the project as the area is virgin archaelogical territory. It is hoped that artefacts from as far back as the Iron Age may be uncovered, shedding light on how the people lived from the Iron Age right through to the Middle Ages.

"The area is untouched from the archaelogical point of view," said Kristian Pedersen, an honourary fellow at Edinburgh University, who is heading the project along with Graeme Young of the Bamburgh Research Project.

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"We think we might get human remains although it can be tricky as the soil in this area has been ploughed so much,"

Mr Pedersen, who specialises in the prehistoric past, and Mr Young, who specialises in the Medieval period, have been commissioned to head the project which is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Scottish Borders Council's Leader Programme.

Their remit includes involving local schools and the surrounding community with volunteers being asked to help with research and even digs.

"We hope to interest the schools in Berwickshire and also Berwick as we have got the money to get the schools out here and involved," said Mr Pedersen.

Also involved is amateur archaeologist John Home Robertson, the former Labour MP who gifted his ancestral home, Paxton House, to the nation.

The study will focus on the area around Paxton House, which dates from 1758, and has been given the name Paxton Before the House.

Explained Mr Hume Robertson: "We want to find out how people lived in this area before the 18th century. We know a lot about what happened from the 18th century onwards but there were people living here all through the Middle Ages and Roman times and we know nothing about them.

"An area like this must have been inhabited since the earliest times as it is fertile land beside the river with plenty of fish to eat. It will be fascinating to find out more about it although I don't have a clue what we might find - we might find nothing, we might find a lot. It is very exciting."

A meeting was being held at Paxton House this week so that members of the community can become involved in the project. It is hoped that volunteers can be trained to help with research and, perhaps, even digs.

Work is likely to begin at two Iron Age forts at Chesterfield and Edrington Mains Farm as well as at a deserted medieval village at Fishwick.

"We will also be looking at fermtouns around here which is where the people used to lived until improvements in agricultural meant that people moved into new settlements," said Mr Pedersen. "A lot of the fermtouns were just abandoned but they are still there if you look for them."

Fermtouns can extend right back to the Iron Age but not many have been excavated in Scotland while none have so far been excavated in the Merse.

"The project will also cover the 13th century Anglo Scots wars and the Black Death which must have caused all sorts of grief," explained Mr Pedersen.

"We can do a lot of scientifc analysis now so if we find any remains we can find out where the people came from and what they ate. For example, they have discovered that some of the people buried at Bamburgh in the seventh century were from the Mediterranean and Norway."

The Paxton/Hutton area was originally part of the Kingdom of Bernicia that later became the Kingdom of Northumbria which stretched from the Humber to the Clyde.

"It was the most powerful kingdom of the British Isles until the Vikings came and raped and pillaged," said Mr Pedersen. "A lot of the villages have Germanic names which end in 'wick' and 'ton'. It was one of the most fertile parts of Scotland and must have been pretty significant for a long time.

"So far all the archaelogical focus has been on East Lothian but we don't know much about what happened in the Scottish Borders or much about Northumberland apart from Bamburgh Castle.

"We are therefore hoping that a study on a single parish will tell us a great deal."

He added that one curious thing about the area was that the Iron Age land boundaries had remained whereas further south the incomers brought their own land organisation with them.

"They kept the old borders here which suggests that although there may have been a change in political control the evidence seems to suggest that not much else changed. We will be trying to see how significant that was.

"We are hoping to find evidence of Iron Age settlements but there could be anything there."

The team has already identified potentially significant areas from old records and aerial photographs.

"There is an Iron Age promintory at Chesterfield opposite Edrington Mains which also has an Iron Age Fort so we should get something out of them. We are also keen to look at the deserted medieval village at Fishwick as that might extend very, very far back and we intend to look at them as comprehensively as we can," s